By Carmen Morales.
“It’s not a gender issue, it’s a business issue” and “In the future, there will be no female leaders; There will just be leaders” are a couple of takeaways taken from the conference “Rise and Take the Lead” organized by the IE Women in Business Club, and powered by IE Center for Diversity and IE Campus Life among others on Monday November 12.
The conference aimed at encouraging participants to drive equality, both taking the lead themselves and motivating those around them to do the same. In other words, it looks at how we get away from just talking about “the women problem” and instead really change business so it’s more inclusive for everyone. Actively adopting a Lean In bias was among the proposals, as well as ‘refining the leader within’ by shifting from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that- and I’ll learn by doing it.”
One of the key points that keep coming back to me is the link between sustainability and gender equality. A center idea was that when talking about gender we instantly think women, but we need to make men visible in the discussion about gender: the message around gender equality should not be about one side winning but about the benefits to both.
Among the list of recommendations offered by the panelists and participants, I would highlight the following ideas:
- It’s all about talent: business development needs women, so develop opportunities for women, the other 50% of the population.
- Cultivate male and female managers as role models for inclusive leadership and gender equality. Develop empathy in managers.
- Authenticity is key, as we learned from Princess Diana charismatic leadership example beautifully described in the conference.
- Make a personal commitment to promote gender equality in the workplace. Be part of the change, don’t just say the right things but do them. Inspire other people (men and women) to create a gender equal workplace.
- Work to understand gender equality: understand that listening is key, and understand that some women -and men- face multiple barriers to equality.
- Encourage male middle managers to critically reflect on their actions: make sure that managers are trained on equality, also monitor and measure how you are doing on gender equality.
- Make flexible working a standard within the business.
- Consciously challenge and break away from society’s gender stereotypes.
- Engage young men in the debate around feminism as well: we need to explain to them why we need them to support young women and the role that they play.
- Bring Millennial male and female into the conversations help them, and let them help to workout differences.
All stakeholders have a role to play in supporting women in the value chain, and should be held accountable. As different participants portrayed, each country is at a different stage in their journey regarding gender equality.
Definitely we need to make sure that we are not having the same conversation in ten years time. In order to do that, my personal takeaways are that if we want to build an equal society, first we need to teach young people about gender equality and how to achieve it, so that the knowledge isn’t lost. Then we need to give opportunities to women, and to make gender equality a habit. And most important, we have to build young women’s self-confidence, knowledge, skills and competencies, and provide them with equal opportunities so that they are capable of thriving.