Inspire Inclusion: A CEIBS Perspective on Female Leadership


Today we celebrate International Women’s Day, a chance for all of us to examine the ways in which women contribute to our world and the many ways that we must still improve in creating equal opportunities for representation, balance, and inclusion. In order to reflect on this year’s theme of #InspireInclusion, we sat down with six inspiring female leaders, alumni, and professors from the CEIBS community to learn about the diverse experiences, challenges, and strategies that shape women's leadership and professional development.

From organisational initiatives promoting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to discussions on leadership styles and the pivotal role of business schools, read on to explore the insightful narratives and diverse perspectives that shape female leadership at CEIBS.

Organisational Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives


Celine Chen

Chairperson, D&EI Council, Johnson & Johnson China

Global EMBA 2021

Celine Chen is a CEIBS GEMBA 2021 alumna. As a proven business leader who has devoted herself to building winning teams throughout her career, she shepherds J&J's DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) platform for employees to attend key initiatives, including supporting women leadership, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and mental health advocacy through the Alliance for Diverse Abilities (ADA).

“What I'm trying to lead and promote within the organisation is to bring awareness about the understanding of DE&I,” Celine said at a recent forum on the CEIBS campus organised by the Student Committee and Women Leadership Club, emphasising that there’re both visible and invisible misconceptions in people’s behaviour patterns.

“When we talk about diversity, a lot of people think we’re talking about gender, age, and experience. But there’s also something below the mind when it comes to inclusive leadership, which is why we use the DiSC test (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness), an assessment tool to help people discover their personality at work,” she explains.

“For example, I’m the C-type of person who’s driven by facts and data, whereas the I-type likes to talk and prioritises on building relationships with people. When we communicate, the DiSC test helps us to uncover the effective communication ways across teams,” Celine adds.

Leadership Styles and Skill Development

When discussing different leadership styles displayed by male and female leaders, Celine rejects the idea of distinct gender-based leadership styles, but advocates for effective leadership that is visionary, empathetic, and focused on both task-driven and relationship-building aspects.

“To be effective leaders, you need to establish your authority while also displaying empathy and care for people,” she says.

Having said that, she further acknowledges that being a leader is nothing fun, but a choice that means taking on responsibility, risk, and pressure to deal with the most complicated animal on the planet: human beings.

“The only way to develop leadership is firstly to understand why one wants to lead; Secondly, one needs to learn by experience in real life.”


Monique Gao

Tencent Cloud Account Director

Global EMBA 2019

At the same event, Celine’s view was echoed by Tencent Cloud Account Director and GEMBA 2019 alumna Monique Gao, who stressed the importance of genuine care for team development, being inspirational, and continuous self-improvement. She also encourages learning through action and not fearing challenges or mistakes.

“100% dare equals 100% care. This means you have to genuinely put your attention on your team’s development for the benefits of the organisation. At the same time, you have to constantly upgrade yourself to become the role model of your team members,” she continues. “Don’t be afraid to be challenged or make mistakes, because leadership is learnt through action. You don't really get leadership by reading books or writing. That's something I learned from the CEIBS programme.” While most employees, regardless of gender, often share analytical and data-driven traits in her organisation, Monique suggests that soft skills are also essential for effective communication and project leadership.

“We’re human beings and sometimes have emotions attached to tricky projects, which require soft skills in dealing with team members and functioning as a collaborative team. If you show too many dominant traits, it will backfire,” she says.

CEIBS MBA Women Leadership and Networking Club


Fernanda Mamede Rosa

MBA Class of 2025

President of MBA Women Leadership and Networking Club

For many members of the CEIBS community, the issue of inclusion is an important one before they become alumni and is integral to their journey as students. The CEIBS MBA Women Leadership and Networking Club, for example, holds the Female Forum every year to address the issue of inclusivity in the business world and discuss challenges for both women and men, in partnership with other organisations.

“The importance of the club at MBA and CEIBS level is to draw the attention of our classmates and batch to the matter, because in the end we MBA students are going to be future leaders. Therefore, I think this is the place to start learning about inclusion and understand how to make a difference for leadership in the future,” President of the Club Fernanda Mamede Rosa (MBA Class of 2025) says.

Changes in Inclusion, Challenges, and Solutions

Having worked in Amazon Brazil for over three years, Fernanda has noticed some positive changes in the company’s approaches to diversity and inclusion.

“The Brazilian office hired a female Director of Diversity, who played the dual role of pointing out areas where Amazon needed improvement to leadership and educating lower-level employees. This step was significant as it signalled openness to critique and improvement,” Fernanda explains.

While top-down change often requires decisions from company leadership, Fernanda believes that grassroots efforts to create awareness within smaller environments can contribute to a positive shift in workplace dynamics and culture.

