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lessons From The Global Women’s Summit May 2018

lessons From The Global Women’s Summit May 2018

In its 28thyear, the Global Summit of Women was held in Sydney, Australia, with over 1,000 women attending from more than 65 countries. It was three days of sharing, networking, wisdom and fun. I have had the privilege of attending three summits and being a speaker at each of them – Beijing (2010), Paris (2013) and Sydney (2018). At every summit, I have met amazing women from around the world, made new friends and learnt so much from each of them. Every woman attending the conference, every facilitator, moderator and speaker were incredible, smart, generous and often humorous, way too many to mention specifically by name. This month’s newsletter seeks to share a few of the lessons and wisdom from this year’s Summit.

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Why Millennials are critical to 21st Century Economies

Three incredibly talented Millennials (Gen Ys) entrepreneurs shared their insights and experience into the mindset and expectations of their generation, and how they together with technology will change the world of work forever.

Some interesting facts include:

  • Generation Y (the Millennials) are the largest generation alive presently, and make up 27% of global population
  • Each generation is living longer than the previous generation, and the life expectancy of Gen Ys is 103!
  • Most Gen Ys think most large businesses are unethical
  • 43% of Gen Ys will leave their current job within the next two years
  • 36% of Gen Ys think that their current employer is not preparing them for jobs in the future, and want “soft skills” training which cannot be replicated by Artificial Intelligence.

Only 14% of CEOs globally believe that their organisations are “future ready” and will be able to harness Industry 4.0. One of the key challenges is that 50% of future jobs will require STEM-based skills.

The three key priorities for Gen Ys at work are:

  • Trust in business, and profit with purpose
  • Diversity and inclusion, with an increased focus on flexibility and what it means to them
  • Training and development for the “Day after tomorrow”!

Technology Artificial Intelligence

The most disturbing thing I learnt about technology and the pace of change is that technology is now outstripping business in terms of progress and change, and while in the past a business built their IT around their business strategy, the future will require businesses to build their strategy around technology. I also learnt that:

  • 30% of customer service jobs will be handled by AI in the future
  • 45% of current jobs will be replaced by machines in the next decade or two
  • 90% of coding in AI is done by men! What are we doing to encourage more girls to do coding and take up STEM subjects?
  • AI is the fastest growing sector in IT, and is growing at a rate of 5 times compounded year-on-year.

Women, Leadership Quotas

The debate continued to rage about whether quotas were a good thing or a bad thing. As a qualified accountant, and after 40 years as an advocate for gender equality and pay equity, I now believe “What gets measured, gets done – so bring on quotas!” I found it fascinating that even Malaysia and the Maldives have introduced quotas for women on boards in the private sector, 30% for Malaysia and 40% for the Maldives, whereas Australia still talks about targets. Having boards and senior leadership teams that are 50%/50% male/female should become the norm, rather than be something exceptional or special.

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Iceland has recently introduced legislation making it illegal to pay men and women different wages for doing the same job – pay equity at the stroke of a pen.

Both men and women with caring responsibilities need flexibility to make the balancing of professional and personal responsibilities doable. Flexibility needs to be the STARTING POINT, not the outcome. Leaders need to step up and make all jobs flexible first, then prove (if appropriate) that it may not work. If you assume flexibility in the first place, know that it will be hard, but it will be worth it and lead to greater capability building in organisations. We need to stop talking about work/life balance, something I have been advocating for a decade. Our focus and language should be around work/life integration, as life is never perfectly balanced.

Organisation’s from sport to motor vehicle manufacturers need to re-imagine women as customers, given that 85% of current advertisements for goods and services do not reflect women. This is even though more than 80% of all household expenditure decisions are made by women, including when to buy a new car and how much to spend! Brands need to serve their ultimate customer, not who they perceive the customer to be!

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Advice to young women from experienced female leaders

I believe this advice is equally applicable to young men, in fact any generation of men and women who aspire to lead others:

  • Be your authentic self
  • There’s a lot of things in life that you will worry about that’s not important
  • Speak from your heart
  • Believe in yourself
  • Live in gratitude, it’s better for your health on every level
  • Look after your reputation – it’s your most valuable asset.

One of the highlights of the conference was the award for global leadership given to The Honorable Dame Quentin Bryce, who as always, was so gracious in delivering her acceptance speech. She reminded everyone that we all achieve through and with other women. She named many legendary female leaders and their contributions, thanking them for leading the way. On behalf of the men and women of Australia, I would like to thank Dame Quentin Bryce for her leadership and example to all leaders around the world for over five decades.

And finally, the most memorable quote for me from the Global Summit of Women which I am choosing to embrace as another of my life’s philosophies is:

“I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I can no longer accept.”

I challenge men and women in Australia to join me in challenging the status quo.


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