WOMEN’S FORUM SPECIAL REPORTS
An ongoing series of articles highlighting upcoming topics and topical outcomes from Women’s Forum events around the world
"Women in the Economy: Looking for New Business Models"
Part 1: 10 years of doing business together
As we prepare to look ahead to new ways of doing business, the theme of this first Women’s Forum Special Report, let us take a glance over our shoulder at how far we have come and yet how true to our purpose we have remained over the past decade. Since 2005, when an international group of women and men gathered to do business together at the inaugural Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville, France, we have hosted Women’s Forum events around the world. We have welcomed more than 10,000 participants and more than 1,500 speakers, and we have partnered with more than 600 businesses and organizations. To recognize this experience is not to pat ourselves on the back; it is a reaffirmation of what has always been our core mission: enabling women to speak out and to be heard, to freely discuss crucial and often difficult topics that are no more women's issues than they are men’s issues.
Each Women’s Forum event is by definition a business conference, yet we have always considered business in the broadest possible context, and we do not hesitate to bring the social and political into the frame. From the outset the Women’s Forum has not been the province of any privileged elite nor has it been a vehicle for any political agenda. It has been a vital sounding board for audacious, influential trailblazers – women of every stripe – with a global dimension, seeking new opportunities for women's rights and giving women a voice on the world’s most pressing issues.
Women's Forum Global Meeting 2014, Deauville, France - BEST OF FILM
At that first meeting in Deauville were Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasreen, American opera singer Barbara Hendricks, and Holocaust survivor and former French Minister of Health Simone Veil – setting the tone for the plurality and diversity that has been a Women’s Forum mainstay ever since. Among our other speakers: H.M. Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, Irina Bokova, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Carlos Ghosn, Christine Lagarde, Anne Lauvergeon, Muhammad Yunus, Aimee Mullins, Cherie Blair, Diane von Furstenberg, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Viviane Reding.
So how, exactly, have we approached business? Each of our annual Global Meetings has an over-arching theme to help us focus our discussions on achievable goals and workable solutions. In 2005 we examined “The new dimension of power and influence”; in 2006, “Women’s new responsibility for improving our societies”; in 2007, “Building trust in our societies”; in 2008, “Progress to share, future to dare”; in 2009, “Think again, think ahead”; in 2010, “Change: make it happen”; in 2011, “What if? Challenge, imagination, commitment”; in 2012: “Wanted: 360° growth”; in 2013, “the open world: compete, cooperate, create”; and in 2014, “Leading for a more equitable world”.
This year, 14-16 October, the Women’s Forum Global Meeting will consider “Energizing the world!”: discover the 2015 program!
While detailed summaries and conclusions from many of our conferences are available to the Women’s Forum Network, here is a rundown of some of the Women’s Forum’s historic interests, when it comes to business:
- Making the business case for gender diversity: how and why increasing participation by women in top management leads to higher profits
- Genuine corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurs, and our related responsibility as consumers
- Innovations in technology, becoming science-literate, boosting opportunities for women to make their mark in science and tech (including the digital realm)
- Focus on trust: how to rebuild public confidence in governing elites, corporations, the industries that produce food and medication
- Examining work-life balance from every possible angle
- Strength in (women’s) networks: encouraging women to help each other, both as mentors and in peer-to-peer groups spanning diverse sectors and geographies. The Women’s Forum has facilitated the creation of lasting women’s networks in many countries around the world. When the Women’s Forum began there was a glaring lack of women’s networks. In 2007 some 200 women’s business networks were operational in France; today there are more than 400. The three editions of the Women’s Forum Brazil sparked particular interest in creating women’s networks, such as the network created by Luiza Helena Trajano, one of the most influential businesspeople in Brazil.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, an international business plan competition created in 2006 by Cartier, the Women's Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school, supports and encourages projects by women entrepreneurs.
The Rising Talents initiative aims to distinguish highly talented young women under the age of 40 who are on their way to becoming influential figures in our economies and societies. This initiative is a commitment to promote women leaders and bring the vision of rising generations to the Women’s Forum.