International Women’s Day 2022 – Break the Bias


While promoting gender equality should be part of everyday life, International Women’s Day marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality by celebrating women’s achievements and increasing visibility.

This year’s theme is #BreaktheBias. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Men and women are often blinded by bias and stereotyping, in many cases unintentionally. Knowing your bias is one thing but acting upon it is vital to create a gender equal world.

In the light of International Women’s Day, we talked to some of our Women Ambassador Scholarship awardees to find out if they have been facing gender bias and how, and what they are doing to help #BreaktheBias.   

Experiencing gender bias and stereotyping

Executive MBA student Cora Tromp-Man received the Women Ambassador Scholarship for her role in breaking barriers and taboos around menstrual and intimate healthcare by spreading awareness.

She never experienced negative interactions regarding gender bias and stereotyping herself but knows that many women are: “Many women experience difficulties in male-dominated environments. I am grateful that I never encountered similar challenges in the Netherlands. However, I hear from friends, family, and acquaintances who did face particular challenges in their career, and it is essential to give it a voice.”

Fellow Executive MBA student Diana Banks received the Women Ambassador Scholarship as founder of Talitha Arise Foundation, an organization offering a platform to women who are running up against socio economic and financial walls in society for various reasons. With books, presentations, seminars, training and coaching, the organization empowers women in less privileged positions to achieve their personal goals.

Unfortunately, Diana did face gender bias: “The economic recession of 2009 left me without a job, and I had to reintegrate into another career. It was then that I had a challenging experience with a reintegration consultant. Although highly educated, the consultant prevented me from finding a suitable job in the area of my qualification. In her view, I did not fit into an office job. She insisted on putting me forward for labor-intensive physical positions instead of office work despite my qualifications and work experiences. I was disappointed, angry and felt powerless when this happened to me. It seemed like my self-confidence and the fact that I knew what I wanted and how to get it done intimidated others around me. This incident would be one of many factors that led to the establishment of Talitha Arise.”

Living in one of Iran’s most impoverished and segregated cities equipped Master in Management student Nasim Sahardi with a skill to enable achievement in unlikely circumstances and mental tenacity. This tenacity empowered Nasim to exceed the expectations that society has set for people raised in communities like hers, plagued by low education and fewer levels of hope.

In many cases I have heard, a girl cannot do this!

Nasim faced gender bias and stereotyping many times: “My position as a minority in terms of geographic origin in the classroom and working place often made me the target of discriminatory behaviors and so many people treated me unfair. From the university entrance exam to the workplace, since the acceptance rate of women in both cases is less than men in my country. In many cases I have heard a girl cannot do this! Another example is getting paid less for the same job.”

As a woman, if you are loud and assertive you are considered aggressive

Through experiences and obstacles in her life, Full-time MBA student Asha Thimmaraju has learned to not allow herself anymore to be limited. She has also experienced gender bias, often in a subtle way: “I used to be the only woman in tech working alongside men. While my organization was taking on new projects, I noticed that most of the important projects were assigned to my male counterparts, and many of the trivial tasks were getting set to me. In another instance, when on a trip, my guy friends hesitated to let me drive long distances as if they didn't think I could drive them safely, despite knowing that I have been driving for years. My most recent experience is as the class representative to a class of 29 candidates. There have been instances when as a woman, if you are loud and assertive you are considered aggressive.”


Gender bias is not only happening in male-dominated environments, as Cora sees: “Currently, I work in a predominantly female-dominated company and market. I encounter situations where women disparage other women by shaming our natural biological processes. This lets me wonder: when we as women cannot even accept our natural cycles and uplift each other, how can we expect this from others?”

So, this calls for action and Cora is breaking the bias with help of her colleagues and the company: “Together with my colleagues and through the voice of the company I work for, we are committed to creating awareness about our menstrual and intimate healthcare to women worldwide. We discuss taboo-breaking subjects through our social media and online channels. We facilitate healthy discussions and create a community where individuals can freely share questions about intimacy, menses, and other taboos without feeling embarrassed.”

