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A journey of Empowerment : reflections from Women at Work

Nilly Maik | Global Marketing Director | March 6, 2024 | Technologies

International Women’s Day goes beyond celebrating women’s achievements; it’s also about acknowledging the challenges we face along the way. As someone who’s held marketing management positions in more than half a dozen companies, I’ve often found myself in management team meetings with mostly men around the table. This experience has underscored the ongoing imbalance in workplace leadership, where women, for the most part, remain in the minority.


The history of women’s equality in the workplace is a complex narrative marked by significant milestones and ongoing struggles for recognition and parity. Luckily, by the time I entered the workplace, increased awareness of gender inequality had led to greater efforts to address issues such as sexual harassment, parental leave policies, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. However, the gender pay gap still exists, (in 2024 women earn 16% less than men on average) and the concept of the “glass ceiling” is still looming above us, indicating invisible barriers that prevent women from reaching top positions in organisations..


International Women’s Day is also a timely reminder that I am not alone in my journey.  Throughout my seven plus years at  IDE, a global leader in desalination and water treatment solutions, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside many women in leadership roles. With this realization, I decided to embark on a short quest (across our offices) to find out how these women whom I know and respect, navigated similar experiences.


Women at work: Challenges & obstacles


“At the start of my journey, I encountered managers who dismissed women as ‘hysterical’ and failed to value my opinion in the same way they would a man’s. Later on, my direct managers always promoted women and listened to me throughout my career ”
Lihy Teuerstein, CEO, Water Assets, IDE


 Lihy Teuerstein, CEO of Water Assets at IDE 


In the past 12 years, holding various leadership positions, I’ve frequently found myself in predominantly masculine environments. At times, I sensed doubt regarding my abilities, and I’ve had to address compensation disparities.”


Hagit Oron, Design Manager, IDE


“My challenges moslty revolved around having to master new things – new systems, new environment, new technologies and excelling at them”
Iris Sutzkover Gutman, Expert Process Engineer at IDE

Iris Sutzkover Gutman, Expert Process Engineer at IDE


After posing the same questions to several female coworkers at IDE, I quickly learned that the range of experiences is so diverse that it is difficult to reach concise conclusions. Some women didn’t experience any hurdles, some acknowledged the support they received from their direct managers while others believed that the challenges they encountered were influenced by factors such as their age, level of experience, or the composition of a particular management team.

A repeated comment made by most of my colleagues was one that resonated with me; work-life balance. Michal Lev Shabtay, Senior Legal Counsel at IDE spoke about facing daily challenges in the work-home balance, setting clear boundaries between the two worlds and being 100% present in every situation.”  Maria Gassel Hecht, Quality & Safety Director at IDE spoke about the “difference in expectations between men and women when it comes to a work-life balance.”  Apparently, Maria and Michal are not alone in their frustrations. According to a recent study women do around 65% of the physical household work and are responsible for the endless routine chores such as cooking and cleaning.  Another study claims that even women who out-earn their male spouses do more childcare and housework than their partners. If women are expected (or expect of themselves) to always do more at home, how on earth can they balance work and home? 



Maria Gassel Hecht, Quality & Safety Director at IDE in a staff meeting



How do women overcome these challenges?

While the obstacles women described were varied, their answers to this question conveniently fell into three categories:

Be resilient – Don’t give up, never apologise, stand your ground, speak up.

Seek advice –  Consult with experts, get advice from family, managers and mentors.

Get help – Having a supportive network is critical, as well as sharing (equally) household chores. And if all else fails, here’s a great rule of thumb from Lihy Teuerstein, CEO of Water Assets at IDE:

“My mother taught me that when the children are small, it’s worth spending even the entire salary on help because when they grow up, you’ll be able to move forward in the meantime, and when you don’t need the help, you’ll be somewhere else in terms of your career.”

Why inclusion matters

“More women equals less egos. Inclusion of women improves company performance and improves the overall environment. The decisions women take are more collaborative, women tend to solve situations where all sides are stuck.”
Michal Lev Shabtay, Senior Legal Counsel at IDE


Michal Lev Shabtay, Senior Legal Counsel at IDE in a recent Hackathon


All the women who answered my questions shared a strong belief that diversity and inclusion hold huge benefits for employees and the organization. 

