We have during our Women’s Week, in honor of International Women’s Day, interviewed leading power women around the world to hear about their individual journeys to their success, their advice to women and men working in male-dominated industries, where they find inspiration and more.
As our final article this week, we are excited to share our interview with Mrs. Pernilla S. Corizza, founder of, and coach at, Swedish leadership development company “Modigt Lärande” (translated; Brave Learning) and public speaker.
Q1) How has your journey looked like, in terms of your career, to be where you are today?
A1) All my life, from a noticeably young age, I have been in leader positions in different ways. Both at work and in my free time. I started, even before I was a teenager, to teach small children how to skate and I was a leader of young children groups in the parish. I worked in the school system over 31 years where I was, during the final ten of those years, a principal. The first year as an assistant principal before I took on the entire mandate as a principal. In Sweden, the principal has almost always full responsibility for not only the students and their results but also responsible for every employee, common working environment, individual development plans, personnel matters, every individual’s wage development etc. and of course the full responsibility for the economy and much more.
To balance my life and energy I have worked in parallel with music in different ways. Both as a composer of children’s choir music and as a singer in a cover band. It has been a wonderful way to live a varied life and have the possibility to work with many of my strengths and abilities.
In 2018 I was nominated for the “Leader of the year-award 2019” by my co-workers and I decided to take the leadership developing to an independent level and started my own company as a leadership consultant. The last two and a half years I have been working mostly with CEOs in varied lines of business, and their management teams, helping them make the transformation from being managers or “bosses” to become leaders as well. Conscious leaders, that people want to, and dare to, follow voluntarily which is key to make people healthy, thrive and want to be and do their best at work, and in life. I also run the leadership training course “Grand Mastermind” with a transformation coach, and together we help people flourish in their leadership, leading themselves and leading others. Public speaking at events and conferences was an important part of my work before COVID-19, and even though I still do it digitally, it´s something I long for to do when it’s safe to be physically together again.
Q2) What are you the most grateful of in your work?
A2) I am most grateful for being independent regarding working hours and which assignments I choose to take on to contribute in the best possible way to as many as possible through outstanding leadership. I am a strongly value-driven entrepreneur and I choose consciously what I want to put my name on, and where I really can make a difference to make the world better. It’s important to me to be able to thrive in my strongest driving forces to stay healthy, so the fact that my work is founded on this is a prerequisite for me, and for everyone else for that matter, to feel motivated and committed. Great leadership is my passion at work, so to be able to contribute to others in their development processes, is something that I am grateful for everyday.
I am so grateful also to be able to start the day together with my youngest child, who soon is to become a teenager. Having the opportunity to be present, really present, in his life has meant so much. For him, for me and for the whole family. Instead of the scenario of me going away early mornings and coming home late at night, that was the routine for many years, I now start the day in peace with him. I have time to make breakfast and listen to his thoughts before he’s off to school. I have time to consciously set my intention for every day and time to help him start his day in a good and healthy mindset. I also have the possibility to meditate every morning, do yoga regularly, have family time, be a mentally present mom for my grown up daughters, spend quality time with my husband and also time to play with my grandson. I’m aware that this way of combining life and work is a favor not to take for granted or forget to pay attention to, and I start every morning when waking up with appreciating this favor.
Q3) Tell us about a time where you have used inspiration from another woman to motivate yourself?
A3) I always stand wisely on many other great women’s shoulders and find myself having a hard time to pick just one woman or one time. So, I will do my best answering your question by being disobedient, or why not call it entrepreneurial, and pick three women. I have dealt with a lot of guilt in my life, even though I shouldn’t have had to. I have been particularly good at diminishing myself, my skills and abilities and not seeing myself as the skillful and wise woman I have become through the tough challenges in life. Instead, I’ve always looked up to other strong women who really own their story. And now, thanks to women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Brené Brown sharing their stories and skills, I totally own my story and I take responsibility for how it continues. The last woman I cannot not mention in this context, she is the Finnish-Swedish poet Edith Södergran (1892 – 1923) who finished one of her poems with these beautiful and powerful words “My self-confidence is due to the fact that I have discovered my dimensions. It does not suit me to make myself smaller than I am”.
