Global thought leaders weigh in: Women in the workplace key to saving the world

Can women save the world? The verdict was a resounding yes at this year’s 2019 Women in the World summit. The three-day event featured the world’s leading women innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and CEOs.

Of the all-female power-house ensemble, some of the most notable to appear included: Anna Wintour, Brie Larson, Glenda Jackson, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey.

One message was especially pervasive. Closing out Friday night, Oprah Winfrey proclaimed that in order to save the world, it’s necessary to first “save yourself.”

“And when we fulfill that task of actually making ourselves whole we’re set up to fully express what we know – to now negotiate, differentiate, placate, facilitate, demonstrate, and delegate,” Winfrey said.

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While each panel featured speakers of diverse career backgrounds, every speaker found solidarity in one affirmation: Self-confidence is fundamental to success.

Overcoming gender bias

For women, the road to attaining such success is not as easily traversable. While the pay gap between men and women is slowly closing, women are reportedly confronted with many biases within the workplace.

“There is bias everywhere. We all encounter it every day. I think the question for us as leaders and in our personal lives and business, is what do we do to really counter it and how do we mitigate it?” This question, prompted by Carolyn Tastad, President of Selling and Market Operations at P&G, sparked further conversation. “Equality for me means representation. This bias continues to perpetuate. It’s really important for us, as leaders, build our own self-awareness and be very intentional in our actions.”

When Bozoma Saint John was asked when she had last experienced bias, she responded: “Oh, you mean like this morning?”

As a high-profile female leader, the unshakable CMO of Endeavor discussed experiencing such bias daily. “Those at the top never look like me. I practice and really try to make sure, really innately, that I bring my full self to every situation,” she said.

Indra Nooyi, the longest reigning woman CEO of Pepsi-co, confronts bias with intentionality. She remarks that the most important quality to procuring a successful career is intentionally setting goals.

Nooyi attributes her own success to preemptively defining a purpose to her work. “You don’t become a defining company just because you deliver good financials. You become a defining company because you do so much more than that. And to us, it was performance with purpose,” said Nooyi.

Practicing a “stubborn optimism”

The expression, “youth is wasted on the young” may no longer hold any relevance when applied to the youngest millennials. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce.

And, according to Christiana Figueres, a diplomat of 35 years and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in July 2010, their “stubborn optimism” will be key to the success of the generation. “Persistent optimism that is the greatest gift we can give to our young people,” she said. Figueres is a global leader in environmental initiatives, having contributed to the Paris Agreement in 2015.

When data confirms the bleak state of the environment, it’s easy to be a defeatist. Figueres encourages us to fight against this negative outlook, especially in the young: “Thousands of corporations are beginning to understand that if they want to have any business continuity in the 21st century, they need to be aware of the profit, planet, and people. If they cannot meet this triple bottom line, there is no space for them today. Young people simply will not work for them, to begin with.”

It’s this kind of intentional optimism, Figueres argues, that cultivates the radical confidence needed to make a difference.

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