Last update: 02/08/2022

At Santander, we continue to work to accelerate equality in management. In May, we held the first summit with more than 200 women leaders from around the world, all alumnae of the W50 Santander women's leadership programme.

Banco Santander has been committed to female leadership for over 12 years, creating the Santander W50 programme. It gives 50 women worldwide the opportunity to take part in a week-long intensive training course and gain, not just the tools, but also the empowerment they need to lead their teams and accelerate their transition to senior management positions or directorships. 

The programme offers high-performance training for women senior managers at companies in all sectors who want work on their leadership style. 

More than 700 women have already participated in the programme, which was reason enough to bring them together at a summit in London on 5 and 6 May with the London School of Economics and Political Science. Over 200 programme alumnae attended. 

Attendees enjoyed two intense days of training, talks, and the best leadership and networking activities while sharing ideas, fears and aspirations.

Summary of the summit held in London

Day one was attended by Connson Locke, academic director of W50, and Blanca Sagastume, vice- president of Santander Universities, who talked shared stories of resilience from Lara de Mesa, global head of Responsible Banking at Banco Santander. Also at the meeting were Nadia Bilous, head of Legal at BAT, who spoke about leadership in times of crisis, and Jane Murray, founder and CEO of PeaceBeam. The event ended with a workshop led by SW50 instructors Connson Locke and Emma Soane.

One of the most acclaimed talks on day two was between Pamela Ann Walkden, independent director of Banco Santander, and Helena Torras, managing partner at Paocapital and alumna of one of the first SW50 programmes. Pamela gave an account of the challenges she has overcome to reach her current position.

Interview with Pamela Ann Walkden, independent director of Banco Santander

Everyone was awe-inspiring. Attendees highlighted the magic of being under the same roof as 200 female executives hearing them talk about success, the challenges they faced and the lessons they learned along the way; and sharing what their own SW50 experience had meant to them. 

Luz Helena Hanauer, executive director of the Women’s Development Bank in Johannesburg, notes that “meeting women facing similar leadership challenges but with different ideas has been a deeply personal experience. I see women from all around the world are faced with the same obstacles and opportunities, and they are sharing these experiences so generously.”

Interview with Luz Helena Hanauer, executive director of the Women’s Development Bank in Johannesburg

Laura Sandoval, head of Enterprise Ad Sales at Uber for the United States and Canada and alumna of the class of 2016, said that “the most valuable part of the programme was being able to build a new network of contacts with other women who had sponsors, with mentors, with people who provided a safety net and, ultimately, with people in different roles who could help me.” The programme and the summit taught Laura that a huge community of women in situations similar to hers. She recommends the programme as a life-changing experience.

Interview with Laura Sandoval, head of advertising and sales at Uber for the United States and Canada

Marta Colomina, managing director of the PwC Spain Foundation, pointed out that, even though she expected to programme to teach her skills and ways to growth, her experience was much more than that, with “an incredible group of women in a similar situation as you who enable you to take a pause in your career, see where you are, think about where you want to be, and reflect a bit on which steps you should take”.

Interview with Marta Colomina, managing director of the PwC Spain Foundation

Eduvigis Ortiz, Strategic Alliances Leader at SAS and founder-president of Women4Cyber Spain, understood the need to play an active role in business as a woman and a leader when earning her university degree in industrial engineering. It’s something she continues to pursue today as part of such positive experiences as Santander W50, where she “met people with different education backgrounds, from various sectors, people in leadership roles at many companies. But the diversity of opinion and the many points of view you have from being from different places are very enriching”.

Interview with Eduvigis Ortiz, Stategic Alliances Leader at SAS and founder-president of Women4Cyber Spain.

For Ella Chalfon, managing director at Nomura and expert in sustainable finance and ESG, the programme “was a kind of cross pollination of ideas and shared experiences and challenges that we face in our career”. That's why she doesn't hesitate to recommend it to everyone she knows with potential.

Interview with Ella Chalfon, managing director at Nomura and expert in sustainable finance and ESG.

Mayra Souza, from Brazil, is a global expert in international trade. Two months after finishing the Santander W50 programme, she made the decision to quit her job. “SW50 was decisive in making such a difficult choice. It involved a lot of reflection to find out who I wanted be and who I am in my own career growth and to discover who I am. And the programme gave me that confidence to take the next step”, said Mayra.

Interview with Mayra Souza, global expert in international trade

When we asked Nirit Harel, founder CEO of Impact, how she came to do SW50, her answer was “unusual”. In Nirit’s words, “there are many settings in which you can get that education and others where you can get that community. A combination of the two is unusual”.

Interview with Nirit Harel, founder CEO of Impact

For Anna Guimarães, board member (MAM-SEP and TIM S.A) founder of 30% Club Brazil, entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation are key in the Santander W50 programme. She said “I would tell anyone interested in participating in the programme to not wait a second and go for it”.

Interview with Anna Guimarães, board member (MAM-SEP and TIM S.A.) and founder of 30% Club Brazil

Last, Isabel Carrilero, Chief Innovation Officer at Ignis Energy  and Class of 2020 alumnae, said “what I valued most in SW50 are the relationships you develop and, if I could sum them up in one word, it would be ‘generosity’”.

Interview with Isabel Carrilero, Chief Innovation Officer at Ignis Energy

Equitable leadership: a key to better results

According to ‘Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey’, a study by Ernst & Young (EY) and Peterson Institute, having women in leadership roles can help raise a company's earnings by up to 6%. According to "Women in Business and Management: The business case for change", a 2019 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), companies that had a significant number of women managers increased productivity by more than 50% and developed substantially more creative and innovative strategies. 

All of the information regarding the Santander Scholarships can be found at Santander Scholarships

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