Inspirational women from around the world will descend on the very first She Means Business conference at IMEX in Frankfurt on Monday 14 May. Discussions on female empowerment and gender equality have never been more important, and She Means Business will provide the opportunity for both women - and men - to share their experiences, share valuable advice and inspire action.
We interviewed some of the women who will be speaking at She Means Business about their perspectives on gender equality and women in the workplace. Karin Nordmeyer, Chairwoman, UN Women National Committee and Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO, Business Events Sydney will be presenting their thoughts in the Women in Business and Women in Events tracks, while Talia Sanhewe, director, producer, presenter, will act as moderator for the event.
How do women inspire you? Have you ever been a mentee or mentor?
Karin: I had no mentors in my career - that was common at the time. However, I did have mentors in my social environment who’ve inspired me. My mother and my grandmother have always helped other people and shown me what good, respectful collaboration can look like. Today, I try to support young women and men where I can. Since I didn’t have a mentor when I was younger, I try to pass on my experiences, ideas and offer alternative perspectives.
Lyn: I am most inspired by women who have authenticity and courage, those who are true to who they are and their values. The most inspirational women are those who know their own worth but are not afraid to ask for advice when they need it. I think it’s important to thank all the inspirational women who’ve set the trailblazing path for us to follow and who provide guidance and encouragement to our emerging leaders.
What are women’s greatest strengths? How can we create harmony between genders in the workplace?
Talia: A woman’s greatest strengths are her ability to empathise, collaborate and create life. We are unique by design and celebrating this diversity creates balance. Men have a purpose to play without question, but our position in the world isn’t secondary, it’s equal.
Men seem to have fewer insecurities about their ability to perform and deliver. Women tend to second-guess their competence and discredit their position, even when experience and education indicate the opposite. Women could learn how to be more confident in their abilities from men, however it is understandably difficult when they’ve been taught from a young age to be modest.
Karin: There is a difference in perception regarding how men and women work and behave. Men need to be aware that women may use different ways to communicate their ideas and achieve their goals than they’re used to. I remember a conference in which I presented ideas that did not resonate with the audience... a few minutes later a man communicated the same ideas and received much more interest.
We need to move on from this behaviour and improve the perception of women and their ideas. When women aren’t taken seriously they change themselves to feel respected, but in doing so lose what makes them special. Women - believe in your strengths and shape your plans!
How can we help women at all levels of their career succeed?
Karin: I grew up in a professional world that was strongly influenced by hierarchical structures. When I had to decide between having children or a career, I found a compromise and worked part-time. We need to make more options available for other women to do the same.
Talia: The diversity discussion is important throughout all levels of an organisation between men and women, however in terms of implementation, lasting impact will only be seen when senior leadership decides to change.
Lyn: The most successful companies of the future will be diverse and inclusive. It’s important to distinguish between the two, because you can only truly harness the benefits of a diverse organisation if you also create an inclusive environment. Diversity is about making sure companies have men and women throughout the organisation who bring a wealth of different perspectives, experiences and expertise. Inclusion is about making sure that all of those groups are given equal respect and the same opportunities to contribute, progress and lead.
You will be speaking at the first She Means Business at IMEX in May. Why do you think this conference is so important for the global meetings industry – and especially now?
Lyn: We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. And the only way we’ll get where we need to be is to keep talking about it, keep setting bold targets to focus us and keep throwing a spotlight on what needs to change.
We have so many incredibly talented women within the business events industry, and tourism more broadly, and they deserve celebration. However, there are still nowhere near enough women at the very top of the industry, and this is why we need to continue the conversation.
Talia: Never before has the power, position and purpose of women been more important than it is today. Our voices are being amplified in such a distinct way that every part of society that overlooked or undervalued the female voice is stepping up and reassessing its stance.
I’m incredibly excited to moderate and facilitate discussions with these leading female thought leaders, because their message and unique stories are set to inspire and uplift. My hope is to use this platform to enable an outstanding event, that will in turn become a valuable contribution towards a powerful movement within the global events industry.