International Women's Day: HEC Paris is proud of its female TRIUM Alumnae

8 March 2013

40 years ago, HEC Paris’ entrance exams opened up to women for the first time. Today, as the number of female entrepreneurs continues to grow, the proportion of women in HEC Paris Executive MBA Programs has significantly increased to reach almost 40% which is an encouraging trend for the empowerment of women both at the political and economic levels. HEC Paris is proud of two of its female TRIUM Global Executive MBA students, Swaady Martin-Leke and Kalpana Sankar, and their impressive achievements as entrepreneurs. They are hugely inspirational, having displayed passion, creativity and commitment  in overcoming challenges and bringing their visions to life.

TRIUM Global Executive MBA alum Swaady Martin-Leke (HEC 12) - HEC Paris 2013

Swaady Martin-Leke (HEC 12) was recently named one of Forbes Magazine 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa in 2012. The Ivory Coast native is the founder and CEO of YSWARA, Africa’s first luxury gourmet tea brand. At some point during her many years with General Electric Co., where she was most recently GE Transportation's Regional Director for the US $300 million Sub-Saharan subsidiary, Swaady Martin-Leke, Class of 2012, developed a dream. "I wanted to do something very different, something that promotes our African resources, culture, and identity," she recalls. "It was my dream to capture true African luxury, change the world's perception of Africa, and produce a luxury brand that is truly African in origin, nature, and tradition."

Martin-Leke’s dream of breaking out and doing something new motivated her to apply to TRIUM. The capstone project would become Martin-Leke’s launch pad. The team began with the aim to creating a new company that would be based in Africa and target the African and global luxury sector. It became the venture now called YSWARA, a high-end curator of gourmet African teas and accessories. Based in Johannesburg, the company's mission, according to Martin-Leke, is "to unlock Africa's potential to produce superior quality products that appeal to a local and international audience, whilst achieving societal impact" - in this case, creating jobs in the local economy. "I am passionate about changing Africa," she adds. TRIUM was the indispensable key to unlocking the future she is now creating. Through the TRIUM alumni network, she was able to make connections and build relationships around the world that have proven to be of true value to YSWARA."

Dr. Kalpana Sankar, TRIUM Alumni 2012 - HEC Paris 2013

 Kalpana Sankar (HEC 12) is celebrating the 10th year anniversary of her NGO, Hand in Hand that aims to reduce poverty through job creation. Since 2004, Hand in Hand India has empowered women particularly through micro-finance and enterprise creation, using a 'credit plus' model that weaves "social mobilization, microfinance, and enterprise development." Sankar started her TRIUM studies during a crucial time for Hand in Hand India. With the aim of expanding to over 15 countries, TRIUM's unique coursework, focusing on an incubator project, became perfect testing ground to explore the NGO's new expansion plan. This case study became the basis of her capstone project, Academy for Social Entrepreneurs. Coming from the NGO sector and having already received two PhD degrees, Sankar may not seem to be a 'typical' EMBA applicant. However, during her application process, TRIUM saw the value in her project proposal and accepted her, providing her with a scholarship to ease the financial burden. "TRIUM believed and invested in me" she reaffirms. "I drew on the expertise of my TRIUM classmates and launched a professional project close to my heart."
Devoting her early years in Chennai to raise her family and volunteer for the women's self-help group movement in Tamil Nadu, a region in India, Sankar witnessed  poverty and gender imbalance that fueled her desire to pursue a second PhD in  Gender Perspectives of Women in Self Help Groups. This was the beginning of her professional metamorphosis. Thus began her plight to correct economic gender imbalances by empowering women. Sankar undertook several international missions and consultancy work with the UNOPS, UNDP, Christina Aid, Wetlands International, in addition to working with the South African Government and collaborating on microfinance and poverty reduction programs in Afghanistan and Brazil. Her professional experiences in government, civil society and the private sector have proven to be pivotal in  her current role as Chairperson, Managing Trustee and CEO of Hand in Hand India. Throughout her NGO, Dr. Kalpana Sankar has created over 1.3 million jobs for women.
International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. It has been observed since the early 1900s, celebrating and empowering women the world over.

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