Q4) Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic many more people around the world have struggled with depressive episodes due to lack of social activities, exercise etc., have you implemented anything new that you have found exciting, in your weekly routines since the pandemic started?
A4) Since almost all my planned assignments regarding public speaking and leadership training were cancelled during the spring, I focused on two things workwise. 1) I continued coaching via Zoom and Teams and got much better at it and 2) I gathered all my notes and started writing the book I had been preparing for. The book is going to become a tool for great leadership and is still in process. I made sure to spend as much time as possible in nature. Walking in the forest or reading new research by the lake. Or just sit in silence by the lake and breathe. I did more yoga and meditated more. Since both me and my husband worked from home, we started to take work breaks together. Enjoying each other’s company taking walks and talking about the strange situation the world is in and how differently we reacted to it. -important conversations. After the summer all work that was postponed got re-opened again and by then I reached more clients even further away from where I’m based. We all learned how to meet digitally.
Q5) Looking back on the past years, what would you have wanted to tell the “you” that was 5 years ago?
A5) You are worthy! Listen more than you speak. Learn about the six Psychological Needs because it will open your eyes and make you understand so much about how you function and why, and in the next step: understand how others function and why. It will make such a difference in every relation you have ever had and will ever have.
Q6) Since going into your line of business, what was your first goal you wanted to accomplish and how did it turn out?
A6) My first goal was to be able to reach as many people in leading positions as possible to make as much impact as possible. The more managers and bosses I chose to work with, the more co-workers would have so much better conditions to kick start their inner motivation, their driving forces, and feel committed and thrive. The profit is beyond great from every perspective. From the human and economic perspective. People stay healthy, stay loyal, are engaged, start to not only accept and tolerate differences but appreciate them which eliminates a lot of unnecessary energy leakage. And all of this generates financial profit in the company. How did it turn out?
I am still working on it and it has already turned out very successful.
Q7) What advice would you give to women that today are working in male-dominated industries?
A7) Step out of line, ladies. Be you. You are beyond good enough. Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your abilities. And don’t ever let who you are get mixed up with anybody else’s idea of who you should be.
Q8) What advice would you give to the men inside the same industries?
A8) Be the smarter one by listening to the women you have the honor of interacting with and lift them up. Acknowledge their important skills and abilities. When you are hiring people or promoting co-workers, look for the skills the company needs to increase its profitability, not the people you feel connected to because you think in the same way and “speak the same language”. It is counterproductive and the development you are aiming at will stagnate. You will find those skills and abilities in many women as well as in men. Choose wisely.
Q9) Where do you see yourself and your company in the next 10 years? Do you have a dream project?
A9) I see my company growing in large proportions and I will work even more globally, since the world is in great need for leadership that understands that leaders lead through people, not through positions. It all comes down to people meeting people and you will never become a true leader until you have true followers that feel it is individually meaningful for them to follow you. My dream project right now is to work with Brené Brown.
Q10) Our final question: among the people you know, who’s interview would you want to read next and why?
A10) My friend Parul Sharma, CEO at The Academy for Human Rights in Business, author and founder of the podcast “Rights Talks with Parul” where she talks with experts, stakeholders, and forces within various rights issues on the UN Sustainability Goals, Agenda 2030. Her knowledge and experiences are interesting for all actors who have an operational and watching interest in sustainability issues such as human rights, worker’s rights, the environment, anti-corruption, and entrepreneurship.
Thank you Pernilla for sharing your journey and valuable advice with us and the world. Your story is inspiring to all women wanting to start their own company or further develop their own leadership and mindset. We are aware that women more often than men in general get the question “how do you balance your work and family-life” and we consider it a fresh breeze to hear more successful female entrepreneurs out in the world taking charge over their own success, schedule, identity and power. It is truly empowering.
Maja Säholm Westling