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Esther Clark | 40 Outstanding Global Women 2023

Sharmla Chetty

Finding your voice on a global stage

“I started my own business when I was 13. I have been around entrepreneurs all my life,” says Esther Clark. “My parents started a sailing school so I was constantly traveling and exploring the world. I spent several years on board a 111-foot schooner while I studied long distance. That’s one of the reasons I am so thrilled to work for the largest online school – it gives families and children the choice to study the way they want – which may be different from the norm.”

Esther has had a truly international career, working for global brands such as BMW and the Government of Canada, and is now an influential thought leader in learning and E-learning.

She has had a truly international career and is a thought leader in learning and E-learning. She has 15 years’ experience leading marketing, communications, external relations and partnerships with start-ups, scale ups, global firms, government organisations and, most recently, international schools. Esther holds a BA from the University of British Columbia and an International MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University (Canada). 

“Everyone has a voice, and everyone has something to say. It is about giving the younger generation the confidence to stand up and find their voice and share it.”

Esther Clark, Inspired Education Group

A truly international upbringing

 Although she lives in London, Esther considers herself a Canadian global citizen having spent more time outside Canada than in any one country.

Her experience includes managing high performing marketing teams and working in trade and partnerships in the Americas and Europe. She has worked for global brands such as BMW and the Government of Canada (Trade). She is a contributor to Forbes Mexico and America Economia magazines as well as to the Global Peter Drucker Forum and World Economic Forum on themes related to Marketing, Strategy and Education

“While the last few years I have dedicated my professional life to international schools marketing, my career has been punctuated by exposure to a variety of industries and roles,” she says. “These include project manager of a major infrastructure project in Quito, Ecuador, consultant to a photo crowdsourcing app, and strategy at BMW Group. I currently lead marketing for Inspired Online Schools part of Inspired Education.

“I have always been around entrepreneurs and business and I could never understand why business and organisations didn’t show their capabilities for furthering ideas, innovation and value creation. There is so much potential in well run, global and forward-thinking businesses.”

Esther’s childhood experience taught her about adapting and observing

“My parents are very adventurous,” she explains. “They started a sailing school, and my dad was a captain, my mum was the first mate and the nurse on board and we would take trainees and travel around the world. The first trip I went on was from the west coast of Canada to Australia and back when I was ten.

“I did BC correspondence, which is basically like a home school, and in Canada the home education system is very good because a lot of people that live outside of the school catchment are. I was seeing and meeting people and understanding different cultures and languages and looking back, I realise how absolutely fantastic that experience was. I spent three years of my childhood 100% on the boat.”

This led to a lifelong interest in understanding different cultures, languages and walks of life, as well as striving to identify and connect ideas. Living her life aboard also taught her teamwork, tolerance and cooperation.“It can be a challenge, because you’re living in such close quarters on a boat,  but it’s also really an opportunity to get to know people and to understand people and if there’s an issue, you have to deal with it straight away,” she says.

That background and international experience had had a big influence on her work and my writing.

“I don’t see myself as one dimensional or just a title or role,” she says. “In fact, I like to say to people that we should all “lead without the title” – sometimes we are not given the title or the salary but that shouldn’t stop us from making waves, creating connections and making our voices heard.

”Family life on the boat was very adventurous, and they often stopped in ports of call for a month at a time, which gave Esther time to experience the local culture and make friends.

“Whenever we went into different ports of call, because we were this beautiful traditional 111-foot schooner tall ship, people would come to the boat, and they’d want to show us their town or city or their village,” she says. “It was this instant connection because we were doing something different and connecting with people from different walks of life, both on board the boat and where we were sailing to. The most important thing is having that international mindset and you have to really open to knowing it’s not going to be like it was at home.”

Passionate about education

She studied for a BA and MBA and on finishing her studies, went to work for BMW Group Canada. Then she moved to South America, and worked for the Canadian Foreign Service. In the American School in Quito they needed someone to liaise with the government and handle their PR, and Esther rose to the challenge.

“I’ve always been passionate about education because of my upbringing. The idea of learning from different people in different ways is amazing. Once I started in the international schools sector, I found it fascinating. School is probably the most important decision a parent will make, and it is also one of the biggest investments.”

Esther is an Outstanding Contributor to Forbes and contributes through panel facilitation or with articles to international forums like WEF, Global Peter Drucker Forum and the Christensen Institute. She writes about strategy and innovation in English and Spanish. Her first book (in Spanish) is coming out this year. It’s a playbook about leadership and balance entitled “Liderazgo y una taza de te” (Leadership and a cup of tea).“

Advice for future female leaders in a global world

She believes that being a woman leader in a global world is about what you bring to the table and finding your voice, rather than trying to fit into a structure.

“Everyone has a voice, and everyone has something to say. It is about giving the younger generation the confidence to stand up and find their voice and share it.”

The best advice I can impart is “don’t be so hard on yourself”- things sometimes don’t work; learn from them and move on,” she says. “Sometimes we figuratively beat ourselves up when actually the cause or correlation has nothing to do with us. I have learnt this many times over. There is a whole world out there for us to explore, discover and enjoy; it is not always made for us – that’s why we need to be trail blazers and to support those making change and leading without the title!”

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Outstanding Women 2023

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