31 Oct 2018
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Pitching In for Female Leaders

From football to banking, a quest to empower, inspire, and motivate women to step up

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Ebru Koksal (AMP 192, 2017) is a senior advisor with J. Stern & Co. in Istanbul, Turkey. She was the CEO of Galatasaray SK, the leading football club in Turkey for 15 years, and is the only woman to be elected to the executive board of the European Club Association. In this video, she talks about her path through international sports and investment banking to becoming a leading advocate for women in sports and business.

“I ran and led a leading football club in Turkey for over a decade. Then I joined the governing body in Turkey as the Secretary General. It's a very male-dominated industry, yet I was one of the few women who made it through the glass ceiling to the top of international football. Until one day, the rug was pulled off from underneath me, and I found myself out of a job. There was a horrible social media defamation campaign against me. I received death threats for simply doing my job and what the rules and regulations and my job description dictated. And that was the point when I sat down and I thought, there must be thousands of other women in the world who are facing very similar challenges in their personal lives, as well as their careers in the football industry.

“So I decided to go around and tell my story. I devised a leadership program, which was taught by FIFA and Women in Football all over the world in five continents, more than 50 countries, and managed to empower, inspire, and motivate hundreds of women all over the world to step up into leadership positions.

“Those of us who are very passionate about achieving gender equality know that empowering women is only part of the solution. And true parity can only be reached if those decision-makers at the top also buy in and understand the merits of having women at the decision-making tables.

“So recently, I took over as chair of Women in Football, which is the leading NGO for empowering women, celebrating their success, but also maintaining a collaborative dialogue with the governing bodies in the UK and in Europe about the presence and the rights of women to be admitted everywhere throughout the game, being it on the pitch, on the side of the pitch, or all the way up to the boardroom.

“Personal satisfaction and happiness actually comes in when you start doing something for others and making a difference in the lives of the others.

“The biggest plus of the Executive Education program for me personally was the ability to redefine success. Up till coming to HBS, for me, success was more about what I achieved in my day job––the titles, the promotions, and the business card that I carried. But by redefining success, I was actually able to be more committed to the social causes that I was working for and realized that, to make impact, it didn't necessarily have to have big titles or big jobs. It only had to come from your heart.”

(Published October 2018)

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of AMP 192
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