uring our second appointment of the webinar series with Super Mentors of Me-Totem project we had the pleasure to interview the Italian Economist Lucrezia Reichlin.

Lucrezia Reichlin is Professor of Economics at the London Business School, independent director of UniCredit Banking Group and AGEAS Insurance Group. She is Chair of the Scientific Council at the Brussels based think-tank Bruegel, a member of the board of the Center for European Policy Research  (CEPR) and of the Center for European Monetary and Financial Studies (CEMFI) in Madrid. She is a  member of the Commission Economique de la Nation (advisory board to the French finance and  economics ministers). Between March 2005 and September 2008 she was Director General of Research  at the European Central Bank. She is a co-founder and director of Now-Casting Economics ltd.
She is a columnist for the Italian national daily Il Corriere della Sera.

Reichlin received a bachelor’s degree in  economics from Università di Modena and a Ph.D. in economics from New York University. She has  published numerous papers on econometrics and macroeconomics. She pioneered time series methods  using large data-sets (big data). Her work on “now-casting” was the first to propose formal  econometric methods for reading the real time data flow in order to produce timely estimates of the  current state of the economy. These methods are now widely used by central banks and private  investors around the world. Her papers have appeared in top scientific journals and had high practical  impact. She is a Fellow (elected) of the British Academy, a Fellow of the European Economic  Association a Fellow of the Center for European Policy Research (former research director)  and  member of the council of the Royal Economic Society.

Women in boards

Lucrezia Reichlin is one of the first and still few women members of Italian boards. We asked her opinion about the women in boards/quotas debate and on the increase in board performance brought by women, as shown in many researches. According to her, this is not due to better female qualities “per se” but to a number of reasons.
Opening the boards to women made the recruitment criteria more transparent and demanding: women with very strong curricula have been selected and this had an impact on quality level of board members in general.
Furthermore, women who entered the board have different background from men, they had a professional career more than a political one. Women are not part of those typical groups of power of people who belong to several boards, know each other for a long time and have a sort of reticence of going against one another. Women tend to be new to this logic and are more likely to act in a real independent way.
Lastly, women attitude is different: the minority nature of their presence in certain high-level places makes them stronger and much more willing to succeed and to emerge.

When boards opened to women also the criteria for recruitment changed: it is now much more transparent and objective.

Female leadership

We asked Lucrezia what is her experience about leadership, in particular how she deals with the common perception that female leaders are aggressive.
From her point of view, there are different types of leader regardless of gender, the aggressive type, the passive one and so on. However, women have to be careful because when they are judged as too aggressive often that is a way for undemanding their leadership style and self-confidence. So just try to be yourself. .

Ambition is key to reach success and power

Lucrezia succeeded and reached positions of power in a male-dominated field as the political economy and finance. Ambition was a big part of the explanation of her successful career. In fact, in such male-dominated field, competition is high and to be good is not enough: you really have to be focused to obtain what you want.
Even if women familiarity with power is quite recent, they need to behave in a natural way without worrying too much about the implications of their different leadership style.

To be good is not enough.

Career is not a linear path

We use to think that people who reach high level of career made it right from the beginning to the end and never stopped pushing. Lucrezia believes that a career is not a linear process in which you have to do everything right. Failures and flat periods are part of everyone’s professional life.
Ambition makes sense if it allows you to pursue something that has a value for you. For this reason, it is not a matter of pushing all the time and getting all the steps right but it is also a matter of finding this content.

There is not a single way to a successful professional life.

Self-confidence, networking and mentoring: key for a successful career path

Self-confidence is one of the key success factors in one’s professional life.
During her experience of professor at London Business School, she realized that women are often less confident than man in the classroom, facing a job interview or looking for a job. It is important, for example, to put yourself forward for a job you want even if the required competencies are not perfectly matched: nobody is in fact ever qualified for all aspects of a job.
Just jump in it and start swimming.

A big part of the story is self-confidence: being conscious that you can do the job, even if the job is not perfectly design for you.

Crucial elements to build and develop self-confidence is sharing experiences through informal relations with people at different levels of seniority. This can be pursued through networking and mentoring, but it’s important to start building such relationship at an early stage of own career.
Senior women needs to feel a sense of responsibility towards young professionals. She think in fact that women should be supportive one another and that leading by example is the key.

It’s a chain, there should be an element of solidarity; but I think that leading by example that’s the key word.

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