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Abigail Thorley representing WIL at the Rise and Lead Summit

Updated: Jul 28, 2020


The Rise and Lead Summit 2019 spanned the 19th and 20th September and brought together women from a variety of careers and locations to network and empower each other. Poonam Barua, CEO WILL Forum India, commenced the keynote speakers on Day 1 with the concept of bad economic. As she mentioned, women are the least used resource in the world, if that isn’t bad economics, then what is? After several panel discussions we received another keynote presentation from Marguerite Soeteman, Chairman of the Executive Board at Aon, who discussed financial wellbeing for all. For her, wellbeing comprised of: emotional, physical, social, and financial matters, hence why financial stress is one of the top drivers of burnouts in millenials. She argued that women are living on average longer than men, yet we also hold a large portion of the student debt, and are much less educated than men to be aware of financial wellbeing. Marguerite spoke of contrasting the gender pay gap dialogues to retirement pay gap dialogues, as the retirement pay gap is much more severe than that of the gender pay gap. Women need more financial education to tackle this retirement pay gap head on.

During the latter half of the day we attended a panel discussion on addressing gender bias in companies and society. Something which stood out about this discussion, was the drastic presence of men on the panel, being the only panel with male attendees. All of the panelists introduced us to their interpretation of the gender bias starting with the spectrum of bias from Rick Zednik which placed men on a scale of supporting the feminist cause. Jeff Turner and Bengisu Coracki-Donato proceeded to discuss the average guy; the guy who is not even aware of the bias, of being judged on something other than what you are saying. Finally Paolo Bernasconi discussed the role of the OPCW to gender bias, focusing on how women’s participation makes peace more durable. One of the highlights was the focus on the use of language in describing the work of men and women; women are called bossy, men are called leaders, women are said to be happy, men are not.

The second day brought more insight into how we as women can support each other in our careers. We first focused our attention towards the Sustainable Development Goals and how they play a role in reducing the gender pay gap. Adwoa Kufuor-Owusu, Regional Adviser on Gender and Women’s Rights for the UNHRC, argued that our lives have to adapt to the women and the lives they live in, particularly when it comes to maternity leave. As the talks went on, the discussions focused more on financial inclusion and business sustainability with speakers from the FMO and Coca-Cola. A shared thought among the speakers was that women cannot support other women alone, men are also needed to participate and help push women in their careers.

During the second panel discussion, mindfulness at work and mental health were the big topics of discussion. The panelists talked about putting authenticity, openness, and acceptance at the forefront and about choosing your values wisely. Many of them said that, if we wish to succeed, we should select several core values to hold ourselves to and use them to push us further in our careers and lives. Additionally, that we need to hold each other accountable for our goals and values. We need to let others know of what our goals and values are so they can make sure that we are sticking to these and not sliding back to this sense of being lost. There was also a sense of, you need to lose yourself to find yourself.

Finally, to conclude the Summit we learnt about inclusive networking from Aditya Putta, Civic Hacker and Startup Machmaker. He provided nine key points on improving your networking capabilities to get the most out of networking events. Some of his main points included being focused on your body language to make sure that, when you are standing in a circle at a networking event, make sure that the circle is opened like a horse-shoe to allow for others to join. Additionally, don’t be that person who keeps their back turned to another in the group (the watchtower). Also, if you are bad at remembering names, repeat the name back to the person when they say it and use the name several times within a conversation to help you remember. He also mentioned the importance of keeping your options open, make sure to tell people ‘maybe I’ll bump into you again at this event’ to ensure you open a path to further dialogue.

Overall, the Summit provided generous opportunities to network with a lot of highly driven, and inspiring women, while facilitating important discussions about supporting other women in their careers.

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