“We’re crucial thinkers and actors,” was how Véronique Morali concluded her opening address at the start of three days of conferences of the Women’s Forum 2012. That’s when I experienced my first shivers of emotion.
Because these are strong messages that were followed the rest of the afternoon by sometimes tough messages, realities hard to imagine, dramatic situations exposed, changes that need to be made to move forward, evolve, and why not build a better world.
One of these messages was carried by two extraordinary women, the kind who really do change the world, who work day by day to turn their dreams into reality, incapable of standing still, always in the middle of the action. I’m talking about Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee, both Nobel Peace Prize winners, Shirin in 2003 and Leymah in 2011. Contrary to the announced programme, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem wasn’t on stage. Faced with two Nobel Prize winners she may have felt somewhat out of place. Because one of them is fighting incessantly to defend women’s rights especially in countries where religious obscurantism reigns, while the other has succeeded in helping bring an end to the civil war in Liberia thanks to a peace movement driven by women that has also permitted the election of a woman President – the first in Africa. How about that!
I was impressed watching these two women who have already made it into the history books.
Shirin Ebadi took the stage first to talk about the Arab Spring: “We can talk about spring when women have obtained the same rights as men. Unfortunately, women haven’t obtained equal rights in Arab countries.” But they’re fighting, daily, against Islamic governments to achieve equality. What do we need to do to help these women? “Education is the only route to freedom.” That’s Shirin Ebadi’s rallying cry which she has never stopped repeating. Access to knowledge is the key to democracy and human freedom. That seems so obvious to me that I can’t imagine the frustration she must be feeling to have to keep incessantly repeating and fighting, and I must say even risking her life so that one day everyone everywhere shares this same belief. Because it’s not governments alone that are responsible, families also have to allow their daughters to go to school and do their homework. Leymah Gbowee confirms that education is a major challenge, and not just in terms of schooling but also sexual education. Because Africans have no access to family planning they are not educated in sex-related issues, and they don’t have access to contraception, so it’s essential for their freedom, their independence, and for resolving poverty issues. Shirin Ebadi pounces on this taboo subject in many countries and condemns the patriarchal culture that subjugates women and sees them as just “a tool, a means of procreation”. She spotlights the indecency of the legal marrying age for women in Iran being set at 13: “A law that allows a girl of 13 to marry and have children is ridiculous.” In fact, if you think about your niece, your daughter, or even your next door neighbour’s daughter, it puts shivers up your spine.
It’s education policy for girls as a whole that we need to improve, and “we need to work for all women, not just where we happen to live, because failing for one woman is failing for all women!” insists Shirin Ebadi. She calls for us to mobilize, to go beyond participating in this conference and to really get involved in this fight. For my part, message received.
Generation Y in business
It’s a less blunt but just as philosophical and social a message that the Mazars corner put forward with its session entitled “Y up your company”, which amicably pitted the viewpoint of a representative of the Y generation against that of the older generation.
Via a series of sharp questions and answers, they allowed us to learn more about this Y generation, thanks to a study conducted by Mazars last summer:
- For generation Y, equality is a problem, which is surprising and seems bad news because we expect this generation to have solved this problem. But the good news is that this generation is prepared to work to find solutions to the problem.
- The Y generation is searching for the right balance between personal life and working life, in every one of the 64 countries surveyed in the study. The Y generation doesn’t believe you need to dedicate your life to your work. You also need time for your children, for the ones you love, for your passions and excitements.
- The Y generation wants to be financially independent. It’s not a generation of do-nothings but also wants to make the most of life and the happiness it can bring. Companies therefore need to permit them to express themselves and flourish in the workplace.
- The Y generation is flexible. It accepts the need for flexible hours and that they sometimes need to work later evenings or weekends but in return they want to turn this flexibility to their own advantage. And what’s essential isn’t the time you start or the time to leave but that the work gets done.
- For the Y generation, the most important personal qualities are human qualities. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Y generation isn’t egotistical, it loves interaction and is gifted at networking.
But the Y generation knows it can’t learn without the preceding generation, so they all need to work together hand in hand. The challenge for businesses is to take into account the needs of this generation and to rethink any management methods that don’t jibe with them. This means more openness and a spirit of dialogue. Attitudes change through education, training sessions, explanatory seminars, and examples that show how stereotypes, which are often subconscious, prevent self-awareness. And companies must ask themselves the essential question: Is my employee happy working for me?
how to embed social media in your business
The Orange corner welcomed Delphine Remy-Boutang and Tiffany St James, two social media specialists. The purpose of this session was to allow participants to find tools adapted to their communication strategy where social media are now an integrating part of a global strategy for a brand or a person. As Delphine Remy-Boutang says: “You need to be a social business. If you’re not, I don’t know where you’ll be in five years.” They restated that the goal is not to amass millions of fans or followers, but to succeed in engaging its community, discussing with it, sharing, and making its presence felt on every social network in a striking way.
As an exclusive for Orange Live Blog, they’re offering a short summary of this session in the video below, in English of course:-)
A first day rich in emotions, that made everyone keen to get involved, to reflect, to be proactive players, drivers, and always with a smile J. See Jessica Gauzi and Raphaelle Laubie’s impressions of this first day, they have lots to say !
Stay tuned for the rest…