As we continue to celebrate women's month, we are delighted to share another employee spotlight from a leader working towards a world free of chemical weapons.
Meet Silvina Coria, the Director Office of Internal Oversight at The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
OPCW is participating in the Impactpool Virtual Career Fair for Women. A unique opportunity for international professionals to engage directly with HR representatives. Learn More and Register Here
Name - Silvina Coria
Job Title – Director Office of Internal Oversight
Nationality - Argentinean
Please could you tell us a little about yourself and your professional background and when and why did you choose to work for the OPCW?
I developed most of my career across many industries in the private sector (tech, pharma, chemical, entertainment) but at the same time I was conducting some classes on governance, auditing and compliance at universities across the world and speaking in many forums and conferences on the subject. As part of that, I got involved in a group of experts under a UN anticorruption programme and I had a great opportunity to expose myself to a global challenge: the compliance task force in the B20 that took place in Argentina in 2018. I found those two experiences (with public sector and the UN world) very aligned with my purpose as a professional, as a leader, so when I was called to apply for it, I did not have any doubt. It was definitely something that attracted me, so I took the chance!
What do you believe is/are the most important skill(s) needed to work at a mission-based intergovernmental organization such as OPCW?
Any role or function in an international environment means working in diverse workplaces with people from many different countries and/or backgrounds to yours. For me, the most fundamental have been mastering cross-cultural communication and intercultural management skills.
Besides this, having excellent networking abilities and being a good listener is always a plus if you want to pursue a career in a leadership position. Collaboration, interpersonal influence, being open to new ideas and innovation, emotional intelligence and a high level of resiliency have been key – at least for me and for my teams- to success.
What are the main benefits/challenges of working in an organization that works towards eradicating Chemical weapons?
The main benefits are the chance to learn about the threats of Chemical Weapons and how an organisation like this can support the global endeavour to permanently and verifiably it is possible to eliminate these weapons, securing the use of chemistry for peace progress and prosperity. It is a wonderful experience to see first-hand the commitment of State parties with the Convention.
In terms of challenges, as the role of the Technical Secretariat is a technical one (meaning we implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapon Convention), we follow the decisions of 193 Member Parties. So coordination, cooperation and looking for more efficiency between the different divisions are challenges that we manage.
What according to you, is the most effective way to address gender parity in the workplace?
The topic is now clear and simple: an equal world is a better world for all of us. When equality grows, organizations are healthier, stronger, fairer…as a consequence, they become a better place for everyone. Having said that, I found the mix of the following activities useful to start fighting inequality on gender: Altering hiring practices (better gender equality on job descriptions, diversity on the panels, fair compensation practices, proactively sourcing gender), Leadership roles for all genders, Equal Pay (more policies and transparency on this), the Prioritization of Work-Life balance (covering topics such as working mothers, parental leaves, single working parents, etc.), more inclusive, strict and effective policies against harassment, sexual harassment and other workplace offences, and last but not least creating a culture of embracing gender at all levels of the organization (staff, management, leaders, etc.) as it is not the “issue for HR to handle”, it should be embraced by all, at all levels to really see a change. Again, all of us can and must do something to make gender parity become a reality!
Do you have a personal habit or trait that has been critical for your success?
Continuous learning is my nr.1 habit: I have a genuine desire and willingness to learn; I consider myself a people’s person so since ever I have always kept an open mind, trying to learn from everyone and every situation I come across. Every experience offers an opportunity for us to grow so I have embraced this since my early ages. And if I have to mention others - it is discipline, patience and always stay true to your pursue as a leader, as a professional, as a person?
What decision accelerated your career the most?
It is linked to what I have just mentioned before on my habits, but on top of that, to have had good mentors (in and out of the organizations I work for), a real good network of female colleagues across the world who have always given me a hand, and a great coach to go and to discuss with. And of course, the most important: the support of my family and friends.
What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
To stay true to your why. To have clarity on what your goal is, as a professional and how that relates to your personal goals. And how well the two are combined. These have been fundamental pillars in my career. If something there is not aligned, maybe it’s time to move on…
We know that many of our audience would like to hear some advice on how to pursue a career with an international organization like OPCW, do you have any good tips to share?
Continuously develop your technical and soft skills (know your strengths and work on your weaknesses!), be informed about what’s going on around the organization you want to work for.
Manage more than 2 languages is always a good idea, check the specializations needed and see how you fit that, get experience from your actual position, exposing yourself to all the multicultural chances you can get, especially on those ones that help you to create a robust professional network.
But the most relevant thing is: Look for those organizations whose goals fit with your purpose. Once you find those, keep your CV updated at all times and go for it!
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This article is produced as a part of Impactpool's Gender Parity month-long campaign in March 2021, supported by OPCW. Curated to shed light on gender parity in the International Public Sector and empower women with career resources, job opportunities, and employee spotlights, and a unique virtual career fair.