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WTP 1st Edition Closing Session

05 Dec 2013 14:43 | Deleted user

On the 5th of December, at the Palace of Westminster, WIL conducted the closing session of the highly successful Women Talent Pool program (WTP). The event was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship in one of the impressive House of Lords committee rooms, which mirrored the ambitious aims of the WTP program. The session gathered more than 60 participants from emerging leaders, WIL members, talents of the second WTP program and members of the Pink Shoe Club and GlobalWIN networks- WIL’s partner organisations. The WTP session’s aim was to discuss women’s access to leadership positions, share experiences from the WTP program and to share lessons learned and favourite experiences from the 18 month mentoring platform.

The honourable Baroness Howells, hosting peer of the event, officially opened the session and genuinely expressed her excitement to see an initiative such as WTP taking place. The session, moderated by WIL board member and WTP Lead Elena Bonfiglioli, Microsoft Senior Health Director EMEA, took off with Ms. Bonfiglioli giving the floor to Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO 20first, for an exciting presentation on how and why women mean business. Based on the two books she authored “How Women Mean Business” and “Why Women Mean Business” Ms. Wittenberg-Cox delivered the key message of how to empower women in business and leadership, stating that we need to stop fixing women and start focusing on the real issue: the dominant male majority. While external women’s organisations help to push forward action aimed at gender issues and equalising policies, more needs to be done inside organisations and businesses to spark change. This includes a change of strategy towards the inclusion of men in the cause of gender equality, especially within companies and organisations.

After moderating a lively and friendly debate, where many emerging leaders and WIL members shared their opinions, Ms. Bonfiglioli turned the stage to the Hon. Julie Brill, US Federal Trade Commissioner and Dr. Antoniya Parvanova, Member of the European Parliament for insightful role model speeches and question periods.

Ms. Brill presented her experience and path to a successful career in leadership. Her recommendations tied in with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s three part advice on how to be successful in business and family (Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, 2013). Ms. Brill also mentioned being good to oneself as a key factor to success, as human need is the base for every impulse and innovation. Moreover, she explained that one path to success is to become an expert in a field and that often pursuing ones professional passion locally, as opposed to globally, can offer equivalent success and fulfilment. Her final words urged everyone to always listen carefully, recognise mentoring moments and to embrace experiences, expertise and communication, which are the drivers to a great career.

The second role model speech, delivered by Antonyia Parvanova, provided a glimpse into her recipe of success. Her counsel was to never hesitate and go for the power, as it will never just be handed to you. Being ambitious and straightforward will make others follow your lead. She continued, giving interesting facts and figures about women in leadership based on current reports, exposing that women may be on the road of empowerment, but that top level ranks are still largely dominated by men. In view of this, her advice to empower yourself became even more relevant. Many questions and discussion were brought up in response to both role model testimonies, which led into the much anticipated emerging leader sharing session.

Moderated by Ms. Bonfiglioili, each emerging leader from the first WTP edition was given the opportunity to share their experience, take-a-ways and lessons learnt from the program, as well as their suggestions and words of wisdom for the new talents present. Generally, the tone was highly enthusiastic and the talents shared a panoply of cherished WTP experiences. Several mentioned that the program gave them more self-confidence and inspired them to fearlessly reach for their dreams. Learning to be able to draw from herself and create things according to her own definition was something that marked Cristina Hoffmann, Design Lead at Orange’s Design & User Experience division (D&U) during the WTP program. Racha Abu El Ata, Cloud and Hosting Partners Team Lead at Microsoft and Blandine Avot, Competitive Intelligence Manager at Orange, testified to the benefit of a better work-life balance thanks to the program, which taught them to retain non-negotiables in their self-management.

Networking and meeting women with similarly high ambitions also proved to be an important aspect of the WTP to many participants. Sharing experiences was perceived as positive aspect of the program by Myriam El Ouni, Alliance Manager at Microsoft, and Marie-Hélène Briens, Sales Manager at Orange Business Services, as both mentioned how leadership can sometimes be a lonely path. To be able to network with mentors that became strong supporters, was something all talents felt was the crux of the program, especially Pénélope Roux, Operational Director at Microsoft Innovation Centre Brussels, who greatly appreciated this aspect of the program. Overall, the mentoring aspects of the program and the elaboration of soft skills was perceived as the programs essential value and the interaction and sharing with experts and experience leaders truly made the program unique.

WIL was ecstatic to close the session with the debut of a special video pioneered by Isabelle Roux-Chenu, General Counsel at Capgemini Group entitled “Women at Capgemini”. Thinking about the persistent gender inequality in her sector, Ms. Roux-Chenu decided to invest in a video exposé which collects high-level statements from some of the most male dominated industries, testifying on the topic of gender diversity and the need for equal female representation at all business levels. The video project aims at changing the corporate mentality and convincing both male and female leaders to engage in the promotion of gender equality at all levels of Capgemini.

Following the inspiring sequence of the WTP closing session, all participants were transferred to the London Skype Offices, for a wonderful evening reception held with our partners GlobalWIN and the Pink Shoe Club. Brilliant opening remarks were given on behalf of Skype and Microsoft by David Burrows, Managing Director, EMEA Government, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft and a heartfelt keynote speech by Joanna Shields, Chief Executive Officer, Tech City & UK Digital Ambassador brought the day to a close before the evening moved on to lively networking.

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