Change Make It Happen – Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society 2010

This was the theme for the Women’s Forum Global Meeting held in France last week. Aude Zieseniss de Thuin founded the Women’s Forum conference, sometimes known as the Davos for Women, when she became frustrated at the lack of women represented at the Davos World Economic Forum meetings. After six years of hosting the conference, she has seen it grow to a powerful international connection of influential women and men.

The conference focuses on change in politics, business, entrepreneurship, the environment and global health.  It proposes that “in an era of uncertainty and opportunity, traditional attitudes and action do not seem to work anymore. We need vision and we need to make choices. We need to reconsider the way we share power, wealth, progress and resources. We need to change. But are we ready? Ideas, possibilities and solutions are being tested, powerful countries are emerging, new action groups, and companies are being created. They are promising, yet still in their infancy. They need to happen.”

This year’s meeting was held in Deauville and gathered 1,300 participants (including a member of the Optimiss team) from 70 countries, to address these issues and challenges. The program included a BBC World Debate on “How to feed the world better” along with other debates, brainstorm sessions, networking and a discovery programme – all of which helped explore the opportunity for change across the five main theme areas.

The conference is more than a talkfest and there was a wide range of specific initiatives that were developed during the meeting including the development of a global corporate Well Being metric for companies, a global database and training program for female company board directors, initiatives to increase the teaching of entrepreneurship and business skills to female school students and the development of a ‘Blue Seal’ for companies to make their water footprint a CSR priority.

In addition to these initiatives, 23 CEOs in attendance – 13 of them men – committed to six concrete measures to improve the gender balance in their companies over the next 12 months. The measures included pledges to make the advancement of women a top strategic priority at the chief executive level, to require female candidates in every recruitment pool, and to deliver specific targets for more female representation at all levels of their companies.

An impressive line up of speakers and attendees from all walks of life included Christine Lagard, the French Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment, Moira Forbes, Publisher of ForbesWoman in the USA, Xin Zhang, CEO of the giant Chinese real estate firm Soho China, Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Renault-Nissan Alliance, Marcus Agius, Chairman of Barclays Bank, Angelique Kidjo, Grammy award winning singer and songwriter and founder of the Batonga Foundation and Melanne Verveer, the US Ambassador at large for Global Women’s issues. Plus many many more.. After a week of discussions, we are now spinning with new ideas, connections and strategies to make a difference in our own sphere here in Australia and globally.

One of the resounding quotes that echoed through the conference all week came from the opening keynote speaker, Christine Lagard, who challenged the participants with a daily question – “Have I helped another woman today?”

Watch through to the end of the main video on the www.womens-forum.com website to see the wonderful Aude De Thuin at the closing ceremony. We can’t wait for next year’s conference!