21st anniversary - special edition

21 Dec 2012 02:26 | Armelle Loghmanian

Word from the President

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Dear PWI members and readers,

I am delighted to present you this special edition of our magazine, or let's call it the special follow-up page about our 21st anniversary.
Yes, 21 years! We are a young association but we have already entered our mature phase.
To celebrate our coming out of age, we wanted to mix fun and seriousness. It was a warm and enriching experience to see the support from our members, past board members, guests but also the endorsement from Mrs Reding through the video she made especially for our anniversary.

Our speakers: from left to right: Jennifer Rademaker, Armelle Loghmanian, Christine Van Rijsseghem, Elke Vergaeren, Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea

First the more serious part of the evening, with a good mix of speakers focusing on the next trendy topic: Gender Balance in the Talent Pipeline: Christine Van Rijsseghem, Senior General Manager Group Finance, within KBC Group, Jennifer Rademaker, Group Head, Core Products, MasterCard Europe, , Elke Vergaeren Sociologist, Senior researcher from SEIN institute, Hasselt University, Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director for Equality, Directorate-General for Justice, European Commission.

Armelle Loghmanian, Professional Women International (PWI) president introduced the theme of the evening by stressing the slow progress towards gender balance in the talent pipeline and explored elements on how ‘to get pass the bottleneck’ at middle management level. The figures talk for themselves. With a worldwide average of more than 50% at the entry level, women represent only 21% at the senior level with no progress since 2004. The EU with its 24% is behind new economies like South East Asia (ASEAN) with 32%, and far from the leading countries like Russia (46%), followed by Botswana, the Philippines and Thailand (all 39%).

Women and men should have the same opportunities to take leadership positions in the economy. “There are plenty of good economic reasons for a stronger female presence in corporate leadership positions. It is an economic and business imperative and not a feminist issue only.” says Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director for Equality, Directorate-General for Justice, European Commission.

“60% of new university graduates are female. We have a lot of untapped potential, as our societies are investing considerable public funds in the preparation of such graduates. Therefore, one would expect women to prevail as the most qualified candidates. However, the opposite is true. Prejudices still stand in the way.” he continues. A cultural change is needed and can be achieved by a close cooperation between all stakeholders: the states, the companies and the women.

‘Embedding diversity within corporate cultures is a complex process that requires not only gender balance on boards but an increase in gender balance throughout the talent pipeline within organisations’, says Christine Van Rijsseghem, Senior General Manager within KBC. ‘If having more women in senior positions is the goal, effort to identify those with high potential is crucial’.

The Norwegian example shows that the spill-over effect resulting from the efforts produced by increasing the number of Women on Boards, by binding measures if necessary, is not automatic.
Despite a certain progress, there is still a horizontal segregation between female and male sectors and also a vertical one. Lots of scientific studies are not talking about the glass ceiling anymore but about the “leaky pipeline”, but according to Elke Vergaeren from SEIN institute, Hasselt University, researches show that “There is no blue print for rapid change, only organization-specific solutions”.

We were lucky enough to have two top companies (KBC and MasterCard) represented at our Anniversary who demonstrated for us two different approaches, one led by the management of the company and the other led by the employees.
KBC group decided to set a target of at least 25% of women in senior management by 2016 and followed it up with affirmative actions. Progress is measurable moving from 9% in 2006 to 15% today. The percentage of women in the talent pipeline increased also from 20% in 2007 to around 30% now.
Jennifer Rademaker, Group Head, Core Products, MasterCard Europe, presented us with an initiative started at the employees’ level with the creation in 2007 of the “MasterCard Women Leadership Network” by herself and some other top female executives to build a supportive environment for Women’s advancement in their companies. They benchmarked their progress by participating in the McKinsey’s 2012 gender pipeline study: “Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work”.
In her own group “Core Products”, Jennifer achieved a 26% lift in female employees, from 38% of women when she took office in March 2011 to 48% in October 2012. This was done with an organic growth and by just challenging diversity: ‘9 times out of 10 I asked my team: Are you hiring the best person for the job, or are you hiring yourself?’ she says.

Jennifer ended her presentation with a personal thought: ‘I really believe quite strongly that we have a responsibility to pay it forward, helping other women that are hitting the wall, to go up to the next level’ which is also the goal of PWI.

Some of the PWI’s volunteers team from left to right: Melanie Barker, Mentoring Director; Elizabeth Hammer-Kjellberg, past PWI president; Monica Marinas Maté, Treasurer; Sonia Busselen, PR; Corina Ciechanow, VP Women & Technology; Karianne Boer; Gaelle Flammang-Dorie, Marketing Director
So the evening was a great success! Not only our enthusiastic and supportive members had a great occasion to celebrate, network and enjoy a glass of champagne, but as I wandered around I heard some fascinating and positive discussions about how gender balances could be promoted in the different workplaces which were represented. Also our team work managed to impress everyone and I would like to thank the dedicated team of volunteers who worked hard to make it happen! And my special thanks to our special-event director Marie Terese Letorney who pulled it off and the “cerise sur le gateau” topped the evening with a rendering of Gershwin’s Summertime to the accompaniment of our jazz trio and also to the team of volunteers who made it happened!

From left to right: Adriana Paun, VP Women on Boards-EPWN Federation, Marie Terese :Letorney, Director Special Events-PWI, Armelle Loghmanian, PWI president

I think everyone enjoyed the evening immensely and left feeling energized and determined to do even more to overcome the problems of gender inequality in their workplace. To this end PWI will be encouraging people to join our forthcoming Mentoring programme (here is your opportunity to pass on your experience by mentoring someone younger or less experienced than yourself). PWI is also continuing our work with the Women on Board Team, following their successful launch in September of the Female Board Pool. And of course we are continuing our own series of very successful workshops and Networking events, which will be advertised on the Events page of our website. We encourage everyone to participate, and if you were thinking of becoming a member of PWI – what better time than now?

As you could see, there is still a long way to go and more work needs to be done to achieve gender equality in corporate leadership. Of course, most of the time the discrimination is not  intentional , but it can  be an unconscious and unintentional bias. 

I strongly believe that an organisation like PWI can not only provide support and a plateform for women to exchange, but can also play a role in building the awareness and spreading the message to the political world as well as the corporate one. I would like to aknowledge the role of my predecessors in the construction and development of this organization, especially Cristina Vicini, president of PWI from 2006 to 2011 and Elizabeth Hammer-Kjellberg, president of PWI from 2002 to 2005. 

I also want to use this opportunity to thank all our volunteers that have helped Marie Terese Letorney in making a real success of this event.
And of course our board members, Alessandra, Corina and Monica, and all our executive comittee members, Beverley, Gaelle, Julia, Marie Terese, Melanie, Monique and Sonia, for the tremendous work they are doing every day for this association. 

If you want to join me in thanking them, I think the best gift you can do to all of us is to join us, even for a few hours per month, and help us in our mission.

Executive committee and board members:
Melanie Barker, Alessandra Zocca, Sonia Busselen, Sonia Neefs, Armelle Loghmanian, Corina Ciechanow, 
Marie Terese Letorney, Gaelle Flammang-Dorie, Monique Buergin
Absentees: Monica Marinas Maté, Julia Mikerova,  Beverley Sinton

Time now to discover our brand new “PWI Magazine – Special anniversary Edition ”
If you’d like to comment on it, or contribute to the next issue, please get in touch by emailing Alessandra Zocca at editor@pwi.be

Enjoy the reading!

Armelle Loghmanian
PWI President

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