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Valentina Kislaya: Emboldened Women Business Leaders in 2022

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Valentina Kislaya
CEO and Founder, Phoenix Leaders

‘Our mission for 2022 is to continue developing The Club into a platform, both physical and virtual, which nurtures and provides both intellectual stimulation and valuable resources for our community of existing and aspiring leaders. What drives me is the idea of giving back to the local community and creating impact through embracing our cultural heritage and connecting it with the 21st century’

Tell us about your company.
“In 2018 Phoenix Leaders founded Cyprus’ first private Members’ Club; a value-driven initiative aimed at creating a unique place for members of the Cypriot business community to network and collaborate. Our vision is to create and nurture an environment for leaders that helps facilitate dialogue, whilst also nurturing entrepreneurs of the future, be it through our tailored events programme or various networking opportunities.”

What do you think helped you the most to make a career as a woman?
“To make a career as a woman – or a man, for that matter, I strongly believe that you need to understand what it is that drives you. My deep-seated and intrinsic values have unknowingly always influenced most of my life choices, including my career. Once I understood and acknowledged these, it became easier to focus on moving forward and achieving the next milestone in my career.
What drives me is the idea of giving back to the local community and creating impact through embracing our cultural heritage and connecting it with the 21st century. The Club is my way of doing so. In bringing a historic building back to life and transforming it into a space which both connects forward-thinking people and stimulates discussions on key issues which challenge the status quo, I hope we can really make a difference to the local business community and create an enduring legacy here in Cyprus and beyond.”

As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
“The most significant barrier was the voice in my head that would invoke the guilt and trigger many of the notions I grew up with. The society I was raised in, promoted traditional gender roles of women, both in the family and within the community. It really was as rudimentary as men went to work and women stayed at home. This paradigm brought with it a whole host of societal expectations for both men and women, but often at the expense of a woman’s ability to choose how she wanted to live her life and which to sacrifice: career or family.
Breaking this mould and deliberately choosing not to make a choice between pursuing a career and establishing a family was not easy, but it was also incredibly liberating, and it created a desire in me to constantly challenge the status quo and not be afraid to question the norm.”

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
“I have two key pieces of advice: firstly, accept feedback openly. For me, the most important and valuable source of growth has always been honest feedback. When I was younger, I used to take a lot of things personally, overlooking the value and wisdom of the words I heard and focusing on the way they were delivered. The most valuable things people can give you are their time and attention, so harnessing that is essential.
I would also say that the quicker you understand that no role model in the world is going to help you live your own life, the better. It is tempting to continually look for inspiration in self-help or personal development books, or the words of those who have ‘made it’. Yet, ultimately it is far more rewarding to become your own role model by paving your own – totally imperfect – path towards success and happiness.”

How should women support other women in their organisations?
“I strongly believe that we need to be more open about both our successes and our failures. In trying to address the gender gap within the workplace we are often only confronted with successful women who seem completely untouchable and unrelatable. Much like the idyllic lives portrayed by so many on social media, we rarely get to hear the back story, the challenges, and the messier reality of the ‘perfect picture’. As women, we need to talk to each other openly about both our successes and our setbacks and be honest about the struggles we have faced. This will not only empower and motivate us as leaders, but also those women who follow in our footsteps.”

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