At the occasion of the International Women's Day (March 8), our ESSEC team had the opportunity to interview amazing female leaders who fought to break the glass ceiling, challenge themselves and explore an ocean of opportunities by pursuing an Executive MBA program at ESSEC.
Can you tell us about yourself in few lines?
Olga SEMENENKO: With over 20 years of experience in big corporations at international level (40+ markets) in the field of marketing and communications, I dived into the entrepreneurship world and launched my consulting service "Semenenko Consulting" for small and medium companies.
What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?
O.S : I used to dream of having a big family with lots of children. I dreamt of running a family business, by selling fresh fruits and vegetables directly from the field and finding a way to make them available in any season. I also dreamt of becoming a handball coach and sport psychologist, which was a rare profession in the time of my childhood. When I was small I was fond of writing fairy tales and poems. And my biggest dream was about peace and friendship in the entire world.
What do you do now?
O.S : After a long career in multinational companies from Colgate-Palmolive to BNP Paribas, I approached SMB, helping them to find smart solutions for their business development, bringing them my experience I gained in big international businesses. I also launched my online service CosyTable and published a book for children "Emile et ses cousins". It was launched in Ukraine in June, 2020 and in France in February 2021
What does women’s day represent to you?
O.S : Traditionally Women's day for me is a day full of flowers and romance. In the Soviet Union, despite the political context, this day was kind of a Valentine’s Day celebration: girls would receive cards (in school we had special mail boxes for Women"s Day). We would also convey our wishes to our mothers and grandmothers. It is a public holiday, full of music, concerts and special events. This day did not have any political meaning for me, even though I am familiar with the history and the great things done by Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxembourg. We got used to having equal rights in the Soviet Union. In fact, the issue was more about becoming a housewife by choice without being judged!
Do you think there are challenges specific to women, while pursuing an EMBA?
O.S : I did not notice any specific challenges for women at ESSEC, while pursuing the EMBA. The idea is that it is challenging for everybody, women like men, to manage your current job, family, studies and the outside group projects related to the EMBA. It is important to obtain the support from the family and classmates.
Are there any advantages of being a woman, while pursuing an EMBA?
O.S : There are still less women than men in the EMBA programs, and that is why you might be getting more attention. One should take this opportunity and make something out of it. Also there are specific projects in ESSEC which support women leadership and entrepreneurship.
Which powerful woman do you admire the most? Why?
O.S : I admire the powerful and successful woman that I had a chance to meet personally: Charlotte Dennery, CEO of BNP Paribas Leasing Solution, Nandita Bakhshi, CEO of the Bank of the West, Nilsen Altintas, TEB Holding Consultant, Claire Lauzeral, COO IRB BNP Paribas, Natalyia Chichkova, Marketing Director of Central and Eastern Europe, L'OREAL, and many others... Those women are great professionals and inspiring leaders. They managed to find their own way and approach to leadership and they support other talented women in their career path.
Do you think there is a stereotype attached to female leaders?
O.S : There is a stereotype attached to female leaders, that is linked to countries with male dominated cultures and traditions where women replicate male leadership style instead of finding their own towards management and leadership.
What advice would you give women considering an EMBA program?
O.S : Just go for it! It is truly a life-changing experience. You will not be alone. You will gain the invaluable support and advice from your classmates and the ESSEC associations. ESSEC feels like a second family!
On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to women thinking about their careers?
O.S : If you have a dream, go for it, anything is possible!
#CHALLENGE #CHANGE #WOMENEMPOWERMENT
From the International Women's day interview series, don't miss:
- Helene SOUILLAR, Business Lawyer, ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA Alumna, class of 2020
- Ania DIAZ ESPINOSA, Head of Logistics & Transport Domain, Information Systems, ESSEC Executive MBA Alumna, class of 2021
- Raquel NAVALON DE LA ROSA, Business Consultant, Manager, ESSEC Executive MBA Alumna, class of 2021
Register to our upcoming event, with a special focus on women: