Globally, women hold 29% of senior management roles, the highest number ever on record However, regardless of the recent advances in female board participation, gender diversity among C Suite and Corporate Boards remains unsatisfactorily low.
Gender balanced numbers in the workplace are more than just a leadership issue; it is fundamental for organizational and societal growth. The 2nd Annual Rise and Lead Summit 2019 themed ‘Women // Business // Sustainability’ which held from the 19th to 20th of September in The Hague, The Netherlands was one step on the march towards achieving career advancement, financial inclusion for women and a more gender-equal world. The summit brought together, globally recognized thought leaders, international keynote speakers, executives, entrepreneurs, inter-governmental and political insiders of both genders. The agenda of the summit highlighted how humanity, gender diversity and organizational culture in workplaces are critical components for sustainability, inclusive leadership and profitability.
Rise and Lead Summit, The Hague
During the summit, keynote speaker, Poonam Barua, CEO of WILL Forum India, and Chairman, Women in Leadership, stated that the narrative is changing and today every woman must learn to think, strategize, question, debate, reflect and must importantly own their place on the table. She also called for the dialogue of equal opportunities for women in the workforce to be escalated to good governance, a level playing field, zero discrimination, the diverse style of leadership, and equal opportunities for all talents to shine.
Building and Inclusive Culture and Dealing with Gender Bias
The speakers and panelists further highlighted the need for organizations to start building workspaces that work for women and removing barriers such as work/life balance. They stated that the dialogue also needs to shift away from the 15% of women who are leaving the workforce to the 85% mid-level management women with substantial experience who are not moving up in their respected organizations. Therefore, organizations need to start making conscious attempts to sponsoring qualified women into management positions and likewise calling for an unconscious bias training within the workspace.
It was also said that to build an inclusive culture and address gender bias in companies and society; there must be an agenda for:
- Reforming the organizational value culture.
- Addressing culture discomfort with female leadership.
- Cultivation of inclusive work culture by all managers.
- Technical training for women by breaking gender stereotype and
- Team building exercises.
- Getting more men involved in the feminist movement.
Financial Wellbeing and Gender Parity
Speaking on achieving financial wellbeing and gender parity, keynote speaker Marguerite Soeteman – Reijnen, Chairman of the Executive Board, Aon stated that all women need to become financially educated. She advised women to seek investment advice and make it a choice to only work for companies with good retirement plans.
Attendees also heard from international keynote speaker and author Brigette Hyacinth at the summit. She explained that it is essential for every leader to analyze their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT), as this will bring them to a place of leading with self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Also, she noted that with the presence of Artificial intelligence in the workplace, organizations are and will keep on downsizing. Hence, she advised that organizations can offer lay-off packages such as;
- Offering employees counselling.
- Providing interviewing/resume writing skills and
- Financial Planning skills
A series of mini-workshops and Q & A sessions complemented these presentations which provided a space where people could share challenges and lesson learned.
Moving Conversations into Actions
Ebere Akadiri – Founder and host of Rise and Lead Summit, ended the summit with this call to action – “Leadership is about Action”, what steps are you going to take to move the conversation forward? She suggested that every little effort counts – sponsor a woman to rise. To a leadership position, fund women-owned businesses, invite a man to the next Rise and Lead Summit which takes place on September 24 & 25, 2020. Many attendees make some commitments to drive the changes they want to see.
Written by Rise and Lead Editors
Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.