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27 octubre 2021

Pilar Fernández (Zaragoza Chamber): “We are more concerned about companies recognizing women in order to train them than about doing activities exclusively for women”

Pilar Fernández Llera is Director of Training and Employment at Cámara Zaragoza. Despite being a training biologist, since 1990 she has dedicated herself body and soul to designing customized training services for companies in Zaragoza and its province. We talked about training and female leadership.

What has been your role during all these years in the Zaragoza Chamber?

I have been with Zaragoza Chamber since 1990. I am from Madrid and shortly after being in Zaragoza, I joined the Training area. I have grown professionally and personally in the Chamber, I say this with great pride. I arrived with my degree in Biology and a series of training courses that I brought with me from Madrid. I entered as an administrative assistant and that has allowed me to learn the operation of how a training process works in all its aspects and to go through all the stages, from technician to head of service until I reached the management of the area a little more than 10 years ago. I have moved from operations to strategy in a very natural way. I am able to manage the area by understanding what happens to all the collaborators I have within it.

What role does training play in the Chamber?

Training has always been a pillar within the Chambers since their birth, we are now 135 years old. From the beginning there has been a training service that has been growing until creating an area that has been evolving to what we are, which is to give service to the companies. My main function is to manage this area, which has two services: training and employment.

Yours is an extensive experience, many years dedicated to training. How has the Chamber’s training offer evolved?

There have always been training activities in the Chamber of Zaragoza, activities that have been adapted to the competence needs of people who are part of the companies and self-employed professionals or job seekers. Depending on the times, we have been working in collaboration with public administrations, until now, when our main strength is in private training linked to the training of company managers.

When did this change take place?

This change took its clearest form 13 years ago, when we started to be ESADE’s partner in Aragon with our own product and with a link to the rest of the activities that take place on the Madrid and Barcelona campuses. This does not mean that within the Chamber we do not offer training to the rest of the levels within the organizations, and normally we do it in collaboration with local, national or international Administrations, because training is given from more areas of the Chamber such as competitiveness, internationalization, etc. Within our purpose is to promote, from the field of training, the people of our territory. Above all we focus on training middle managers and managers of companies in our territory.

Pilar Fernández, Director of Training and Employment of the Zaragoza Chamber of Commerce.
What do you train them in?

We train them from a strategic point of view so that they have the capacity to make decisions and to have a present-future vision so that they can boost the competitiveness of their organizations and thus strengthen their professional profiles as well.

In addition to ESADE, what are the other programs like?

ESADE’s is the flagship and gives us 5 programs, but we have more than 20 Chamber-branded programs that we design in the training area tailored to what we have been hearing in contact with companies and that do not exist in any other way in another territory or even in our territory. We do not dedicate ourselves to buying projects and transferring them, we create them absolutely tailor-made, that is our difference with other training centers. Another way of reaching companies is training tailored to the company. It is to identify what kind of need or gap an organization has and give an answer in a training format. Perhaps this is where we are most proud of our work because it is a very handcrafted job.

You adapt to what companies ask for, but are you visionaries, anticipating trends and what they are going to need to train their employees?

Yes, as I was saying, we have several programs that we call white label, which are not operational training, they are strategic training and show that vision, and that orderly procedure to be as competitive as possible. We work on designing training products according to what they are going to need strategically, and the strategy is always for the future. In that sense, yes, we design and modify and we distinguish ourselves in that sense.

Cámara Zaragoza’s training courses are designed to meet the needs of companies, both large and smal
Since you know companies so well, what profiles or competencies do companies demand for their employees today?

What companies are asking from these middle management and executive profiles today is a high competence in digitization. Depending on the position, they are required to have knowledge of what a digital strategy means, what is affecting their business areas due to technological change. It is a digital literacy issue to keep moving forward, and it is mandatory, also for natural life as we have seen with the pandemic.

In addition, they are required to have a capacity for versatility and flexibility that makes them viable in any position. They are asked for emotional intelligence, ability to respond to any crisis situation and strategy.

What kind of companies request your training?

We work with all types of companies. By law, the Chambers of Commerce provide services to all companies. We work with large companies such as BSH or small companies of 8 or 10 people to whom we also provide customized training. We do not only work with the big ones, but even more with a business fabric like the one we have in Zaragoza and province, where SMEs are the majority and they are also the ones that mobilize a lot of the economy in our territory. We do not have a limitation, we adapt the product.

Are small companies interested in these trainings? It seems that large companies are the ones that organize macro-trainings and invest the most in training.

It may be a paradigm because large corporations have a large number of personnel to train and often in aspects that they have to train annually. That is why it seems that there is a large volume of training activity. But in reality, all of them in their size respond to our call as to what we can help them with. We also adapt to what they can afford.

The Zaragoza Chamber of Commerce is concerned about making women entrepreneurs visible and referencing them.

You are very involved in women’s leadership and at Cámara Zaragoza you are concerned about training women leaders. Is training the key to achieving equality between men and women in the company?

We still have a long way to go in terms of equality, we have to do many things and all of them at the same time. In this sense, for the Chamber and from the training area, we understand that the participation of women in training projects has to be at the same time as men. Each of us contributes valuable characteristics to the development of a company or a project. For this reason, when we offer a training activity in a company, we try to find out first if there are women in the company’s positions. We are more concerned about the company recognizing women in order to train them than about doing activities exclusively for women, which we also do. But we are more in favor of integrating and motivating companies to bring women to training.

What other tools do you have to give visibility to women in business?

As a Chamber of Commerce we have an important consultative function that allows us to gather the needs of the business community and transfer them to the Administration. We have elements such as the commissions and we have a commission for Women and Business, which is the one that sheds light on the rest of the commissions and areas to indicate what work we have to do.

How do you orient your training in this sense? Is there specific training on equality or is it focused on the development of leadership skills for businesswomen?

We respond to what the company needs. Equality plans in the company are necessary, in fact mandatory for some company sizes. We collaborate with associations in which the participants are exclusively women such as Directivas de Aragón, we are part of and promote ARAME, Mujeres Tech… In our corporate plenary and executive committee we have a vice president who is Berta Lorente and we had a time where there were two vice presidents, María López was vice president as well. In 2018 and 2019 we did two communication and debate forums, one focused on the stem part of women and another one on science led by women. We believe that the main thing is to look for referents, show them, defend them and when these referents are part of social, economic and political decision making we must reach out to other women so that others have that visibility. To make visible, to reference, to debate… but always open to men and women, even if the referents were women.

What responsibility do you feel to be one of those role models?

Women of my time, I am a baby boomer, we have a great responsibility for female leadership to be considered as the current model of leadership and we have to work in this sense. It has been proven that when women act as women, leading as women, we improve the competitiveness of companies: we have the ability to listen, we are able to recognize other people’s success, to unite teams, we are emotionally intelligent, we communicate very well… when we talk about current leadership, it is a female leadership, it is more than evident. We need possibilities that allow us to be, that allow us to choose where we want to be, we need to show references and have a conscience to help the rest of the women that are coming to light. All of us have this obligation to make companies more innovative, more competitive and with better economic results. In Zaragoza Chamber we work on this from Training and Employment, including these nuances in all activities so that women and men are aware that this is real, that it is necessary.

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