SHEleader in a Shell: Why We Need Female Leadership More Than Ever In Times Of Fundamental Change

According to a report published by McKinsey Global Institute last year, automation is estimated to displace between 40 to 160 million women worldwide from their current jobs. At the same time, future jobs will challenge us not only to develop our IT skills but also to use more of our social, emotional and higher cognitive skills. For women in the new economy, this could mean both a risk and an opportunity.  

The Bulgarian Center of Women in Technology (BCWT) and MOVE.BG organized an online discussion to bring attention to the conversation of female leadership in the age of technology and automation. On March 19th, three women with a successful career in three different professional domains joined a panel dialogue moderated by Irina Obushtarova, managing director at Trending Topics.  

About the panelists

  • Sasha Bezuhanova is the founder of MOVE.BG, the initiator of the Bulgarian Centre of Women in Technology, and an angel investor. Prior to that, Sasha climbed the corporate ladder of HP to a top management position in which  she was responsible for 67 countries, the first woman from a Eastern European country at that level. 
  • Irma Mentzer is currently leading the operations of the World Bank in Sofia as the Head of IT. Bringing 30 years of experience in the information technology sector, and knowing well about the challenges of being a woman pioneering in some very male-dominated structures as a bank and tech, she is supporting talented women in their career growth. 
  • Maria Karakusheva is a contemporary classical composer, Maria combines the classical piano with new digital elements like 3D visualizations and interactive media along with modern house, pop, rock and jazz music. Being an inspiration for others, Maria is dedicated to supporting women in independent arts.

We are living through a fundamental transition today. We need new types of leaders and entrepreneurs who come with a new collaborative mindset, the new generation that lives by co-creating together. In times like this, there’s a more feminine type of leadership needed where inclusiveness is part of the picture. Women by nature are caring about the instinct of giving new life, they are to play a key role in giving birth to this new world we are witnessing and co-creating. We need to promote balance and stimulate feminine attitude in leadership,” said Sasha Bezuhanova at the beginning of the event.

On leadership and decision making

What are the skills a good leader has? Irma Mentzer made the point that leadership is not about doing what somebody else does but about authenticity and not being afraid to make a decision. 

When we think about digital transformation and the word transformation, in particular, the main skills leaders need are flexibility and agility but also responsibility,” states Irma Metzner.

Irina Obushtarova, managing director of Trending Topics Bulgaria (l) and Irma Mentzer, head of IT at World Bank in Sofia (r) ©SHEleader

When you are responsible, it drives you to make decisions. It’s nice to talk about innovation but at the end of the day, I think decision making is critical. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a bad decision is better than indecisiveness. Because indecisiveness will lead to circumstances determining what the outcome is. But when I make a bad decision, I have the opportunity to correct it,” added Mentzer.

On collaboration and support from the environment

The Bulgarian Center of Women in Technology was created with the idea to give women the space to collaborate, help each other, and learn from each other through different initiatives – role-modelling, meetups, monthly discussions related to work-life balance, an annual entrepreneurship competition for women between 18 and 23 called Entrepregirl. All with the purpose to encourage women to take the next step and share with the world.

Today is so much easier thanks to the digital connection, to make a career while raising kids. We need to promote this. I believe the new digital reality and the need to collectively address challenges is opening new space for bias-free territories. I believe we are moving towards female entrepreneurship and male leadership can give birth to new very successful projects that are overcoming the glass ceilings,” commented Bezuhanova.

Sasha Bezuhanova, initiator of Bulgarian Centre of Women in Technology and contemporary composer Maria Karakusheva ©SHEleader
Sasha Bezuhanova, initiator of Bulgarian Centre of Women in Technology and contemporary composer Maria Karakusheva ©SHEleader

For Maria Karakusheva the artists that are not understood are the ones that have closed down themselves and don’t want to collaborate with other specialists. She also shared the belief that collaboration is critical when it comes to the transition to a more inclusive environment.

“The world is constantly changing, it is dynamic and we have to be very flexible and never stop learning. One of the reasons why I am highly collaborative is the interaction between the different spheres, knowledge, and visions that teaches you a lot and refines you, elaborated Karakusheva.

*Trending Topics is an official media partner of SHEleade@Digital 2020 Conference that way postponed to May 14. Read more about the upcoming female leadership event here. 


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