On November 16 we held our annual Women of the Future Summit and Awards. It was an incredible day only made possible because of those who took part. That includes representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, over 300 delegates – representing over 25 nations, spanning from Armenia to Australia, China to Canada. And that’s just to name a few!
While we’re still catching our breath, we know that now is not the time to stop. We are still a long way off from a world where every woman can fulfill her true potential. And for those who couldn’t attend the Summit, we wanted to provide a glimpse into what happened and continue to share updates and photos on Twitter, Instagram and on our website. So please continue to join the debate!
The summit, sponsored by KPMG, was an incredible day of networking, debating and learning, and we were thrilled to have world renowned journalist Julie Etchingham as our host. At a time when the US continues to dominate the headlines across the world, it was a privilege to host Alicia Glen, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development in New York City. Alicia shared some amazing insights and it was a stark reminder of how much gender equality has been in the news in recent weeks.
Delegates also heard from Stan Sthanunathan, Executive Vice President of Consumer & Market Insights at Unilever who discussed Megatrend Predictions for 2025. Stan had the room gripped when he played the world-famous Dove campaign on ‘real beauty’ which gained global praise for showcasing ‘real women’ rather than stereotypical images we’ve come to think of as ‘normal’. He showed a clip of an ‘average door’ and ‘beautiful door’ asking delegates how many would walk through the beautiful door. It goes a long way to show how many women still see themselves and how encouragement can go a long way in boosting self-confidence.
Delegates also discussed the election of Donald Trump the week before and how this showed the US still has the ultimate glass ceiling to crack. Despite this, Stan welcomed the fact the UK has its second ever female Prime Minister in Theresa May, who has herself been a guest of Women of the Future in the past.
It was a true honour to welcome our Ambassador Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. The Countess has been a long-time supporter of the Women of the Future programme and took time to meet guests and delegates from around the world. She embodied the true spirit of the day by asking the entire room of delegates how many had met someone from a different country that morning. Every single hand in the room shot up, reflecting exactly the kind of connectivity Women of the Future and our founder Pinky Lilani works so hard to achieve.
We also had the privilege of hearing from Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice President at Facebook and the most senior Facebook employee outside the US. She shared fascinating insights into what it’s like to work at Facebook, the enormous changes taking place in technology and spoke about the importance of having ‘hard conversations’ with colleagues.
The afternoon sessions had a truly global focus with world experts discussing current trends and future challenges. Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6 gave us a fascinating insight into what it’s like running one of the most well-known organisations in the world. He also made the brave point that despite his role famously being played by Dame Judi Dench in the Bond films, a woman is yet to fill the same role in reality! It acted as a reminder that while we have come a long way we are still a long way off true gender equality.
Roula Khalaf, Deputy Editor of the Financial Times chaired a panel on global trends covering everything from terrorism, to trends in migration, populism and what more needs to be done to tackle the world’s refugee crisis. And senior businessman Mike Coupe, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, spoke about changes taking place in markets.
So there was plenty of food for thought! The sessions also went a long way to show that there is no such thing as ‘women’s issues’ and instead, women care about ALL issues, from global markets to migration, from terrorism to technology.
As busy as the day was, at Women of the Future we always make sure there are plenty of opportunities for networking. From coffee breaks to lunch the conversations never stopped and it was inspiring to see women (and men!) connecting with each other at every given opportunity. Not only did the day mark numerous debates and conversations from some of the world’s leading experts but conversations were had, business cards were exchanged and it’s fair to say lots of selfies were taken! We can’t wait until the next event and can’t wait to hear from everyone who attended so we stay connected on an ongoing basis.
After all, we don’t believe connections are about one-off events, and we don’t just want to connect women – we want to help maintain those connections so conversations don’t just start, they keep going.
Thank you to everyone who was such an important part of the day.