Women’s Breakfast Session fosters discussion about diversity, equality, and action
On March 8, International Women’s Day, Stanton Chase Amsterdam hosted a Women’s Breakfast Session, a virtual event for female leaders to join in a discussion about diversity, equality, and actions that we can take to challenge ourselves and others for the better.
We were joined by 16 incredible women from diverse sectors and industries such as financial services, energy, IT, aviation, transport, professional services, and nonprofit organizations. Their roles varied from CEOs, CFOs, CPOs, CHROs, Managing Directors, and VPs, to Presidents, Chair(wo)men, and Non-Executive Board Members.
After a brief introduction of everyone in the virtual meeting room, we divided the participants into three breakout groups. Each group went on discuss a different topic relevant to this year’s IWD theme, #ChooseToChallenge, and shared it on a whiteboard. Later, the findings were presented to all attendees for further conversation.
“I almost canceled the event due to a COVID-19 emergency at the company, but while attending the meeting after all, I realized how important it is to have these conversations, share experiences, and learn from others.” – the President and GM of a packaging and container company
The first group celebrated women’s achievements. We wanted to know which role models inspired these women and how they impacted and influenced the way they work today. We focused on finding out how we can further celebrate, foster, and support more women in their professional endeavors.
The women said they had few female role models in their careers. Besides mothers who taught them to follow their own path and be independent, only a handful of female leaders were mentioned as role models.
A big issue lies in the question of the “working woman” who also takes care of her family. There is a lot of criticism and stigma around the topic of “doing it all,” what it means to be a good mother, and what it takes to excel at work. Having to juggle those creates more friction and discourages women from prioritizing work because they constantly feel judged. Another obstacle is the perception that women in the workplace should be fun and, most of all, cute and agreeable. There is still too much emphasis on looks and presentation.
“Being together with a group of women who are motivated to make an impact and work was great. We still have a long road ahead by making small steps forward. The stories about mothers being role models although they were not working themselves was very valuable, as my own mother still regrets that she stopped working when she was 30!” – the CHRO of an energy company
The second group focused on raising awareness against bias, both diversity inequality and gender bias. The discussion centered on what we can do to increase awareness of different types of biases and inequality. How can we ensure that a holistic approach to equality is being recognized in the work force?
The women agreed that gender bias starts developing at a young age. Our upbringing largely determines how we later perceive and treat gender and its roles. Investing in childcare and school curriculums that promote diversity and equal opportunities for boys and girls could positively impact and help solve this issue.
The third group talked about what actions we can take to create a more equal world by first assessing the current situation and how things are changing. How have our actions played out in the past, and what can we do today and in the future?
The biggest takeaway from this discussion was realizing that little to no changes can be made unless we allow for more flexible work schedules. Many companies reach a good gender ratio at the beginning of women’s careers, but due to life events such as motherhood the number of women in executive positions decreases immensely. Enabling flexibility through not imposing a 9-5 schedule and allowing women to also prioritize family would largely influence the number of women who feel supported and inspired to stay ambitious.
There is a need to shift focus not only regarding gender but other diversity factors such as people’s background, age, and culture that can add value to a company or organization. Other actions include speaking up and encouraging fellow women with their achievements while recognizing and celebrating positive representation and female role models. Facilitating inclusion from a young age through diversified education and teaching children early what we ourselves learned late was yet again marked as crucial.
“It was very valuable to hear all the different point of views. I liked that the event also covered a diverse group of ladies from different backgrounds, sectors, ages, etc. The network aspect of the session is much appreciated, and it also provided time to stand still and reflect on this topic.” – the Head of Human Capital Development at a financial services company
Although awareness and actions have been increasing in recent years, we must continue challenging everyone to become more supportive toward real inclusion and belonging.
“There are many actions to take to reach equality. Don’t wait and take yours.”– the Chief Procurement Officer at an energy company
The SC Amsterdam IWD event was led and curated by Stanton Chase partners Helen Jong and Aleid De Boer, Research Associate Janina Lorenci, and Office Manager Emmely Besaril.
About the Author:
Janina Lorenci is a Research Associate at the Amsterdam office of Stanton Chase.