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Lead5050 talks to Ida Willadsen from IALC member Malaca Instituto about life in the industry


“When we were lucky enough to speak to senior women in the industry who had blazed a trail before us, and we heard their story, we felt energised and inspired to do more.  We would come away from even just a short conversation, feeling we could achieve our goals.” Lead5050’s vision.


Lead5050 is a global network with a purpose to raise the profile of women in the international education industry and facilitate them into positions of leadership.


Director of Malaca Institute in Spain, Ida Willadsen was selected to join Lead5050’s #First50, a group of inspirational women who have had a real impact on their organisations and the industry as a whole.


Nominated for her inspiring start and involvement in the industry, Ms Willadsen spoke to Lead5050 about her career and life.  Check out some highlights from the interview below: 


L5050: How did you start out?

IW: As you know I´m Danish and I started out without having planned anything other than a 3 month stay in Malaga, Spain, in order to study and improve my Spanish speaking abilities. I could read, write and understand Spanish but I was not able to express myself, not even to order a cup of coffee. However, I fell in love with Malaga and a Spaniard and just knew that I had to come back. After working hard in three different jobs for five months in Copenhagen I arrived in Malaga with some money, which was used to start a small language school. Very small, indeed: we started with four foreign students…..


L5050: What helped you get as far as you have?

IW: I think it helped not knowing all the difficulties that were to come. Probably ignoring makes you strong. When you are so young you just jump into all the difficulties, and once you are into deep water up to your nose, you just have to keep swimming, or you will drown. And I don´t give up easily. When everything seemed to fall apart I gave it another try, again and again. At the far end there is usually a solution. I also seem to be born under a lucky star.


L5050: Can you tell us about a particular low point in your life and/or career and how you overcame it?

IW: The lowest point in my life and career was definitely when we divorced. We had started the business together with my money but under his name. You have to remember that in 1971 in Spain a woman could not open a bank account, start a business, nor do anything else without the permission of her husband or father. And I was just a foreign girl with a tourist passport, which meant that I had nothing under my name when we had to split everything. To create Malaca Instituto as it is nowadays I practically had to start all over again.


L5050: What was the last fancy dress outfit that you wore?

IW: This was a Spanish flamenco dress worn at the Star-award Gala dinner in London. My school Malaca Insituto is the only Superstar winner for Spanish, as you might know.


You can read the full interview with Ida Willadsen here and for more information on Lead 5050 and find out about their inaugural Women in International Education Awards, celebrating the amazing work that women and men are doing in our industry in the name of gender equality, click here.


By Rosie Baker

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