Embracing equity for all women

Embracing equity for all women
Mar 1, 2023

Katerina Mantouvalou is driven by the impact she sees in her gender equality and human rights research, as well as her internal leadership role with our women’s network

Katerina Mantouvalou headshot

An expert presenter on gender equality and women’s empowerment to the European Parliament. A keynote speaker at the Conference on the Economic and Social Context of Domestic Violence in Stockholm. And a published author of academic articles, policy reports, and blogs on violence against women and gender equality in education, employment, and beyond. As our director of public policy for our Europe and Asia operations, Katerina Mantouvalou’s thought leadership and research has a far-reaching influence on policy and legislation—from the European Commission and its agencies to the World Bank and the United Nations.

She’s also a co-founder of ICF’s Women Employee Community Network, an affinity group that promotes greater understanding, respect, and value for women’s experiences and workplace contributions, while driving greater inclusion and growth opportunities for our female employees.

We recently sat down with Katerina to learn more about her purpose-driven work on gender equality and human rights—she conducted the first studies for issues faced by intersex and transgender people in the European Union member states—and how she’s embracing equity through her research and her role leading our internal network for women.

What prompted your interest in the field of gender equality?

Katerina: Growing up in a family of lawyers, where traditional gender roles were often challenged, I took part in many conversations about rights, equality, and fairness. As I became an adult, I realized that my reality and those of the women close to me, were not consistent with the realities faced by other women around the world. Knowing that some women had more access to opportunities than others elevated my awareness of structural gender inequalities. It made me feel like I needed to work toward correcting this injustice.

Thinking of all you’ve done to elevate women, is there a single client project or moment where you are most proud of the impact?

Katerina: We completed a cost-benefit analysis on work-life balance for parents and caregivers. This research informed a new piece of legislation in the European Union to improve work-life balance by introducing paternity leave, strengthening the right to parental leave, and extending the right to request flexible working arrangements. Now, when my own colleagues take paternity leave after the birth of a child, I feel personally proud that our work is helping them bond with their children, support their partners, and break the stereotype that only mothers are caregivers.

How do you think ICF’s Women Employee Community Network empowers women and confronts the issues they face?

Katerina: Since the founding of the network in 2020, we’ve prioritized issues that are important to women in the workplace globally: women in leadership, career advancement, work-life balance, and, more recently, women’s health. Our community has grown to over 1,500 members—that’s 1 in 6 employees at ICF who are connected to our community.

I envision us continuing to be a safe space where women can raise concerns, talk openly about challenges, identify solutions, and be a source of inspiration and support for each other. We address complex—and difficult—conversations to expand upon gender equality issues among ourselves, our clients, and our communities.

Tell us about a new initiative of the network to promote professional growth and development for women at ICF. How do you envision it being used and applied?

Katerina: The topic of professional development grew out of our research that women are more likely to downplay their work achievements than men. We want to give our women employees the resources to build their personal and professional brand—on platforms like LinkedIn, through our internal performance reviews, and among their colleagues. I envision this will help empower women at ICF to expand their network and advance their careers, while also supporting the careers of others.

What do you like the most about working at ICF?

Katerina: The alignment of my personal values and our company values is most important. To me, that means “embracing differences” and “bringing your passion” to work. It truly embodies who I am. It inspires my journey to keep fighting for gender equality. And it's why after 13 years, I continue to bring my passion every day to my role at ICF.

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