August 5, 2013 — Welcome to the latest in our series of #WomenCan profiles, highlighting executives and experts who are Catalysts for change within their companies and fields. This week, the spotlight is on Dianne Lynne Bevelander, Associate Dean, MBA Programs, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She specializes in teaching about personal leadership development.
Meet: Dianne Lynne Bevelander, Associate Dean, MBA Programs, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Unexpected career path: I was born and raised in South Africa. I read for my PhD very late in life, and have to admit that almost until the very end of the process pursuing a doctorate continued to be a rather surreal dream. Why? I grew up in a family and society that believed women should be wives and mothers first and foremost. Women who strived for something outside the home were usually limited to teaching or nursing as professional careers. Let me be absolutely clear: my parents were super people, but they were either not aware of broader opportunities or not very ambitious for their two daughters.
What I do: I am leading the drive for women’s empowerment at the Rotterdam School of Management, and increasingly within the broader Erasmus University. This has included supporting the creation of the first honorary doctorate awarded by the School to a leading female scholar. I also designed a women-only elective focusing on empowerment and aspiration to leadership roles, using the highest mountain in Africa as an outdoor classroom and metaphor for business. In The Mount Kilimanjaro Leadership Course, each student discovers her own capabilities, while also cultivating a greater understanding of how to work with other women in high-performance environments—before, during, and after their attempts to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro together. I am also in the process of developing an Erasmus University Centre for Women and Organisations. I want to make it happen. All women students in our MBA programmes are supported and encouraged to build strong networks of women they can trust and rely on throughout their careers.
My champions: I have had great bosses and colleagues throughout my professional career. In particular, I am grateful to the few who saw more potential in me that than I saw in myself—individuals who then challenged and inspired me to realise this potential. My path to my PhD began when one of my most influential bosses prevailed upon me to pursue an MBA around a decade ago. When he first suggested the idea I remember thinking, “That’s crazy, I am not the sort of person to pursue such a degree. Can I even get accepted and then succeed at a top internationally oriented business school?” Even armed with my MBA, I am sure I would not have gotten my doctorate or be doing the work I currently do—including writing this blog—if it were not for mentors who believed in me. These individuals, and other colleagues and friends of both sexes, continually encouraged me, especially when times were tough and I had many conflicting claims on my energies!
Best advice: Seek mentors throughout your career, from inside and outside of your organization—individuals whom you can talk to, even about everyday matters, and who will support you as you create your future. And don’t stop there! Mentor and sponsor other people too: help them find jobs, recommend them for promotions, and send their curricula vitae on to your network. Mentoring takes time but it is rewarding! Find mentors who believe in you. And believe in the people you are mentoring!
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