International Leanin Network, Barcelona

John, Zara & Alia

John, Zara & Alia

SocialFam ‘5 minutes’ with Barcelona’s International Leanin Network

Barcelona International Leanin is the first that has forced us to create a category for it. The ideas behind businesses and the businesses themselves - who acts a support? We chatted with Zara to find out more.

First tell us where you guys are from and what brought you to Barcelona
I’m from Kenya and my husband John is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He came here in a placement year during university and never looked back and I came for 3 months to learn Spanish as part of a “gap” year after graduating from uni in Bristol!

For those that are not aware can you tell us more about the term Leanin and what inspired you to start one here in Barcelona
Leanin is a movement created by Sheryl Sandberg who wrote the book Leanin 5 years ago mainly focused on helping women in the corporate / professional world get a more equal footing. There are major inequalities still existing in our “world”’at work, apart from trying to change the systems and policies in governments and organizations, we also have the power ourselves to bring change by “leaningin” - putting ourselves forward, not being afraid, choosing a partner who can fully support us, negotiating better, supporting other women and minorities around us, and being unapologetically ambitious and breaking the mould!

How does the network act as a support?
Within the network we have Leanin circles which are smaller peer groups who share common goals and challenges for example; bcn working mums ; womenintech in Barcelona ; women entrepreneurs- these are peer groups of about 8-12 members who meet monthly to share goals, have accountability, learn, grow and challenge each other and then quarterly the whole network - circles as wider members meet for a fun evening of food, drink and inspirational stories from some of the network members or guest speakers who are awesome women in our community breaking the mould and being once again, unapologetically ambitious personally and professionally.

This is the network that has really been a true support and has inspired many. We have recently joined them and look forward to hanging out with like minded people. This being a network, what is the profile of your members?
Super diverse! Mainly women but men can be and are very welcome to be part of the network. This is not a female issue it’s a human issue! Overall it’s international professional women living in Barcelona looking to achieve amazing things both in their professional and personal lives.

Tell us a bit about what you do professionally and any challenges that you have faced around work once starting a family
I am a Partner at a boutique executive search firm; Loftus Bradford Executive Search in Barcelona where we help our clients find, attract, hire and retain top talents all over the world for key senior roles in their organizations. I head up our diversity practice where I focus on bringing diverse talent to my clients.
Luckily I have an amazing supportive boss who is also a family man so I didn’t have any challenges going back to work after starting a family. The key was clear communication with my boss and my team from the day I got pregnant and throughout my leave. The main challenges are dealing with “Mum guilt” and juggling / balancing work and family and me time (still trying to figure out the me time). However thanks to an amazing flexible and supportive work environment and a great set up at home with my partner and child care, I am able to deliver results and still have time for my daughter and spend time with my family. However I know this isn’t the norm which is why I want to help other women achieve this and help them see through my example that it is possible! You can do both!!

What is the future for Barcelona International Leanin?
We have some awesome new members creating circles and I encourage more and more members to “Leanin”’and set up or join circles. Our goals for next year are to develop a leadership team for the network as I need and would love some support as well as having some amazing speakers from our international community inspiring us at our quarterly events. We also want to do something big when it comes to giving back to our community in particular women and minorities in need. The more empowered our network is the more opportunity for equality and amazing business and personal connections. I have seen so many lives change through just my Leanin circle that I created over 3 years ago that I truly believe the international Leanin barcelona network can make a huge impact within our community.

Thank you so much and we look forward to seeing the growth.
Visit the Barcelona International Leanin page here