The Rise of Female Leaders– Meet The Founders of Women For Leaders – Jeanna Rutherhill & Eva Ekedahl
Updated: Feb 19
With the vision of creating an ecosystem for women in their career along with pushing for change towards a modern, sustainable, and equal leadership, Women for Leaders take a holistic approach, offering services aimed at both developing and supporting women in their careers as well as actively working with companies to help them become more equal employers. This is done through executive leadership programs, a female network, strategic advice, lectures and workshops.
You are the great founders of ”Women for Leaders” - a community with a great mission and purpose that were selected for The Brainz 500 Global List in 2020 for that reason. How did it all start, and what is this mission and purpose behind it?
We have our own experiences as leaders - Jeanna as former head of sales at Google and CEO of a digital agency, and Eva's background as a leader in the recruitment industry within IT and tech and CEO in the consulting world - which gave us power, energy and the will to make a real change to get more women in the top leadership positions. We clearly saw that there was a need for diversity and a new inclusive, sustainable and equal leadership and that there was a great untapped potential that needed to be unleashed.
Through Eva's interviews in Karriärpodden, which she has conducted since 2014 with Sweden's most successful female leaders, further arguments emerged that what has been done so far is very traditional and has not kept up with developments. Something new, fresh, digital and modern was needed! The extremely rapid pace of change requires a completely different type of leadership - modern leadership - which is characterized by empathy and trust as well as a team-oriented, visionary, value-driven and coaching leadership to achieve the best results.
Our executive leadership programs are different in several ways, mainly because they are created by successful female leaders in business through co-creation and they are actively contributing and sharing their knowledge and experience in a spirit of paying it forward. It is simply the program and support that they themselves would have wanted to have before they became CEOs.
With Women for Leaders, the goal is to get more women to apply for leading positions, and to increase the proportion of women on companies' managements and boards. The mission and mantra is "Lead the change and change the lead"!
One of the things that make your work stand out is that your leadership programs are concrete and actionable rather than theoretical. What are the outcomes and benefits your client has achieved by working with you?
Our participants in the programs testify that it is not reminiscent of anything else they have seen. These are experience-based modules that provide concrete tools that can be implemented directly in daily operations. To hear from co-designers' self-perceived challenges and successes and to share this personally with other leaders who face similar challenges provides support and togetherness that they believe is invaluable.
The companies that invest in their female leaders get the power, knowledge and energy to drive the change that is required and that most companies and organizations are facing or are in the middle of.
Many companies talk about being or wanting to be more equal, few have succeeded so far. By working with us, companies make things happen for real.
Why is the duo ”Eva & Jeanna” a successful leadership duo?
It was a stroke of luck when we were brought together by a tip from a guest in Karriärpodden! Eva had long been looking for someone to start a business with around female leadership, but only found those who were similar to herself in terms of skills. Jeanna, on the other hand, had an idea to create a new kind of executive search company that was based on a large active network and was looking for someone with that background.
We are very different in our experiences and skills that complement each other so well. However, the most important factors have been our drive and passion for building companies, changing and achieving our purpose while having incredible fun! Being an entrepreneur and building a company can sometimes of course, mean hard work and difficult decisions and then it is extra important that you share values and have the same sense of humor and fun at work.
What would you say are the most common mistakes leaders make nowadays, and how can they improve?
The biggest mistake that leaders make is not understanding the importance of building strong teams through relationships based on transparency and trust.
Focusing too much on numbers and results instead of a clear purpose and common visions and a holistic approach.
If you would give 6 tips to women who want to become great leaders, what would that be?
Be yourself - authenticity always wins
Be curious - try things out
Speak up about what you want and dare to take the chance when it comes
Build on your strengths and show results
Build your network - surround yourself with sponsors and mentors who believe in you
Make sure to have fun along the way!
What is the next big goal or project for Eva Ekedahl and Jeanna Rutherhill? What do you have in front of you?
From the very beginning, we have been thinking big and wanted to bring about real change. Now we are building that ecosystem with digital services to reach more women and scale up further.
Women for Leaders, together with a third partner, Cecilia Fredriksson, have in the past year started another company to realize their goals and achieve more equal companies - EQ Executive Search, which is a search company that recruits modern leaders with the keywords EQ and EQuality.
The podcast with Sweden's most successful female leaders and role models. Eva Ekedahl, who hosts the podcast, conducts personal and interesting interviews, which go in-depth and are about what is behind the guests' success and what the career journeys have looked like. The guests share their lessons, experiences and life stories and give their best tips. Some of the guests are Hélène Barnekow, Liza Nyberg, Anna Kinberg Batra, Lisa Lindström, Anna Ryott, Ann Hellenius, Lottie Knutson, Magdalena Gerger, Suad Ali, Johanna Frelin, Sissela Kyle, Andra Farhad, Caroline Farberger, Sofia Helin m fl. The career podcast was started in 2014 by Eva Ekedahl, who is also one of the founders of Women for Leaders. There are now over 190 episodes published with an ever-increasing audience.