Runa Magnusdottir: The Change Maker For A Better, Bolder & Brighter You!

Freedom and creativity have been Runa’s top priorities for as long as she can remember.  Her first step in building her own business was, first, in partnership with her mother, who founded the family wholesale business in 1985.  She later purchased the same business from her parents and ran the business till   2006.  This is the story of Runa’s advent into the world of entrepreneurship and since then, she’s built several companies. In an interview with CIO Global, she expresses what are the challenges and changes she underwent to be a change maker.

CG:  Were there any challenges you faced in your entrepreneurial journey as a woman?

Runa Magnusdottir: I don’t think there have been many significant challenges throughout the years because I’m a woman.   However, the time I was running my business as a single mother made me more conscious of how to use my time more efficiently and plan things differently.   Implementing the right mindset is critical whether you are a man or a woman.  One can overcome a lot of challenges with the right attitude.

I have asked myself: would that challenge have been different if I had been a single father in business, not a woman?

 In hindsight, most likely, the difference would have been more about how society would have looked at me as a single father.  I would have been appraised and admired more as a single father than a single mother.  I would have been giving more helping hands as a single dad than a single mum running her business because of the social construct that tells women today they can do it all – making it easier for some women to burn out.

Being an Icelandic businesswoman working on gender equity issues gives me already a competitive edge.  As Iceland has ranked #1 for gender equality over the past 13 years, and with my work for decades on leadership and gender equality space on an international level, it does give me an advantage.  Just by being able to share what can be done… if we want it to happen.

Runa Magnusdottir

CG: “A goal is a dream with a deadline”. What are your goals and what are the strategies you have adopted to achieve them?

RM: We are currently working on finalising our latest project, which originates from the No More Boxes Transformational Movement created following our talk at the UN HQ in New York in 2018.   

Our original goal was to reach 5 million people in less than 12 months, and we did that in 6 months.

Our goals moving forward are twofold;

1) Reaching 1 million people to break down gender stereotypes by pledging to the ‘Some not All’ campaign

It’s simple to be part of this awareness campaign.  All you need to do to put your name down as someone who will use a four-letter word in front of a group statement; for example, SOME women are kind and caring, some not.  SOME men are strong leaders and forceful; some are not! We aim to do that through our strategy using online visibility, podcast and media interviews to bring people together.

2) Train over 10,000 future leaders globally aged 18-35 with The Out Of the Box Leadership Program – Beyond Genders.  

This program is designed for future leaders who must become more aware of their unconscious biases to lead their teams and businesses.  We are currently working on the strategy, which includes a lot of networking, collaboration and partnerships with corporations and organisations who want to join in.

Technology plays a massive part in my business.  Whether using Zoom for my group and one-on-one meetings or ChatGPT to help me craft the following article or content description for my next talk, I embrace IT and firmly believe that AI will not take away any jobs from people in the future. On the contrary, other people who are open to exploring and learning how to use AI will take the jobs away from other people.  

At the same time, I’m much aware of the challenges AI can have on our world if we are not careful to over-believe in its capabilities.   AI can, for example, be hugely biased, creating even bigger divisions between genders if we ignore the outcome it gives and take it as the ‘Holy truth’ and nothing but the truth!’

Runa Magnusdottir

CG: “Diversity and inclusion, which are the real grounds for creativity, must remain at the centre of what we do.” How are you putting this quote into practice in your organization?

RM: We are training leaders and future leaders in The Out of the Box Leadership Program – Beyond Gendersss. The program is 100% aimed towards more diversity and inclusion in the workplace, so YES, it is vitally important for us at the No More Boxes Transformational Movement to create a workplace where people feel free and safe to be themselves.   Building a company culture that thrives with diversity and inclusion isn’t easy.  We are constantly dealing with the complexity of humanity.  However, we believe this can be done; the task is to break down the division and move from the mindset ‘Impossible to I’m possible’ as it all starts with ourselves.

Leadership is the core of our business; we must practise what we preach! The core strategies are regular conversations, a culture of open communication, and consistently setting the intention to listen more than I speak.

The future of personal leadership development, offering people space to grow, will undoubtedly transform in many ways within the next 3-5 years. 

Our business is about helping humans be their highest selves; that mission will not change. However, the tools and platforms we will use will change.  As business leaders, we must always be on our toes – listen to the market and quickly adapt to the changes.  Being able to use AI effectively and efficiently and at the same time always bringing in the human touch will be the task.

Our mission is, as our Beyond Gender – The Out-Of-The-Box Manifesto says: to help people to claim back the right to be themselves, breaking down the barriers the socially constructed gender stereotypes have brought into all of our lives.   The time to be you is now; the time to act is now. 

Runa Magnusdottir

CG: What is the scale you use to check the progress of your business and how do you stay current with the latest trends and innovations in your industry. What sources do you rely on for information?  ?

RM: Great question.  Apart from good financial outcomes, seeing the influence one can have given me a feeling of accomplishment.  I forget this part way too often, as I feel I’m never doing enough to reach out to people and support their personal growth to become better, bolder and brighter leaders in their industries.

I stay up to date by doing a  lot of reading and attending as many networking events and conferences as possible, not to mention regular meetings with our advisory board.

CG: What advice would you like to give women who are looking forward to making your career in your industry?

RM : I would say the same thing to both men and women. That is, invest in your personal development.  Knowing yourself and what matters to you.  Be aware of the society seems to put on you because of your gender.  You always have a choice to follow blindly the social construct or to make decisions from your heart.  It’s not easy to follow your inner campus; however, looking inwards in times of challenging choices and seeing how your steps align with your values is a massive value for your career and your personal life. 

Your career is like everything else in your life, a journey! You constantly face choices, and making choices that speak with your core values makes you a strong, independent leader who can lead your life and help others.   Make sure you are the role model you want to be known for.