Welcome to the Third Edition of the UNIC Women’s Cinema Leadership Programme

By Diana Stratan | September 9, 2019 1:54 am PDT

Over the past three years, CineEurope has become a celebratory place for participants of the UNIC Women’s Cinema Leadership Programme, where lessons are learned, success is measured and where finish lines mean new beginnings. 

This year, we marked the end of the second edition of the programme and launched the third edition. As always, the get-together was a special one – in an intimate and confidential setting, the graduating participants “passed the torch” and their words of wisdom to a new group of mentors and mentees.  The two-and-a-half hour meeting had all the ingredients of a memorable one, including an inspiring and genuine keynote discussion with Anne Fitzgerald (Chief Legal Officer & Executive Vice President, Real Estate at Cineplex) who shared her extraordinary path to leadership with a constantly growing group of outstanding mentors and mentees ready to share, learn and empower each other, all spiced up with emotions, authenticity and openness. A truly liberating exchange!

As previous editions have proved, we have been lucky to collaborate with mentors and mentees who are ready to go the extra mile. For instance, a number of graduating mentoring pairs have agreed to continue their mentoring process outside of the UNIC mentoring scheme, which only proves how much a support network is needed. This also explains why we had a long list of potential candidates applying for the third edition, even before launching the official call for applications! The most rewarding part was the fact that the majority of those applying have heard first-hand from previous participants about their experience in the programme, which in turn inspired them to apply. Furthermore, many applicants already knew who they wanted to be mentored by, proving that the pool of women leaders in the cinema is growing and their visibility is increasing. 

The third edition welcomes a new group of key female leaders and rising female professionals from across the cinema exhibition landscape as new mentors and mentees representing 14 different companies across 10 territories. This year’s edition – for the first time – also sees the initiative expand its reach, welcoming mentees from UNIC’s Partnership Programme.

Each participant has their own motivation for joining the scheme and the following testimonials from some of this year’s mentors and mentees illustrate their enthusiasm on embarking on this journey: 

Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen (Novo Cinemas) and Helena Eklund (Filmstaden)

“I’m a passionate believer in Mentorship. Having been fortunate enough to have  learnt from two amazing Mentors in my life who really helped propel my career to great heights and who gave me the support, encouragement and confidence to really believe in myself against all odds, I firmly believe we all have an obligation to help support and empower other Women to achieve their greatest potential in life. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than being part of a programme where Women are supporting Women. I feel very honoured to be a Mentor in the UNIC Mentorship programme” – Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, Novo Cinemas (mentor)

“I am very proud to be part of the UNIC mentoring programme and I was very happy to accept when I was asked to be part of this great initiative. It is a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in senior positions in cinema exhibition even though half of the cinema-going audience are women so I think it is both healthy for the industry as well as profitable to have the right representation on all levels. On a personal level, I look forward to be able to support a younger colleague and hopefully help her grow but also to learn from her and other colleagues in the programme” – Helena Eklund, Filmstaden (mentor)

“Why did I join the programme as a mentee? On one hand, I wanted to improve my chances in the German labor market as a woman with a migratory background. On the other hand, I applied to the program with a specific problem, as the location of the cinema I am working for is in danger of being sold after 45 years of successful business, leaving the cinema and its team “homeless”. Therefore, my commitment combines the desire for self-development and the search for a solution to a business-dilemma. Working for a small independent cinema, I feel very lucky to join the programme and gain insights into the work of bigger cinemas” – Hanna Szczepkowska, Arsenal Kinos (mentee)

“When I heard there was going to be a mentorship program, I immediately knew I had to be a part of it. There is nothing more precious for your career than having a group of people you can trust and rely on for advice and encouragement, to help guide you in the right direction and feel supported in your decisions. And this is somewhat even more important and true for working women. The power of us women coming together and lifting each other up is unstoppable. I now not only have a mentor I admire and trust, I have a whole group of strong, intelligent and successful women I can draw inspiration from”- Alessandra Pavan Bernacchi, IMAX (mentee)

Alessandra Pavan Bernacchi (IMAX) and Hanna Szczepkowska (Arsenal Kinos)

While the third edition maintains the flexibility and the format of the first two, it brings with it some exciting new updates. Besides the usual one-to-one mentoring calls, job shadowing exercise and workshops, it will include additional activities aimed at providing more opportunities for interaction between participants. For instance, UNIC will organise two group conference calls in the first and second halves of the year to provide a chance for all of the the mentors and mentees to exchange thoughts and discuss topics of interest outside of the traditional get-togethers. In addition, each mentee will have the chance to spend a month being mentored by another female executive (current or past mentor) from the programme – as part of the “switch mentors” month. The aim is to provide each mentee with an opportunity to receive additional advice on particular subjects that fall within the expertise of other mentors, or to simply network and exchange views with another mentor from the programme.

The UNIC Women’s Cinema Leadership Programme grows and evolves as we go. We are in constant touch with mentors and mentees to make sure that the programme responds to their needs in the best way possible. As such, participants can rest assured that some surprises might pop up in the coming months. 

We very much look forward to an exciting and empowering mentoring year ahead and can’t wait to see where this journey will lead us!

Diana Stratan