While mainstream gender equality thinking focuses on equal pay for equal work, and of fairly shared responsibilities at home, Isabella shifts the debate to empower both men and women to embrace their true aspirations for personal and professional success, and then shows how this ultimately advances the economy. Leveraging her past experience in communications, she has developed an ambitious media strategy built around men, women, and corporate role models who have found a satisfying work-life balance and are thriving. She leverages 500,000€ (US$637,000) worth of free marketing and PR every year from partner companies and media to tell their stories. To provide an identity for this community of role models, Isabella has created a powerful JUMP brand that positions equality as all inclusive; using pink (also a business color) and a recognizable logo.
Isabella works to create a permissive environment that legitimizes individual champions of her vision. To create a supportive environment, she invites large corporations to engage in her vision through the annual forum she organizes in Belgium and now in France to advance the debate around gender equality and personal/professional success. “Men and women as allies for greater equality and performance” was the title of this year’s forum that welcomed over a thousand participants including experts, executives and professional women. Isabella has been very successful in mobilizing the largest corporations in Belgium and France, including Deloitte, Sodexo, IBM, and Danone to sponsor the forums, inviting their top and middle managers. Isabella has ambassadors within all major companies.
Isabella also engages companies through an awards strategy given out every year to an executive leader, to highlight his/her personal engagement in corporate culture change. These leaders have become her greatest allies, as this recognition gives them the internal legitimacy they need to push further progress within their corporations. For example, Tom Declerq, Managing Partner for Talent at Deloitte won the [email protected] Award last year, said it helped him to promote gender equality within the company’s hierarchy and gave him the legitimacy to implement innovative equality programs. It was also an important moment from a personal perspective, as he feels he has a personal responsibility as an ambassador and role model on equality and diversity issues.
Isabella is also creating a supportive environment for corporate equality managers, another key stakeholder for shifting corporate culture. Because equality managers are isolated in their own silos, Isabella is creating the first of its kind network of equality managers in Belgium, across the country’s deep language barrier, which will become a platform to exchange practices, hear from experts and innovators, learn about cutting edge research, and accelerate their ability to transform gender equality programs within their companies.
Engaging individual champions and entire corporations around her vision is not enough to empower women who suffer from internalized discrimination and have adopted gender stereotypes as part of their self-image. Isabella has thus developed the Jump Women’s Academy for life-long learning. This offers a series of workshops and trainings to help women define their own success and influence the practices and culture around them, at work and at home. All content is relayed in a newsletter that reaches 170,000 women every month in Belgium and France. With three to four workshops each month in Brussels, Overijse (Flemish Belgium), and Paris, it is creating a sorority of women who reinforce each other’s decisions and determination to create change. Most women surveyed say they now have the self-confidence to start gender equality initiatives in their companies.
While most professional women’s networks target senior management, Isabella’s JUMP network targets middle management, ages 25 to 45, a crucial time for women in their personal lives and when companies often detect high potential. JUMP does not have membership fees and uses a sliding scale for event or training fees. Uniquely, it also works across all sectors (private, public, and citizen sectors) and focuses solely on the European continent. Its newsletter, events, workshops, and trainings are always offered in English and the local language(s). Active in Belgium and France and reaching out to women across Europe, Isabella aims to make JUMP a European leader on the issue within five years. She will expand forums and workshops in various countries, including Poland, Germany and Luxembourg, broadening her women’s network, influencing European Commission legislation, and developing a structured campaign on a new generation of male and female role models.