The International Women in Business Düsseldorf e.V is a non-profit network that supports internationally-minded women from all backgrounds living in the Düsseldorf area.
International Women in Business Düsseldorf was founded in 2015 to support women accompanying their spouses on international assignments.
We were initially created for women with children at the International School of Düsseldorf. We have since broadened our membership base, welcoming women from the greater Düsseldorf area.
Here is our TEDx talk about why we started the network and what we wanted to achieve.
These are the members of the International Women in Business Board team:
Katy Kennedy, UK
I am originally from the UK and started the International Women in Business Network when I came to Dusseldorf with my husband and two sons in 2015. I wanted to experience working in a foreign country and discovered that other like-minded women were looking for support and a network to help make that happen!
I trained as a chemist and worked in laboratories for several years and I have previously run 24 hour large operational teams; been Head of Operations running 5 laboratories; Programme Managed large change projects and even been part of Emergency Incident Command Centres.
When I came to Germany, I needed to create a “career in a suitcase” and decided to use my love of talking to people about their aspirations, their life dreams and their career goals.
I became a certified, Executive Coach specialising in working with middle managers seeking advancement in their careers and SME Executives wanting some help with their businesses.
I play and coach rugby and even had trials for England when I was much much younger!!
Amaia Izar de la Fuente, Spain
I was born in Spain. As a kid I lived in México for seven years, spend a year in a boarding school in the US and moved back to Spain at the age of 12.
I started my working career just after finishing my degree in Business Administration. My first job was as a Business Consultant in Madrid. During those years, I gather experience in process analysis and reengineering, system implementation, and change and project management.
After four years in consultancy, I worked as a marketer for an industrial company for 13 years. During those years, I got my Master’s Degree in Marketing and Sales Management and had two kids.
In 2016 our family happily followed my husband in his expatriation to Germany. We wanted our kids to discover the advantages of living in an international environment and knowing new people. I wanted to enjoy the opportunity to rethink my future and maybe start my own business.
When we moved to Düsseldorf, I worked as a volunteer at events and as a class rep at my kids’ schools but, at some point, that wasn’t enough. I needed to do something that made me use my skills. In 2018 I joined the leadership team of the International Women in Business Düsseldorf. That gave me the strength to motivate myself. Since then, I worked with some businesses on their marketing strategy, and I helped the network grow into the Verein.
I have now moved back to Spain but continue to be part of the network and on the Board.
Catherine Guillou, UK
I grew up in the UK and have always had a strong interest in different cultures and the visual arts. I studied languages at London University and have always loved travelling. After University I began work in London in the NHS and discovered my love for training and development . Implementing non discriminatory good practice was central to much I did – I was trained in women’s development early on. Three months in the USA on an exchange programme gave me great new insights. I published articles about innovative work I led during my time as head of training and development at a big London teaching hospital. This included development of new networks and relationships during the merger of two large hospitals, previously rivals.
I moved to France to marry 20+ years ago and started my own coaching and training business. I did other local jobs experiencing being ‘from outside’ in spite of my good standard of French. Whilst in France I became a member of the board of a not for profit organisation, looking after people with HIV – I facilitated their planning seminars.
In 2007 my husband and I went to Brazil for 2 months to adopt two boys – a radical change in our lives! My focus since has been watching out for them – and managing a number of moves internationally. We moved to Sweden for 5 years first to Lund then Gothenburg, then to Germany, following opportunities for my husbands career. It has been rich, interesting and hard work! In Gothenburg I was on the board of a women’s networking group similar to this one. Helping out at the kids school was something I did in both places including facilitating some large meetings to improve communications between parents and the board of the school.
Soon after I arrived in Germany I organised collections for the massive influx of refugees with a group of mothers from the school. I went to iwibdus meetings early on and when Katy invited me to join her I said yes right away.
Now my boys have left home and I am ready for more work as an executive and life coach and as a facilitator – I can do it in English or French!
