by Jessica Gauzi, guest blogger invited by Orange at the Women’s Forum
To begin with, this is a great first for us. But for all that, it was 8 weeks ago that the Women’s Forum was organised at Deauville and I had the chance to participate in the Orange Live Blog shock team. Having arrived this morning, in the fog, at the seafront, we were in a hurry: going to plenary sessions, listening, learning , participating in “discovery sessions” and meeting women (most of all) who are helping forge the society and economy of tomorrow.
This large international conference “for the economy & society” [ed: the baseline] will for three days bring together 1,000 participants from around the world, to exchange ideas on “Wanted: 360° growth” and we’re going to share the highlights with you through our reports, photos and tweets.
To begin with, some info on the participants, some 88% of them women, which is sort of the objective. Thanks to computer graphics by the WF team, here are the highlights:
Véronique Moralli, President of the Women’s Forum – but not just – who you can meet in an interview to learn more, said there are many politicised women, and women involved in associations and foundations. And this year a big surprise that more and more young people and women entrepreneurs have registered. Because growth, which we’re aiming at here and now, will be driven by women business creators and the Y generation that we’ll have a lot to say about.
After a trouble-free check-in, we took a short break to explore the Centre International de Deauville. It’s big (we needed a map), beautiful (totally blue with, obviously, touches of orange:-)) and teeming with people (there seemed to be as many staff as visitors!). Between the press setting up operations, the stands getting ready, and the participants arriving, we began sensing the vibes of the forum... and you can well imagine it didn’t stop there.
To launch the forum, Véronique Moralli kindly accommodated us before making space for the first eagerly awaited speakers: they just had to be the two Nobel Peace Prize winners on the same stage, and that was really something. Two women, Doctor Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee, one an Iranian, the other Liberian, from different worlds and different cultures, whose viewpoints sometimes diverge. But whose objective is the same: to give women their real place in society.
Because we remember that the Women’s Forum helps us to “build the future thanks to the vision of women” and this first session, on the question “What do we still need to do better for women?” will not rest unanswered.
I’d so love to summarise here, in a few lines, the 2 hours of presentations, discussions, excitement… but that impossible. It would be like reducing to the extreme a fight that persists and in which we’re making headway. As Shirin Ebadi says, every person’s individual victory depends on the education of all. She has never stopped reiterating “Education is the key to freedom”! and when she says that in Iran some 40 universities have banned women from taking more than 70 hours of courses, including engineering courses, that says a lot about the work that is still left to be done…
The future can only be better, because initiatives like the Women’s Forum and women’s networks will help establish these necessary links between young people and adults, mentors and “young shoots”. Because the future depends on the transmission and transfer of knowledge between women. Our Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, doesn’t disagree: In her end-of-day speech, one of her missions is “education in equality, right from pre-school”… to be continued.
Talking about transition and sharing experiences, I was able to attend a very interesting meeting with two participants in the Cartier Imitative Awards: Kresse Wesling, creator of the Elvis & Kresse brand, 2011 prize-winner, and the finalist Lauren Thomas, founder of Mozambikes.
The topic “The story of my entrepreneurial adventure: from passion to reality” is beautiful, inspiring, with Kresse as the example. This young English lady is very simply a fan of waste! Ok, so you say: What can a fashionable young woman like about stuff that’s thrown away at end of life and that nobody wants any more?
For her, fire hoses for example are a great “textile”, strong, beautiful, and afraid of nothing – neither fire nor water apparently. In 2007 she started her recycling business creating luxury accessories, bags, etc, with 50% of profits going to charities.
Sold today in London’s Harrods, she’s gone from trying to successfully launch her business, to focusing on how to make it grow. When people at the forum talk about growth levers, that’s a motivation to set up a business and Kresse is beckoning us all to do it. Of course, winning the Cartier prize the year before was a serious plus, bringing her a strong dynamic international network. In that respect, this luxury brand’s programme is fantastic. The 2012 winners will be announced at the prize-giving tomorrow evening.
With 100 million of all kinds of waste in England alone, this business’s task is massive and the result can only be positive: nothing’s lost, everything creates value, as well as jobs, while helping the community. Hats off to this passionate woman who has succeeded in achieving a dream, an ambition, for the good of all!
For now, I’ll leave you there, with these magnificent portraits of women, whose such different and rich profiles provide hope and definitely inspire. Words can’t express what an extraordinary opportunity this was to meet these personalities. As well as being the youngest, they’re also the talents of tomorrow, who will give others a kick. And we can all grow by learning from the track they’ve taken. Isn’t that what this forum is all about? Meeting people who are a source of rich, strong diversity?