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“And yet I rise”: Marcia Favale on women’s leadership in DBK

Women’s leadership is an issue Marcia-Elizabeth Favale always cared about as a woman-entrepreneur and tech inventor, investment banker, lecturer at Said Business School of Oxford University and independent director of the Development Bank of Kazakhstan (DBK). Being a member of the Board of Directors in one of the largest financial institutions in Kazakhstan, she is committed to addressing the myriad issues faced by women in highly competitive fields of finance and IT. According to Marcia Favale, nowadays DBK can be considered as a benchmark for celebrating gender equality among its employees. As a case in point, the proportion of females employed in DBK in 2020 is equal to 54% compared to 47% of males. Moreover, there is a huge number of women in the governing positions in the DBK team. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement, as Kazakhstani people must pay forward the idea that empowering women is a key to economic prosperity that will help us to realize the full potential of our society. This idea of supporting women, providing authenticity and transforming them into master-builders became the motto for Marcia Favale’s online meeting with the DBK team last week.


The question has never been whether women can lead as effectively as men, because it’s not about the competition between genders. Instead, the question that we need to ask is, how can we help women to find their own authentic voice? According to Marcia Favale, sometimes it might seem that we are in battle, because in the real world we do have glass ceilings for women, but in order to be a successful leader Women have to find their authentic voice and not feel then need to copy masculine characteristics. Women need to move on without dwelling in what she has done wrong or what’s not being provided to her. In other words, carving a unique path is the most important talent Women must learn. In order to do so they must nurture master-builders in themselves, which means combining the entrepreneur’s mindset and thinking continuously of the innovation she can bring to herself and her organization, becoming a master builder.

“Sometimes women think they have to follow a role, that there is a prescription of being a leader and that maybe she should emulate male characteristics, on which I say, maybe not? I think that women have to understand that we are marvelous in what makes us a woman, and there are features of leadership, there are even features of self-doubt that actually if you harvest it makes you powerful. Let’s just unpack it a little bit, you don’t have to imitate a man to be a leader, but you need to lead, need to find your authentic voice of how you can empower people to follow you, and its not about imitating people. Instead, it’s about being authentic and discovering new problems and revealing potential niche opportunities, refactoring original business processes and innovating. Always try to be a mentor to yourself,” highlighted Marcia Favale.

Celebration of other women’s success is another issue that needs to be addressed closely. According to Marcia Favale, for women to be empowered and for men to get used to powerful, intelligent, leading women one must always celebrate the successes of other women. The reason is that there is no success in only you, it’s the collective we, therefore people have to pay it forward in order to make change.

“In English, if you turn upside down the “me” it becomes “we”, which again symbolizes the importance of collective contribution, because no change will be brought in isolation. So, when you support tenacity, grit and gumption, and also believe in other women’s success it matters”, said Marcia Favale.

After discussing the personal psychological safety Marcia Favale talked about it in the context of an organization, specifically DBK. The shared insights were applicable not only for the Women audience, but Men as well, because She listed the important strategies a leader of each gender must know about. As a case in point: trying to bring added value and optimization into the organization’s work, cultivating internal and external audiences, taking risks and not being reckless, always managing for performance including yours and your colleagues, bosses, and teams.

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“When you’ve created psychological safety among your teammates you should be able to encourage radical candour without accepting ruinous empathy, promote respect and do not allow manipulative insecurity, reject obnoxious aggression and welcome curiosity, and acknowledge ideas and the sharing of mistakes. Ultimately, you have to be a leader to be an innovator,” said Marcia Favale.

Finally, education of the younger generation, not only girls, but boys as well, was highlighted as the major driving force for change. As a mother herself, Marcia Favale shared the insights of “effective” parenting. For instance, one should never restrict girls in playing with what is commonly thought to be “boy’s” toys, such as machines and lego. Instead, one should provide freedom of choice and consider child’s interest and development.

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