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Leader, Woman and Mother.
Companies need to adapt to female capabilities. Are you ready for this conversation?
Architect and CEO Giovana Driessen (“Gi”) says that one of Elephant Skin's goals is to be a workplace in which women feel welcome, personally and professionally.
In the tenth edition of the Great Place to Work ranking of 2021, Elephant Skin was among the 20 companies awarded as the best agencies for which to work, where people are encouraged to develop all facets of themselves.
Giovana is a Landscape Architect. In order to achieve her current position as CEO of Elephant Skin, she had to overcome many hurdles during his career in the US. She has been an inspiration to many as she proceeded to build her own company. It is her sincere hope that ES will welcome women and mothers from all over the world.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg believes that many women resist leadership roles because of feelings of inadequacy. Sheryl has felt guilty many times when dropping her son off at daycare to go to work, as he hugged her legs to keep her from going. How many women around the world have kept that same feeling to themselves?
BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) CEO Sheela Søgaard says that the mother is vulnerable to specific personal issues. Women do their best in the office and in every endeavor, as they still manage to juggle their most daunting task: motherhood.
CEO Giovana Driessen has found inspiration in both Sheryl Sandberg and Sheela Søgaard. After all, she too chose to expand professionally, even after becoming a mother. “There exist many versions of myself. I am a mother, a wife, and a professional; and I find joy in them all. I don't want to give up on any of them. It is not an easy choice, even in a welcoming environment like Elephant Skin, but all versions of myself are passionately challenged.” Women are ambitious and would like to work in a more flexible environment, with an opportunity for growth that accommodates their personal life choices, such as having children. A survey conducted by The Guardian points out that 65% of women between 18 and 44 would like to grow in the workplace, but need more flexible options that accommodate their life choices.
In Norway, for example, parental care needs are shared by both parents after the birth of a baby 40% of women serve on boards of directors in companies, and both male and female professionals have careers that coincide with flexible family life.
It is not always necessary to sacrifice one circumstance for the other, as long as the company can recognize the woman's desire to manifest leadership roles without giving up on motherhood.
Giovana adds, “Of course, in the maternity ward, the schedule and availability will fluctuate. But, women can adapt. We recognize that this is a unique period and that it will not be like this for the rest of your life. For the moment, however, it is a phase that should be embraced.”
Female representation in leadership positions
What considerations must women take when choosing an environment in which to work? Giovana reveals that many of the women who chose to work for Elephant Skin did so because they learned that it had a woman in leadership, and not just men. “I feel very happy about it. Many of these women inspire me. I seek out female representation. These strong women deserve our utmost respect, as they manage their multiple roles as mothers, professionals, wives, and friends.”
It is not an easy task for a woman, who is also a mother, to grow professionally. A 2021 Women in the Workforce study found that 1 in 3 mothers considered decreasing their workforce or childcare responsibility during the pandemic. Not having help in the Family environment, while also given little flexibility in the work environment, forced women into untenable situations.
Giovana reflects on her belief that no one should need to play a different role in each situation in life. Everyone can and should continue to be who they are, while still developing and reaching higher goals. She shares her own intimate experience: several times, for a year, she conducted virtual meetings with the camera off, because she was in the process of breastfeeding her son. There were times when she had to adjust her schedule and return to work later. “When the company doesn't offer flexibility, it makes it very difficult for the woman who is also a mother to design her own routine.”
The need for flexibility applies to all employees!
Building a flexible environment for different profiles of people is fundamental; not only for women but for all employees who consider it important to organize their own routine. Giovana emphasizes that the issue is not to give women advantages but to give them the opportunity to adapt to a new reality that equally requires their presence and dedication. “If I need to watch my son in the morning and I can work at night, perfect! Let this not be a rule only for those who have children, but for all professionals.”
The idea is to provide a flexible environment so that each employee can work in the way they understand to be most efficient and productive. All individuals have different priorities and conflicts, so flexibility for one person does not mean the same thing for another. Giovana continues, ”If a friend came to work here and asked me for advice, I would suggest to them that no matter the challenging situations that may arise and no matter how afraid you may feel at some points, do not let that feeling of apprehension be greater than your desire to grow.”
Female leadership is an act of courage. If your desire is to walk this path authentically, carry with pride what you can never give up: yourself and your story.
At Elephant Skin, you can be your best self! Be an Elephant!
Communications Manager - Roberta Lemos
Author – Journalist Daiana Barasa and Juliana Rodrigues | Naiá
Interviewed – Giovana Driessen - CEO
*All Rights Reserved to Elephant Skin Group Corp.