Member Spotlight | Erika Bill Peter
Founding Member and Ambassador of WomenH2H, Coach, Team and Organizational Effectiveness Enabler, Facilitator, Trainer, Founder of EMBP consulting, Mother
Besides my deep interest in human nature, I also have a love for art and aesthetics. Working with people is a creative process, as every individual and situation is different. Art is another creative outlet for me. I can stroll for hours through art museums, think about ways to create a beautiful living space or work on a piece of art.
I enjoy spending time with my family, even though my teenage kids drive me crazy at times right now. Engaging in active sports such as yoga, biking or skiing helps me find the balance, as do quiet walks in nature with my dog or reading an interesting book while enjoying a nice glass of wine.
Key stages along my life journey:
Becoming a teacher to support the development of students and adults
Traveling around the world to experience different cultures and ways of living
Studying work and organizational psychology at IAP Zürich, graduating as a psychologist
Moving to Boston, USA
Working for Personnel Decision International (PDI) and KornFerry, consulting with clients of any size, from any industry, in many countries on talent and organizational effectiveness
Raising an amazing global family
Receiving ICF coaching certificate at the professional level (PCC)
Coaching hundreds of executives and other special people to become their best self
Supporting the transition of a high tech company to an integrated, agile organization
Moving back to Switzerland with my entire family
Consulting companies on key success factors during the transition to digitalization and new work forms
When it comes to the role of women at work today, what inspires you and what keeps you up at night?
I am inspired by women who juggle many different priorities and demands in their lives while being happy and engaged in their activities. I am also inspired by women who take an unconventional career path, adjusting and reinventing themselves as life circumstances, needs and desires keep changing and evolving. They just find a way and make it happen.
There is really nothing around this topic that keeps me up at night, but I do wonder, and hope, that women will have an even easier time to pick a career that brings them deep satisfaction and nurtures their soul.
I believe that there should be a better support system especially for women early in their career so they don’t have to choose between work and family, but instead can integrate both worlds.
What’s your goal around that and why is it important to you? Why is that a priority for you right now?
My goal is to keep growing and do the things that bring me joy and satisfaction in each life stage, even if it means making some bigger adjustments to the work I do. Leveraging my experiences and strengths and applying them in areas that make a real difference in people’s lives is important to me. This is why I decided, at this time in my life, to start my own consulting business embp.ch, helping individuals, teams and organizations to become more adaptable, purposeful, resilient and balanced.
What are the biggest challenges you have personally had as a woman at work? How did you try to overcome them?
I think I was lucky as I generally felt respected and treated as equal. I have worked with many male executives, have coached hundreds of them, and there were only a few times in my career where I felt there was a ‘boys club’ and I was not taken as seriously as my male colleagues. And then there were few situations where I felt men would patronize me. It was not easy to just call them out for it as their actions were very subtle. I chose a different approach and started to reframe the situation in a positive direction and indirectly influence their behaviors.
However, I coached several female leaders who struggled with how to successfully interact and communicate in a male-dominated work environment. It can be really tricky to influence effectively as a woman. If she is bold and courageous as her male counterpart, she is often seen as aggressive and bitchy. If she is empathetic, she might be judged as too nurturing and soft. While women face many similar challenges as their male peers, obstacles and challenges exist often because of their gender-related expectations, stereotypes and assumptions that come with them.
The key for those female leaders is to increase their awareness, create space that allows for choice points and then deal with challenging situations from a centered, resourceful and mindful place.
Many women are overwhelmed by the constant changes at work, frustrated with conflicts or disheartened by office politics, drama and draining emotions. What have you done in the past to help you get through such moments?
I focus on what I can influence. It is very liberating to channel energy and time to where you have power.
It’s hard or impossible to change the company culture and you cannot control how other people (re)act. However, I can take control and influence how I respond to my environment and how I personally respond. Creating opportunities that allow me to see, that you indeed have a choice, is important. Then I can decide if it is worth to speak up, I can decide to try to see the situation from another perspective, I can decide to spend more time with people that give me energy versus suck it out of me, I can decide to declare those moments as learning opportunities or I can decide that it’s time for a bigger change.
Who do you follow on these subjects? Are there authors, influencers, leaders, sites, blogs you follow?
I am a fan of …
… Herminia Ibarra and her research and thinking of alternative career path (Book: ‘Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career)
… Joanna Barsh and her research on feminine leadership traits as an advantage in today’s fast-changing and complex world (Book: How Remarkable Women Lead & Centered Leadership: Leading with Purpose, Clarity and Impact)
… Chip and Dan Heath with their refreshing, humorous and thought-provoking insights (Books: Made to Stick, Switch and The Power of Moments)
… Doug Silsbee, a Master Somatic Coach who is a real thought leader of integrating mindfulness, interpersonal neurobiology, somatics and developmental psychology. I feel honored that I had the opportunity to receive my coaching certification from Doug (Books: The Mindful Coach, Presence-based Coaching and Presence-Based Leadership)
… and all the amazing women I met on my life journey around the world. So many of them inspired and influenced me and made the person I am today.
Do you participate in other women groups or communities? What have you seen work in such communities and what was missing for you?
I am also part of the Professional Woman Group (PWG) in Zürich, Switzerland. Their mission is to connect women with mutual interests in developing professional connections, shaping careers, exchanging cultural experiences and learning trends in the professional environment.
Whatever group it might be, it is important to create an environment where women can communicate to each other in a safe way, exchange ideas and support each other so that it is mutually beneficial.
There is the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes support from several different women to successfully navigate through challenging work experiences and career transitions.
Why is it important for women to be surrounded by other women and what is the role we play in each other’s lives?
I have been fortunate that throughout my career I was surrounded by several amazing women who were my unofficial support network.
We could talk about anything that occupied our thoughts. It ranged from sobbing over challenging situations such as disappointments, perceived failures, and mistakes to laughing about funny mishaps, unexpected positive turnarounds and silly moments. There was a sense that we are all in this together.
What activities could we do so that we master together how to get back our zest, thrive on change, lead with grace and confidence and co-create the beautiful workplaces we all long for?
We have to take a two-pronged approach…
First, each of us can tap into the greatness that lies already there in each of us, the greatness that awaits just to be found and to be taken out. Secondly, we need to continue to leverage the power of our combined strengths.
Big things happen because of the result of the whole tapestry of different lives weaving threads together to create something astonishing. Building on each other’s energy, passion, insights and individual skills we will unleash the real power of womanhood.