Social Capitalism – an Opportunity for Women

Prestigious magazine for managers – Harvard Business Review Polska – in its last issue published an expert’s opinion of dr Barbara Stepnowska.

If we want to meet the requirements of our modern times, we should not – like the great philosopher, Descartes – confine our lives to a “cave of dreams” and act alone. We should build archipelagos of relationships, which are becoming increasingly important in a business world dominated by technology.

In the 21st century, we increasingly hear about social capitalism, which places the responsibility for the environment and society on companies and their leaders. The important thing here is that business successes go hand in hand with acting for the good of others. Attentive and cooperative leadership requires more mindfulness – and this provides a key opportunity for women, who are often credited with sensitiveness, empathy and the ability to build relationships. These virtues give women incredible advantages in today’s world and help to make changes and increase their influence in business.

Support is the Key Thing

True, genuine female leaders create networks and work in teams. Working together and taking on new challenges are their strengths. However, no one is perfect, and that is why both male and female leaders must nourish their genuineness. These days, much attention is paid to the female style of management. Both the academic world and business worlds are studying the differences between male and female leadership styles. When seeking the reasons why so few women hold top positions in companies, both sides point to stereotypes and cultural conditioning.

To achieve success, women need many-sided support. When female leaders taking part in MBA programs are asked what helps them to develop professionally, most say that this is support from a partner or mother. Some use other recognized leaders as their role models. Much less often, however, they point to the supportive function of the educational system or conditions in an organization. At the same time, what helps women overcome difficulties are independence, following their dreams, and courage in taking up new challenges. As a result, more women support their own careers and decide to study for an MBA. This helps them to master and enhance competences that are necessary for leaders of change.

Acting with Engagement

Leadership in action is becoming one of the attributes of an authentic leader in the 21st century. Today, even though everyone wants to know what the future holds, there are few able to predict it. Therefore, instead of thinking, acting is needed: setting trends, changing the environment, introducing social innovations. All this is required in order to have a real impact on the change. An example of such attitude is Innovation Squad, created in Gdańsk. I have built this unusual archipelago of relationships together with other leaders: Anna Grosiak from Siemens company, Ewa Sowińska from ESO Audit, Alain Heureux from The Egg Brussels, Janaki Weiden from Saint Gobain Paris and Professor Leif Edvinsson from The New Club of Paris in Brussels. The mission of our initiative is to bring together the intellectual capital of many people who put the good of human beings in the center of their activity.

We work together as a group of professionals and representatives of the voluntary sector from Poland and abroad. As a result of our discussions, we have launched Innovation Hub for Humanities at the Faculty of Management and Economics at Gdańsk University of Technology. This is a platform that engages people from various sectors and environments in change for the good of the society. This is carried out as projects for MBA students related to health, education, the natural environment and diversity. The people responsible for this initiative are primarily the female MBA students and graduates, supported by the dean of the faculty Prof. Julita Wasilczuk. Together, we can do more.

A catalogue of competences developed by the World Economic Forum clearly shows that we should go back to building teams and to cooperation that stimulates creativity and triggers curiosity. Now, to go further, women have to jump through hoops, cross borders, go beyond their comfort zones. They must stay in the game and, to be able to do so, they need constant development. What helps is exchanging experiences, knowledge, and learning from different people. And this is what modern leadership means – being open to others. Promoting socially aware capitalism gives women a chance to go out of the “cave of dreams” and to dynamically develop their careers.


Dr Barbara Stepnowska, director of the MBA Program of the Gdańsk University of Technology, Faculty of Management and Economics

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