Agnieszka Okoniewska, Poland
Since childhood, I have been talking about working with people, and traveling.
My first professional experience dates back to student times. Initially, it was just a job in telemarketing, nothing demanding.
In my first full-time job, I discovered the world of numbers. From 2001 to 2015 I worked in various areas of finance in Polish and international companies.
In 2016, my life changed and we moved to Dusseldorf. Not working, I engaged myself in many different activities: volunteering in school, being a part of the International Women in Business Düsseldorf Board team, learning German, and painting. I’ve met many interesting people, made friendships, traveled, and above all I’ve got closer to my two great daughters and my husband.
In 2019, I began working full time again in Accountancy for a local firm. I love numbers, working with people, being active and creative. Within the Board I act as the Treasurer.
Gisele Legionnet, France and Germany
I am thoroughly French AND German, born in one country, raised in the other. Now living in Düsseldorf for 20+ years.
Cities where I lived are Freiburg, Paris, Lille, Berlin, Barcelona, New York City and Düsseldorf, in that order. In all these cities, I have been cycling every day.
Other daily activities include: developing training and learning design solutions for children and adults; dreaming up way to save the planet; walking my dog, checking my social networks. Weekly activities: cooking and farmer’s market groceries, making (stuff, mostly textile). Monthly activities: traveling, painting or drawing.
Fashion and design have always been dear to my heart and I am starting a platform for hyper-local, climate-positive fashion and textile.
iwibdus Network is a fantastic group of professional women, with a truly relevant mission in todays’ work environment. I am more than happy to contribute with my experience and skills and help grow this network.
Simona Tonella, Italy
I come from Parma in Italy and together with Marco, my husbands we have two kids, both now at university.
I‘m an autenthic Italian lady, fond of fashion and food but also of technology.
As an electronic engineer always looking for international experiences, together with my family we immediately took the opportunity, offered to my husband, to move to Düsseldorf in 2012. This change represented a real challenge for my career but at the same time it became a strong accelerator of it.
I spent the first year working in Luxembourg for the same Italian company, IntesaSanpaolo Bank, I then left Luxembourg and I moved to Johnson Controls to take care of the Application Shared Services for Continental Europe. After 3 years of an intensive international experience, in 2017, I joined Vodafone to manage the IT Transformation Centre of Excellence.
Having seen many examples of women that struggled to develop their talents, I strongly feel the need to support and to inspire Girls and Women to develop their potential. For this reason I have embraced many volunteering initiatives focused on nurturing the career of Women, especially in Technology, within the Companies I have worked with. Therefore, being part of this amazing group as the International Women in Business in Düsseldorf, makes me proud to represent all of you and gives me the opportunity to dedicate myself once again to values that are foundational for me.
Eva Wright, Germany
I am a native German and was actually brought up in beautiful Hattingen an der Ruhr. After graduating from the local Gymnasium, I moved to London to study Graphic & Communication Design. After four years at the London College of Communication and a six-month study exchange in New York, I was so inspired by the international design scene that I carried on with my studies and graduated with a master’s degree in Communication Design from the prestigious Central St.Martins College of Art & Design.
I started working for a number of design and branding agencies. My first job was as a junior designer for the retailer “The Body Shop”, other employers were “Interbrand”, a global branding agency and the well-known advertising agency Jung v. Matt in Hamburg.
After several years in the agency scene, I decided to work as a freelance designer due to family changes and I have been looking after my own clients for over 15 years in communication and web design, as well as brand strategy consulting, with a focus on digitalisation.
After living in the UK for a long time, I have been back in Germany since 2015 and I am pleased to live close to my parents and family again.
I founded the International Women in Business Düsseldorf with Katy Kennedy in 2015 and I am committed and passionate about the further education of women and girls – especially in terms of digital skills.
I believe that women should support and help each other. Networking is the perfect activity to find new business relationships as well as girlfriends!