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First-person representation: understanding and upholding

a panel with ideas and solutions by those who experience inclusion challenges

Filipa Pinto Coelho

Filipa Pinto Coelho

Joyeux Portugal & VilacomVida

Filipa Pinto Coelho graduated in Media and Cultural Communication from the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in 1998, and later earned a postgraduate degree in Marketing and specialized in Luxury Marketing at the same university. Her professional career began as a communication manager, driven by her passion to help companies effectively reach their internal and external clients, and she did so in various companies in Porto and Lisbon.


After being invited to work as a marketing director in a Portuguese luxury group for about four years, she created her own consulting company as an independent marketing professional in the lifestyle segment. It was when she became pregnant with her third child, Manuel, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at the 15th week of pregnancy, that her life and professional path changed completely.

Her desire to change the way society perceives differences was the basis for the change in her professional path. She specialized in Management and Social Organizations at AESE Business School and used her know-how to create a social entrepreneurship project called CafécomVida, on behalf of the NGO she created along with a group of parents of children with intellectual disabilities - the VilacomVida Association - whose mission is to bring society closer to difference so that it is no longer an obstacle to their integration into our lives.


Today, she exclusively represents the mission and brand Café Joyeux - an innovative economic model in the social economy, which she imported from France - through the VilacomVida Association and the company Joyeux Portugal. They are preparing to open their third establishment in Portugal, so that more and more people can know and recognize the added value of difference.

Gerson Rodrigues

Associação Salvador

Gerson Rodrigues was born in Cape Verde and became tetraplegic due to a diving accident in 2008. He worked as a cook, was a surfer, and practiced various sports. In 2014, he moved to Portugal to live with his mother and have more recovery.


He took courses in IT, digital marketing, business management and creation, and entrepreneurship, and opened his own business in the fast food and technology industries. He is a beneficiary of Associação Salvador, plays rugby, is an athlete of the Boccia Federation, and works in technical assistance at Ergométrica.

Mara Santos

Girl Move Academy

Mara Santos, Portuguese and Mozambican, is Head of Stakeholder Engagement (Europe/USA) and Global Partnerships, and Head of People & Culture at Girl MOVE Academy, with over 7 years of experience in strategic partnerships activation and management, working closely with the corporate sector in Portugal/Europe/USA and global partnerships with key worldwide players on the field of Social Innovation & Cooperation for Development.


She has leadership and partnership management experience in entities such as Associação Terra dos Sonhos, SPEAK, and IES-Social Business School. She graduated in Law from the University of Lisbon with a Post-Graduation in Development Studies, and has given a TEDx talk on leading back to your roots to find purpose in life.

Mayne Souza Benedetto

Voz do Autista

Mayne Benedetto is a PhD candidate in Health Anthropology at the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS) at the University of Lisbon (ULisboa), with her research being funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), and she’s the President of the Consulting Board of Associação Portuguesa Voz do Autista (APVA).


Her doctoral thesis, a collaborative autoethnography, investigates the implications and limitations of gender designations taking into consideration the bodily experiences of autistic people, considering the relationship between social locus, emotion, experience, and performativity, due to the bias in the diagnostic criteria, and the political and social constructions around normality. Her work aims to contribute to a more substantial and realistic perspective of autism to provide better support and accommodations in health services for divergent individuals.

Rita Paulos

Casa Qui

Rita Paulos is a Gender Equality Consultant and Executive Director of Casa Qui. She holds a Master's degree in Cultural Studies and Critical Theory from the University of Nottingham, with a dissertation on gender studies. Rita specializes in gender equality, including issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, with a particular focus on youth, community support, and education, with more than twenty years of experience.


She is the founder and former leader of ex aequo - association of young lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans, intersex, and supporters. Rita has worked at the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra, the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, and the National Federation of Youth Associations. She is a certified professional in Victim Support, Domestic Violence Prevention, Domestic Violence in Same-Sex Couples, and Trainer Training in Gender Equality.

Gerson Rodrigues
Mara Santos
Mayne Souza Benedetto
Rita Paulos

Taking the road to inclusivity,

a conversation with leaders moderated by DeEtta Jones

Catarina Oliveira Fernandes

MC Sonae

Catarina Oliveira Fernandes graduated in Law from the Catholic University of Portugal and has an MBA from Porto Business School, completed in 2011.


She worked as a lawyer at JPAB - José Pedro Aguiar Branco associates, and later joined Sonae in 2007. She was Chief of Staff for the CEO for 3 years, led the group's Communication, Brand, and Corporate Responsibility area from 2011 to 2019, and then moved to MC to lead the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion area as well as the Training and Development area.

Helen Duphorn


Since September 2017, Helen Duphorn has been the Country Retail Manager and CSO at IKEA Portugal.


With extensive experience within the Ingka Group and over 20 years of experience within the organization, Helen Duphorn started as a Purchase Area Manager for Sweden and the Baltic Countries in 1998 and later for Southwest Asia. Since then, she has held various management positions, including Retail Manager with extensive international experience in countries such as France and Austria.


Over the years, Helen has also been a business facilitator and coach in various leadership development programs, and was responsible for creating the IKEA Women Open Network (IWON).


Before joining IKEA Portugal, Helen was Corporate Communications Manager for the Ingka Group for 6 years, as well as a member of the Group Management and several Retail Councils in Asia.


Since May 2021, Helen has also been responsible for Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion at the Ingka Group in addition to her role in the national market.

Helena Rodrigues


Helena Rodrigues is the Founder and CEO of Allby, a business strategy consultancy and creative marketing company, with strong international experience in Europe, USA, Asia and Africa, focused on creating an ecosystem that helps their clients into the new "glocal” economy. Allby works on employee engagement, business design & business transformation, customer engagement, integrated marketing and communication & performance, among others.


Helena has more than 20 years of experience in Management & Marketing, gained across several business areas, and her background is in the pharmaceutical industry, at companies including NPA Pharma and Baxter.


She is the Chapter Chair of the Women Presidents Organization, in Portugal, and Advisory Board Member of Enterprising Women Magazine. WPO is the ultimate affiliation for successful women entrepreneurs (presidents, CEOs, managing directors) of privately held multimillion-dollar companies. Its mission is to accelerate business growth, enhance competitiveness, and promote economic security through confidential and collaborative peer-learning groups. In 2018, she was awarded in the category “Up to $ 1 million in annual revenue”, which she received in the Enterprising Women of the Year Gala, in Miami, USA.


Besides WPO, she is the Ambassador in Portugal of United Success, founding member of WomenWinWin, and the Portugal Managing Partner of ConsulTree Global, a network specialized in human resources and management consultancy.

Susana Véstia


With over 20 years of experience in the field of human resources, Susana  Véstia is the Director of People & Culture for Spain and Portugal at Tabaqueira/PMI. She has held a variety of positions within the company, including HR Director for Tabaqueira/PMI and regional roles supporting the EU region in talent management, leadership, and learning.


Susana has worked across countries in Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, and has a strong understanding of the unique needs and challenges faced by different markets. Despite being unable to relocate due to family reasons, she continues to grow an international career and is excited to lead the People & Culture function for two dynamic and important countries.


Susana is passionate about ensuring people explore and develop their full potential and providing them with a healthy and engaging work environment. She believes that when we get this right, we can achieve miracles, and this is what she loves most about her job.

Catarina O Fernandes
Helen Duphorn
Helena Rodrigues
Susana Véstia
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