“Be Authentic and True to Yourself”
Eva is originally from Poland and based in Northern Ireland. She initiated the Polish Cultural Week and Polish Film Festival in Northern Ireland and is the inspiration and driving force behind TedXStormont. Eva co-founded the award-winning Unite Against Hate campaign, challenging all forms of prejudice and hate crime. She has also been an independent member of the Policing and Community Safety Partnership in Belfast.
Q: Eva, what’s your story?
A: I came to the UK for two weeks holiday and stayed. Initially, I was intending to spend a year learning English. Over 20 years later I’m still here. Step by step through determination, hard work and perseverance I got educated, developed an impressive portfolio of projects and travelled the world, driving change and trying to make our rather troubled world a better place for all. I often say that I was born in Poland, made in London, toughened up in Belfast and now I’m consolidating my experiences in Oxford.
Q: How did you get where you are today, and did anyone (or something) help you along the way?
A: I have been helped by many inspiring people in various stages of my life and my career. It’s like walking on the road to Emmaus: we are never alone. Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the immense influence that certain people and experiences have had on our lives until we look back.
In my role as the Chief Executive of the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building I’m truly fortunate to work with some remarkable people, particularly my Chairman, Lord Alderdice – a man of profound insight, courage, integrity, loyalty and kindness.
"The biggest challenges are the ones we create in our own minds"
Q: What were the main challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
A: Over the years, I have realized that the biggest challenges are the ones we create in our own minds. Clearly defined principles, sense of purpose and few trusted friends can help us to overcome any obstacle. It can get tough, but great things never come from comfort zones.
Q: Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career!
A: At any given time, I would normally manage 6-7 different projects, sometimes very diverse and complex. That’s the nature of my work.
Throughout my career I managed a large retail company, run business consultancy, organised film festivals, major cultural events and conferences, set up award-winning campaign challenging prejudice and hate crime, developed capacity building programmes for elected representatives, chaired electoral commissions, curated several TEDx events, worked as advisor and mentor and served on numerous boards.
There is no single most significant project of my career. I feel that my greatest accomplishment is being able to bring my values, passions, skills and experiences in the public, private and voluntary sectors together, to work with interesting people, and to keep learning, travelling, enjoying life and doing good.
Q: What are the most important learnings for you in leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
A: Be authentic and true to yourself. Fully and courageously embracing your dreams, hopes and the complexities of life. Also, remember that we are human beings – not human doings or human havings. It is important to live our lives in a balanced, harmonious and sustainable way.
Q: What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
A: Self-doubt. As women we are often less confident than men, we feel less adequate and fear not having all the answers. We tend to doubt our abilities as we collect negative voices from different people at various stages in our lives. Those voices come from patriarchy, from media, from the way we tell our story and sadly, sometimes from other women. We need to nurture a self-belief that focuses on what we can achieve and what we can become; self-belief that gives us the freedom to make mistakes and to cope with setbacks.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
A: It would have to be my mum. I remember our Sunday family gatherings. After the church service we would all meet at my grandparents’ house. All the cousins would go outside to play, all the women would head to the kitchen to prepare our Sunday feast, while all the men and my mum would go to the lounge to play cards. I watched how proud my father was when she was winning. There were no issues, no barriers for her. This is what she liked to do, and she did it, and did it well. I have learned to apply the same principles in my life and my career.
Q: How would you qualify the progress made to date with regards to how women are being perceived as an authoritative figure?
A: It feels like we live in the worst of times and the best of times. The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings state that gender parity is over 200 years away. Yet, at the same time we are entering a new chapter of gender equality. It is an exciting time to be a woman. We have to re-frame how we tell our stories and not to try to be like male leaders.
As Dame Helena Morrissey said: “quite frankly, we’ll never be as good at behaving like men as men”. We must embrace our unique qualities as female leaders.
Q: What advice would you give to younger women who want to succeed in the workplace?
A: Be confident and don’t let the fear of failing stop you from trying. You will make mistakes and you will go wrong. And sometimes it will hurt. But you will also succeed. Be grateful for every experience. Learn from it – it will make you a better leader.
Q: Can you share with us a couple of stories that have either inspired you or transformed the way you think/ act?
A: A few years ago, I came across “The Spy Who Loved” by Clare Mulley – a biography of Krystyna Skarbek (aka Christine Granville), Britain’s first female special agent of the Second World War. Skarbek, a Polish countess whose undercover exploits in occupied Europe included securing the first evidence of Hitler’s plans to invade the Soviet Union and engineering the defection of an entire Nazi German garrison, was described by Winston Churchill as his “favourite spy”. She refused to accept disapproval or failure, and for her huge contribution to the Allied war effort she was awarded three top honours – a George Medal, an OBE and the French Croix de Guerre. She was an extraordinary woman – charismatic, complex and fearless. Her remarkable life story continues to inspire me every day.
Q: What makes a Global Thinker?
A: Global Thinkers can cross boundaries and cross cultures. They don’t shy away from difference but gravitate towards it. Global Thinkers make us feel stronger, safer and less confused. They simply make others and the world around them better.
CEO, Centre for Democracy & Peace Building, TEDxStormont Organiser
Eva Grosman is co-founder and CEO of the Belfast based Centre for Democracy and Peace Building committed to completing the peace process; changing attitudes; building a normal society and sharing Northern Ireland experience internationally.
Eva also curates TEDxStormont/TEDxStormont Women and is an Ambassador for New York based Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED). In 2016 Eva has been appointed as an Advisor to RISING Global Peace Forum in Coventry. As a Head of Programmes at the Northern Ireland Assembly Legislative Strengthening Trust, Eva developed and implemented Politics Plus, a capacity building programme designed to enhance skills and effectiveness of those involved in political and public life in Northern Ireland and beyond. In 2009 Eva co-founded the award-winning Unite Against Hate campaign, challenging all forms of prejudice and hate crime. She has also been an independent member of the Belfast Policing and Community Safety Partnership (2012/2013).
Eva, originally from Poland initiated Polish Cultural Week and Polish Film Festival in Northern Ireland. She published the Link Polska magazine, facilitated successful Invest Northern Ireland trade missions to Poland, supported Polish diplomats in the UK and Ireland and chaired the Polish Electoral Commission in Belfast.
Eva has qualifications in marketing, finance and management, including MA (Hons) Management and CIPR Diploma in Public Affairs and Political Communication. Eva also participated in several international leadership programmes, including the Women in Leadership at the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute, Queen’s University Belfast and is currently joining the Strategy and Innovation Diploma at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.