“One person can’t change society, but influencing your small circle is feasible. Empowering other women is another effective strategy to help them build self-confidence and inspire and support those working with them.”


Business Schools and Inclusion

While every segment of society has both an opportunity and responsibility to foster inclusion, business schools have a unique role to play in driving change and educating generations of female graduates and leaders to bring awareness to women's empowerment for the future.

To understand how, we spoke with CEIBS President Wang Hong and Professors Katherine Xin, Michelle Zheng, and Hyun Young Park to understand their thoughts on the role of academia in promoting diversity and strategies for companies and leaders to foster inclusion.


Wang Hong


Professor of Management, CEIBS

Hengdian Group Chair in Management

“In terms of self-development, women still have a long way to go. As an educator, I have always believed that education is the most effective way to help women learn about ourselves, break through obstacles, and become who we want to be through the power of knowledge.”

For both men and women, the greatest self-confidence in the workplace often comes from hard work and overcoming challenges. Looking back on my decades of experience, the most important driving force that has motivated me and pushed me forward is a sense of mission. While it is true that women do sometimes face professional challenges and psychological barriers, I do believe that often we're not limited by a “glass ceiling”, but by ourselves.

Nowadays, women's rights are more protected and their voices are more heard, an indicator of women’s greater influence in a wider range of fields. But in terms of self-development, women still have a long way to go. As an educator, I have always believed that education is the most effective way to help women learn about ourselves, break through obstacles, and become who we want to be through the power of knowledge.

For more than a century, International Women's Day has transcended generations, nations, and borders, inspiring women all over the world to pursue freedom, equality, peace, and development. Together, we can strive to create a world of gender equality, a world that is more diverse, fair, and inclusive, a world that respects and celebrates differences. May all women have the courage to step forward, ride the waves, and shine.


Katherine Xin

Associate Dean (Europe), Professor of Management, CEIBS

“Digital platforms offer us tools that have a potential to minimize bias and break down barriers, to create more inclusive opportunities for people from diverse background.”

Inspiring inclusion is about creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to foster a sense of belonging for individuals from diverse backgrounds, Professor Xin says.

“Company leaders should provide equal opportunities for employees to grow in an organisation, establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs to include people from different backgrounds,” Professor Xin told us, adding that “walking the talk is important for leaders to foster an inclusive climate, respect diversity and inspire differences and uniqueness.”

“The advance of the digital era and access to a wealth of information also enables individuals to raise awareness about potential biases and break fixed frames of mindset in order to create more inclusive opportunities for people from diverse background.”


Michelle Zheng

Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, CEIBS

“The word ‘inspire’ seems to indicate we still have a long way to go to achieve ‘inclusion’, whereas it should be something that we strive for and practice every day.”

To Professor Michelle Zheng, the word “inspire” seems to indicate we still have a long way to go to achieving “inclusion”, whereas it should be something that we strive for and practice every day. “We should just put it in our blood and have that mindset when we interact with people, rather than treating people based on their gender or ethnicity differences.”

At a firm level, research shows that companies perform better when they have more diversity amongst their board members, Professor Zheng notes. At a team level, psychology research also shows that teams with diversified members of both genders tend to be more creative.

As business schools, Professor Zheng believes that institutions like CEIBS should lead by example and strive to be role models for others in terms of gender balance. “We can also offer a variety of programs and courses to integrate inclusivity and diversity in our curriculum, since business schools are the source of knowledge that prepares students for furthering their careers,” Professor Zheng adds. “It is necessary for us to make sure our graduates practice inclusive leadership when they lead and hire, and for women candidates learn how to correct people's stereotypes when they feel uncomfortable.”


Hyun Young Park

Associate Professor of Marketing, CEIBS

“In education, it's not just about the content, but creating an environment where people with different cultures are exposed to each other and can discuss common topics. I think that's the best thing that a school can offer.”

“I think there are two ways that education can help to foster inclusion,” Associate Professor of Marketing Professor Hyun Young Park told us. “One is from bottom to top, and the other is from top to bottom. The best bottom to top way is merely exposing one to an environment where inclusion is simply part of that environment.”

In education, it's important to create an environment where people with different cultures are exposed together, becoming friends, and discussing common interests, Professor Park adds. Research shows that merely exposing people to something or someone repeatedly enhances liking of those things or people. “That's the best thing that a school can offer and the starting point where they can make a bigger difference in the society.”

“As for people in power (top to bottom), content can actually inspire them to break through existing perspectives or framing, and if there’re disruptive changes in their mind, they’ll be motivated to change the system itself, which is very important to support.”

Effy HE
Michael Russam