Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Reflections on International Women's Month 2013

This is me, Marijo Bos, celebrating International Women's
Day/Month in Madrid
In celebration of International Women’s Month, we salute our EPWN community and all women who continue their unwavering work to eliminate gender balance barriers in professional settings, be it industry, function, level, culture or self-imposed barriers.  The courage and activity around raising the visibility, influence, voice and mostly raising the numbers of women in leadership, is astounding and the united front that’s been created as a result is awesome.  From the bells ringing at many Stock Exchanges around the world in recognition of progress, to the Global Board Ready Women (GBRW) LinkedIn searchable database breaking out of the gates on 8th March 2013, for all executive recruiters and companies to access, along with the local EPWN-hosted IWD events in Madrid, Amsterdam, Brussels and Munich, we stand united.  We are driven by a purpose, an anticipated outcome, and also by the ongoing antagonist known as ‘resistance to change.’  This hasn’t slowed our efforts in Europe and the world but instead fuels our perseverance and focus to dismantle historical business, cultural, and societal barriers, many of which are unconscious barriers. 

It’s exciting to see the ‘globality’ of our efforts, most recently with the LeanIn movement in the USA creating a heightened level of debate and awareness which will no doubt be contagious around the world. The more we stand UNITED on the end goal, the faster the world will benefit from wholeheartedly incorporating 57% of college degree holders, 85% of the consumers purchasing purse, 54% of voters and half the workplace. The effort, energy and time behind these mostly volunteer driven activities are enormous.  In our network alone with approximately 240 volunteer board and committee leaders, each dedicating conservatively an average of 3 hours a week across our 22 city networks, we deliver 37,400 volunteer hours a year - equivalent to EIGHTEEN full-time, highly skilled people (bearing in mind all these volunteers hold down senior day-jobs, that’s a huge achievement).  When we also include the time given by global organizations, business schools, networks and associations to support us in pushing gender diversity for a stronger economy, the efforts are extraordinary. The engagement and momentum is undoubtedly growing. 

The unending research such as McKinsey’s Women Matter pointing out what’s working or impeding the progress of corporations to have their executive ranks reflect their employee, client, stakeholder base gives us reason to persist, and at the same time reminds us of our antagonist...resistance to change. We continue to emphasize FUTURE FOCUSED ACTIONS and are reminded not to get stuck on yesterday’s logic in terms of what initiatives have impact.  Importantly if we don’t want recent progress to stall, we must courageously speak up so that eliminating gender barrier and promoting diversity of thought remain a top priority in the midst of our organizations, countries dealing with economic turbulence. 

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic”
Peter Drucker. 

We are calling on the support of male allies, who are key to reaching the end goal in this decade. It’s encouraging to see the growing number of men engaged on this topic, men who are courageously speaking up in their organizations, as panelists, mentors, speakers at business events. These men are early movers in completely embracing a wide scale change in how business taps into talent, men and women, equally. From a Swedish male executive in the IT industry speaking up when he notices there were so few women speakers / panelists at a recent industry conference, to a Spain- based Partner at a global consulting firm raising the Forbes article on the “Superiority of Female Workers Confirmed” on LinkedIn, to an EPWN Partner European President insisting a recruiting firm look harder and wider for female finance candidates and then putting a women from China in the job!  It begins with taking notice, speaking up and with our EPWN Engaging Men community support, taking action as allies. International Women’s Day is a celebration of men and women pushing economic progress through gender balanced leadership. We are future focused and see the light at the end of the tunnel when the 37,400 hours of EPWN volunteer time each year can be used for an even greater cause and the calendars highlight International WoMen’s Day/Month for economic progress. 

A happy and reflective International Women’s Month to all! 

Marijo Bos 
EPWN Federation President
March 2013