“Mentors help you navigate life. When you have challenging times in your career it is important to be able to ask for help. It is one of the hardest things to learn and the most important,” says Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“I don’t think that ambition is different between men and women. I think opportunities are different between men and women.” Her words ring true even in the art world, where, despite the large proportion of women working in the field, men still overwhelmingly dominate the top posts. But Antonelli has earned a reputation for being one of the most influential curators working today—and a game-changer in expanding the canon of design. “Sometime you just set your mind to a particular goal and other times you just follow a direction.”

At MoMA, under her direction, the museum has acquired innovative and mainstream design including video games, the @ symbol, and emojis for its collection—each decision sparking both praise and controversy within and beyond the art world. She leads the museum’s research and development program, a think tank and incubator that brings together leaders in the arts, design, and tech worlds to explore urgent issues and groundbreaking initiatives in their fields. She is inspired by projects that allow a conversation about how design and architecture can enable us to become better citizens.

Her leadership has driven a vital conversation around the role of museums, and the accessibility of their collections. Where does her boldness come from? “The realization that I want to be influential,” she says. “What’s life about, after all, if you cannot really do something of influence?”

Antonelli features in 'Breaking Glass', our new series of short films that profile some of the exceptional women leaders transforming industries still dominated by men – and the mentors who inspire them.

At UBS, we’re working hard to better serve women by supporting financial confidence.

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