By Barbara Cleary, Trustee, UN Women NC UK
The Voice at The Table conference celebrated real women and men, and their great achievements at work. Karen Parker, my fellow UN Women NC UK trustee, and I attended and left the conference energised, with tools and ideas to become empowering leaders and role models for women in the workplace. Inclusivity is a win-win for companies and their employees, giving companies a competitive edge.
Below are highlights from the many talented professionals who spoke at the conference.
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez – a partner and Co-Chair of the international trade and government regulation practice at international law firm Dechert LLP, and founder and Chair of Inspiring Girls. Miriam spoke about the lack of role models for young women and girls in schools, dispelling myths around stereotyping, helping them build their self-confidence and belief that they can do whatever they choose. To make change happen, she spoke about choosing something small you want to change, equating it to a square centimetre. When lots of small changes come together they can have a huge impact. Check out Inspiring Girls here. Support the campaign and be a role model for young girls.
Claire Bennett, former Team GB captain for women's foil fencing and now the Athlete Manager with the Kelly Holmes Trust, spoke about how to be fearless while understanding that everybody has setbacks.
Sue Stockdale, a motivational speaker, author and executive coach, told us of her vision for adventure and how she fulfilled her dream to be an adventurer. In 1996 she became the first British woman to ski to the Magnetic North Pole. Managing uncertainty and dealing with challenges is something we all do every day. To be successful, we need to take risks and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. She followed this with expeditions to the Geographical North Pole, Greenland and Antarctica.
Chuck Stephens, one of our own trustees, was invited to speak about his experience at Google as Head of Diversity and Inclusion EMEA. At Google they believe in inclusive leadership – everyone has the opportunity to be successful. Managers are trained to be in tune with their teams and empower them to be creative and innovative. Culture is part of their strategy and has been a key ingredient for their success.
During the day, Karen and I connected with lots of inspiring women. We hope that they will be equally inspired by our vision and passion at UN Women, and help us make a difference to the lives of women around the world. We also hosted a roundtable discussion focussing on empowering women for change. They used the extraordinary story of Atifete Jahjaga, the first female past President of Kosovo who, in partnership with UN Women, improved the lives of women in Kosovo.
These are the nuggets of knowledge we took away: have a vision; be passionate and take action; be fearless and take risks. Small steps can make change happen, but change needs to start happening now – as women we are all role models and can empower others. The one word that was used most throughout the day was “respect”. We all know how powerful respect can be in helping people to feel included.