International Women's Day 2021 - Choose to Challenge


This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge. The idea behind the theme is the following: A challenged world is an alert world. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.

Gender bias, gender inequality, gender stereotyping – harmful practices that women across the globe continue to face to a greater or lesser extent. Practices that lead to girls having less access to quality education, women not having equal access to employment, women missing out on promotions in the workplace, men earning more for the same job as women, women being underrepresented in leadership and management roles, and even to violence against women.

Achieving gender equality is not just a women’s issue; actually, it cannot happen without men being involved. However, on the frontline of the equality fight, you can find many women stepping up for their rights.

In this blog we highlight four strong women in our MBA programs, who choose to challenge. They received the Women Ambassadorship Scholarship, because they refuse to limit their ambitions, they choose to respond to gender inequality in a constructive way, they try and create awareness and they seek to inspire other women.

They share insights on gender inequality in their home countries, their personal gender biased experiences at school, work and in life, how they responded to these and how they choose to challenge.

Maria Fe (Peru)

“I want to learn how to be a leader for young women, how to help them thrive and empower themselves to become limitless women.”

Personal inequality encounters
In Peru, women experience inequality in everyday situations, Full-time MBA student Maria Fe explains: “Peru has a chauvinistic society, filled with stereotypes about how we should dress, speak and live. We are constantly told that we are bad drivers, asked when we are going to get married, and if we do, when we are going to have kids, and many other stereotypical things.

Personally, in my professional life I have been required to use tighter clothes by a superior, to “get my way” and in a different job someone joked that I was only wearing a skirt to get a promotion. I have been asked to cook because “I might know more about it” and I have constantly felt that many opportunities have been given to men before being offered to women because we are not strong enough or could not bear the pressure.”

“When facing these experiences, we also face the challenge of how to react and act to respond,” Maria Fe continues: “For me, every situation presents different possible responses and ...Read here the full story of Maria Fe.

Odka (Mongolia)

“I strongly believe that it takes a woman, many women to lift other women up. It is my deepest conviction that my contribution to the world at large is empowering other women towards leadership positions.”

The gender gap in Mongolia
Executive MBA student Odka Tseren was born and raised in Mongolia. Odka indicates that the report created by JICA (2013)  on Country Gender Profile - Mongolia, shows that women’s representation in decision making in the political, administrative and economic spheres is very limited, because of the influence of gender stereotyped cultural norms and behavior, in which men have responsibilities of decision-making and household income as household heads and women take care of housework and child caring.

“Even though women’s participation rate in the workforce is relatively high, these norms still exist and influence both men and women’s behavior, including participation in decision- making.” Odka says.

“It has been accepted for a long time by society that men are given the decision-making positions,” she continues, “but in recent years, things are changing,...  Read here the full story of Odka

Estefania (Venezuela)

"I deeply think that the impossible just takes more effort.”

Access to education
Online MBA student Estefania Behrens was born in Venezuela, where she notes that in general for young people it is not a priority to have advanced studies: “It is a big challenge for them to dedicate time and invest in a career while the basic needs are not being taken care of. Girls in my country have no other way, but to be fierce. hose that make sacrifices like instead of affording some time off with friends at a café, to buy a book, or instead of enjoying the special treat of a Saturday ice-cream, to work night shifts to pay for tuition as loans do not exist in Venezuela - those are already determined that graduation with determination brings much more in the future."

Estefania herself was blessed by the support and determination of her parents to give her access to education: “I am blessed by having parents that did not have the opportunity to attend a university education and made that their priority for me as a child, to engage in endless hours of hard work as they said: “We want you to have options in life” by letting me choose my passion and support me until the end.”

But she witnessed other girls not having this support: “On the way, I did meet different girls that had the passion, but... Read here the full story of Estefania

Evalinde (Belgium)

“The Scholarship and MBA put me in a privileged position to provide a helping hand to those who need it the most and the voices that are heard the least.”

Choose to challenge
Online MBA student Evalinde Eelens indicates that she always speaks up for equality, makes room for different viewpoints, and keeps an eye out for those not adequately heard or seen.  “Where boards are often commended when they have more than one female board member or minority representation, a board with “only” two men is frowned upon.”

"This needs to change,” she adds. ”We need to break the mold of our own prejudice to achieve inclusiveness and equality. Actively seeking out areas of inequality and speaking up - loudly - is imperative. Willingness to participate is of equal importance and I actively encourage all underrepresented groups, including myself, to seize every opportunity presented to them, even, or especially, when it might be out of their comfort zone.”

“The Women Ambassador Scholarship, not only helps me build my confidence and profile, it shows the new generation and minorities, that they are not alone in their struggle, that opportunities are available to all, and that,... Read here the full story of Evalinde

The MSM Women Ambassador Scholarship

At MSM, the promotion of working towards gender equality in all our educational programs is a top priority. Gender equality discussions run throughout the curriculum. In addition, MSM strives to empower women through financial support, by offering the Women Ambassador Scholarship for its MBA and Master in Management programs. This scholarship targets motivated women, who in their own unique ways, are working towards gender equality, leadership positions as a woman, or taking on an `woman ambassador’ role to support other women to breakthrough in what remains a very male-dominated world.

Do you recognize yourself in this as a woman and would you like to apply for the Women Ambassadorship Scholarship? Read here more about the conditions.