Neelam Agrawal, Dy. General Manager – Procurement at IDE India stated that “Organizations that adopt D&I practices see huge gains in the form of higher performance, greater innovation, better business results and decision making.”

Neelam Agrawal, Dy. General Manager – Procurement at IDE


The strong statements made above are well supported by research. Study after study reinforces the benefits of having greater representation from women in leadership positions and on boards, and of instituting policies that support gender diversity and inclusion. According to McKinsey’s latest report on Women in the Workplace and Inclusion in the Workplace  company profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well represented at the top. Another research demonstrates that companies with higher levels of gender diversity and with policies and practices that focus on gender diversity are linked to lower levels of employee turnover.


What can organizations do to foster inclusion?


A lot! 🙂


All women interviewed were very clear about the role of organizations in cultivating a work environment that embraces diversity and inclusivity.  


Hagit Oron, Design Manager at IDE said that “Organizations should promote women and match their pay without us having to fight for it.”  Maria Gassel Hecht, Quality & Safety Director at IDE insisted that “Organizations should recruit more women for management positions, and provide them with management training and mentoring from within and outside the company.”   Iris Jancik, CEO of IDE Americas added that “Organizations should set and meet company goals for diversity. This will eventually lead to a more balanced organization.”


Iris Jancik, CEO of IDE Americas


Efrat Derfler Sangier, Finance Manager at IDE for the past 12 years concluded An organization that  promotes the right and best candidate for the position will naturally promote more women, which explains why in IDE you can see so many women in key positions.”


Efrat Derfler Sangier, Finance Manager at IDE

Indeed at IDE we have 55 women in management positions out of 190 women on staff who represent 25% of the overall employees. While this falls short of achieving a 50/50 gender split, IDE’s commitment to women’s inclusion extends far beyond mere statistics. It encompasses fostering a culture that values work-life balance, supports family commitments, prioritises vacation time, and places trust in its employees. These principles align closely with IDE’s core mission of providing clean water for all and underscore the organization’s dedication to creating a supportive and inclusive workplace environment.

My personal journey to successful inclusion – final thoughts

I can empathize with some of the experiences shared by my female colleagues. At the outset of my professional journey, I had to work hard to prove my worth, to convince management to entrust me with responsibilities.  How did I do it? Through consistency, dedication, and effective management. Investing in education abroad enhanced my proficiency in global marketing, while gaining experience in diverse companies provided me with invaluable insights and innovative ideas. 

Hard work and dedication have paid off. In my current position as the company’s Global Marketing Director , I feel that my suggestions are taken seriously, and I’m trusted with the freedom to put my ideas into action. In the past three years, I’ve led numerous challenging yet successful marketing initiatives and campaigns across various platforms, delivering substantial value to the company. I feel fortunate to be in a work environment that allows me to fulfil my potential.

Nilly Maik celebrating the great  achievement – IDE’S “Desalination Company of the Year” 2022 GWI award .


I do believe that the inclusion of women in the workspace has many benefits across the entire organization; different perspectives, more innovation, a bigger talent pool, enhanced collaboration, improved staff retention, and… yes, greater profitability. According to that same McKinsey report (and many other studies), the most gender-diverse companies are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability:)  

However, I think it’s time to move past the notion of being “politically correct” regarding women’s inclusion. It’s time to stop treating women as a minority that needs affirmative action, but simply treating them as equals.  When selecting candidates for positions or promotions, we should view women as professional individuals with the same capabilities and potential as their male counterparts. Its Gender should not be a factor in these decisions.

Reading my coworkers’ testimonials and reflecting on my own experiences, have led me to gain a deep appreciation for the remarkable ability of women to connect, communicate, and lead. As we continue (and we will..) to juggle work, hobbies, while advocating for equal pay and opportunities, let’s rely on each other for support and inspiration. Together, we can break down barriers, champion inclusivity, and pave the way for a brighter future where every woman can shine.”


Nilly Maik
Nilly Maik | Global Marketing Director
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