We break the bias by engaging in dialogues with all parties concerned

Diana believes in raising awareness in the entire community and utilizing its potential and capacity to empower women: “With Talitha Arise we initiate a social awareness movement based on a global vision. In our approach, when situations arise, we break the bias by engaging in dialogues with all parties concerned to find a solution. We do not shy away from issues that sometimes seem difficult and impossible. Instead, our programs focus on educating women and sharing knowledge about how women can stand firm in their shoes by believing in their abilities. We do this in the wisdom that we cannot stand alone but rather need the government, the community and business.”

Important in this approach is that breaking the bias is not a fight against men, Diana explains: “Even though we aim to be excellent, we do not try to demonstrate that we are better than men in that process. As women, we do not want to fight against men or society. Where necessary, we teach women how to reach their goals humbly. Therefore, we provide tools to enable the right attitude, knowledge, and the best networks while maintaining their vision.”

Nasim feels the responsibility the Women Ambassasador Scholarship gives her: ”First of all, as an MSM Women Ambassador, as one of the few people in my community with access to academic and career opportunities in communities of wealth, I feel obligated to push for equity in such spaces and help women to be sure that they can defy stereotypes and optimize opportunities as well. I tell everyone about this scholarship, and I invite them to start their journey.”

Asha thinks there is more unconscious bias today and she prefers to make it evident by her actions:
“For instance, at work I set up 1:1 meetings, use more direct language and negotiate meaningful assignments so that I can make important contributions to the organization as well. This, of course, is going to help me further in my future career. Secondly, I understand that successfully overcoming these challenges involves appropriate and strategic support from people within and outside the organization, so I enrolled in a mentor-mentee program. I joined a Women in Tech network group in the local area, and I meet with women in a leadership role to discuss situation-based or scenario-based roadblocks, and more of these kinds of actions. All in all, you have to get up there and get your due!”

How does the MSM Women Ambassador Scholarship and program help?

Nasim experiences the MSM Women Ambassador Scholarship as a huge encouragement: “This scholarship is indeed more than financial help to me, as it makes me feel seen and acknowledged for all those years in which I faced discriminatory treatment as a woman. The MSM Women Ambassador scholarship gave me much more confidence to fight for my dreams.”

Asha considers the MSM Women Ambassador Scholarship as very special: “It has been a pleasure and a great honor to receive this recognition. This gave me the momentum to keep working towards my goal, supporting other women along the way, and the enrollment into the MBA program magnified my potential for the organization.”

The step towards equality starts with us, women

Cora highly values the opportunity of following the Executive MBA: “My role within the organization is to continue and monitor the company's mission. To make women aware of how essential a positive self-image is and that the step towards equality starts with us, women. Together with the Marina van Damme Grant, a scholarship for female engineers, and the MSM Women Ambassador Scholarship, I got the opportunity to apply for the Executive MBA at MSM. The EMBA provides me the tools to improve my leadership skills and introduced me to concepts such as Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility. Many other MBA programs solely focus on the traditional MBA approach. MSM includes these contemporary modules to be a leader of the future. In addition, MSM is highly recognized internationally, and therefore professionals worldwide enroll in the Executive MBA. This results in an international network with, among others, incredibly driven and powerful women who support and help each other. During my relatively short period at MSM, I already have had the opportunity to meet these talented women, and I am looking forward to meeting more of them in the coming period!”

Education and mutual dialogues are critical

Diana wants to use the scholarship and Executive MBA program to contribute to gender equality: “The MSM Women Ambassador scholarship and the Executive MBA would help me to make an impact to tackle this old phenomenon. I would be empowered and, in turn, offer other women better perspectives. Women are naturally great managers and should be allowed to play a role in society. Finally, women, when given the opportunity, have to be persistent and at the same time make themselves more dynamic to changes. Education and mutual dialogues are critical! We need each other to #BreaktheBias.”

Promoting Gender Equality at 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 more about the conditions here.

Executive Programs
MSM offers two short Executive Programs to promote gender equality and women in business: Gender Equality and Women Empowerment and Women Entrepreneurship Policy.