Photo essay: 9 women who make a difference

Men are rarely confronted with the same challenges and demands for sacrifice that women are, especially in the male-dominated business world. As a society, we have made progress on LGBT rights, same-sex partnerships and in our thinking about what gender is. Meanwhile, the very basic differences between men and women in the workplace are not discussed. Sometimes, it feels as though this imbalance will last for decades.

Instead of finding excuses and trying to solve the problem from a male perspective, listening would be the first step in this long-overdue process of achieving gender equality. To that end, we spoke with women attending the St. Gallen Symposium to better understand the obstacles they face every day – and how they’ve succeeded in spite of them.

Faraja Nyalandu © Lukas Rapp

Faraja Nyalandu (TZ) is the founder and Executive Director of Tanzania-based Shule Direct. “As a woman, I had to prove myself so much more than I typically would have. I take it as a challenge. I think the biggest thing for me is: ‘If I don’t do this right, it is not just about me, it’s about so many other women who also have to overcome the same obstacles.’”

“I had to prove myself so much more than I typically would have.“
Heben Nigatu © Lukas Rapp

Heben Nigatu (US) is a writer for Buzzfeed and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”. In 2016 she was named one of Forbes' 30 under 30 in Media. “I have become way more aware of how I speak and how I enter a room. Men take up space, both physically and with their voice. They speak in definitive sentences. There is no up-check at the end.”

“Men take up space, both physically and with their voice.“
Ingrid Harb © Lukas Rapp

Ingrid Harb (US/MX) grew up in an environment where becoming a housewife was a woman's typical fate. Today she runs a forum to empower other women to succeed in life. “I personally did have to change. I came from a culture where women don’t have that empowerment. They aren’t encouraged and don’t have the same opportunities as men.”

“Women don't have the same opportunities as men.“
Martina Fuchs © Lukas Rapp

Martina Fuchs (CH) speaks nine languages and is a China Global Television Network host and business reporter. “I had to think like a man and act like a lady. In terms of work attitude, I had to work much harder to compete with my male counterparts – especially in TV journalism, where you have a lot of aggressive and competitive males.”

“I had to think like a man and act like a lady.“
Priscila Bala @ Lukas Rapp

Priscila Bala (BR) earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is an Early Stage VC Investor at Octopus Ventures, which supports young entrepreneurs. “I think if I were a man, I would expend a lot less emotional energy, because nobody would second-guess me.”

„If I were a man, nobody would second-guess me.“
Nanxi Liu © Lukas Rapp

Nanxi Liu (US) Until she was five, Liu lived in a rural village in China without running water. Today she is chief executive and co-founder of Enplug, a company that produces software for digital displays. “When I speak in meetings with potential investors, I am always talking numbers. I know that when I go into a room with my male colleagues, potential clients always look at the other men on my team, even if I am the CEO. I don't have the immediate credibility I would if I were a guy walking into the room."

“When I speak in meetings, I am always talking numbers.“
Samar Samira Mezghanni © Lukas Rapp

Samar Samir Mezghanni (TN) published her first book when she was ten years old. She was selected as one of the 17 United Nations Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals. “If I were a man, the road would have been clear and straight for what I am doing. But because of my gender I had to make a lot of detours to get where I want to be. It didn’t necessarily make me slower, but I think it made me smarter.”

“Because of my gender I had to make detours to get where I want to be.“
Symone Sanders © Lukas Rapp

Symone Sanders (US) served as press secretary for US Senator Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign in 2016. “I didn’t actually change much to fit into the male business culture. I think cultural politics and media is a heavily male-dominated industry, but I was more aware of myself, and not afraid to speak up. That helped me in politics and media, whereas in other spaces it might not have been as applicable.”

„I didn't change much to fit into the male business culture.“
Susanne Ruoff © Lukas Rapp

Susanne Ruoff (CH) is the first female CEO of the Swiss Post. She got her job after making her way past a long list of around 200 competitors. “I don’t really believe in cultural differences between men and women. What I see is our different roles in society. If you are, for example, in Switzerland, we have a very traditional way of thinking. It’s a clear-cut partnership between man and woman, and often the woman stays at home when the kids are small.”

“I don't believe in cultural differences between men and women.“