FEDEPE organized an expert roundtable in New York to consider strategic ideas in the public and corporate arenas designed to promote economic empowerment and women’s leadership in the framework of the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

The dialogue, entitled «Initiatives to promote economic empowerment and women’s leadership in 2015», was moderated by the journalist
Guillermo Fesser and involved Begoña Lasagabaster, Head of the Policy Division at UN Women, Lore Monnig, Managing Director at Bentley Associates, Janet C. Salazar, CEO and founder of IMPACT Leadership 21, Marta Echarri, Vice President of JP Morgan Latin America Private Bank, Carmen Plaza, Director of the Spanish Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities, and Ana Bujaldón, entrepreneur and President of FEDEPE.

The packed audience in the Cervantes NY auditorium included politicians, entrepreneurs, managers and women’s defense activists from various countries, such as the USA, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the Philippines. Men accounted for 15% of the audience.

(Madrid – New York, March 12 2015) – The FEDEPE roundtable entitled «Initiatives to promote economic empowerment and women’s leadership in 2015» took place Thursday, March 12 at the Instituto Cervantes New York headquarters. The aim of this side event to the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) was to bring together women who are leaders in their professions and who have an international profile, with executives from Spanish institutions and the United Nations to consider the best strategies to promote economic empowerment and women’s leadership in today’s climate.

The journalist Guillermo Fesser was given the task of moderating the dialogue in which important questions were tackled, such as the absence of joint responsibility, non-professional decision-making areas (traditionally male-dominated areas), the scrutiny of women in positions of responsibility and the best results from women in corporate management positions.

And so, after a short welcome from Ignacio Olmos, Director of the Instituto Cervantes, who offered the support of his organization to welcome and promote any measure that may help women and empower them in their professional careers, Ana Bujaldón, the President of FEDEPE, noted that the purpose of the roundtable was «to network and work together in order to build a more equal society in which women achieve greater economic empowerment». With the auditorium full, Ms. Bujaldón also showed her appreciation for the large turnout and thanked the institutions for their cooperation that had made the event possible as part of CSW59.

The need for complete structural changes that reflect the idea that real corporate capital lies in human talent, which does not have a gender, was clear throughout the entire debate. Begoña Lasagabaster, Head of UN Women’s Policy Division, maintained that «when women participate in economic, social or cultural arenas, results are improved. The models of women leaders work».

Ms. Lasagabaster also highlighted the importance of data in the debate. Besides the fact that women’s participation is a human rights issue, we now know this is not only about empowering women but also about doing the best to further societies, and, therefore, it cannot be divided into two debates, with one on the empowerment of women and the other on results/efficiency.

Lore Monnig, Managing Director at Bentley Associates, said that «there are different forms of interaction between genders», something she described through the experience of implementing «men’s programs that follow-up immersive training to bring together gender experiences». In the same way, with regard to the salary gap, Monnig thought that it was necessary to believe that «people do help one another and that sometimes women themselves do not help women».

Carmen Plaza, Director of the Spanish Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities, called on the men in the room, who were 15% of the audience, to join the UN Women HeForShe equality campaign. She said that «for a society to advance, the equal representation of men and women in all areas must be promoted». She also talked about the comprehensive approach of the «More Women, Better Companies» program for promoting an equal presence in all positions of responsibility, with agreements signed between more than 72 companies in Spain and the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality.

Another aspect of the debate covered the issue of the connection and relationship with men. According to Janet C. Salazar, CEO and founder of IMPACT Leadership 21, «we need to connect in order to be sure that there is equality and, therefore, we need men because they are currently the ones who are in the positions of power in almost all companies». Ms. Salazar firmly believed that «breaking the glass ceiling has not worked. We have to talk about removing the asbestos roof, and when a house has asbestos, it has to be pulled down and built afresh», clearly alluding to the labor market system. «Women’s progress needs to be accelerated because we have already demonstrated that we are ready. For this reason, when we are able to count on the support of men, equality in positions of power will be possible», she concluded.

Various reports were presented at the roundtable that contained very important data, such as how in the USA, among the 500 most powerful companies and businesses, only 2% of managerial positions were held by women, and how in Spain, we are far from the forecast
established under the 2007 equality law (a 40%-60% representation between genders in 2015).

The absence of joint responsibility was a focus of discussions, as well as the issue of sensible working hours. Marta Echarri, Vice President at JP Morgan Latin America Private Bank, said that her company had flexible working and, in some roles, it was possible to work from home, if requested. Ms. Echarri also praised certain inclusive programs in large corporations with policies that believed in women and she said that «women look for and support these companies». With regard to her own company, Ms. Echarri explained that there was a company goal, not a quota, to balance women in the workforce and represent them in managerial positions in selection processes. She also noted that progress comes with «technology, through telecommuting and a change in corporate culture and, thanks to networking events, such as the FEDEPE debate, that we have had today in New York».

A request came from the audience to address the issue of joint responsibility as a public problem that involved all of society and that transcends the private sphere so that domestic duties and roles can be shared equally.

In conclusion, Ana Bujaldón, evoking the power of women’s transformation, recalled the words of Hillary Clinton at CSW59: «it’s never been better for us to be women». To highlight the importance of trust, Ms. Bujaldón also wanted to share the results from the latest study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which showed that women in Spain should earn, based on their training, 2% more than men. She stressed the need to «show trust in companies so that they inspire women». «As women, we want to take part in the race for promotions, we want to win. We all have a common dream,» she added, «the dream that Sheryl Sandberg described when she spoke about a world with half of businesses run by women and half of homes run by men».

This initiative has been organized by FEDEPE, the Federación Española de Mujeres Directivas, Ejecutivas, Profesionales y Empresarias (the Spanish Federation of Women Managers, Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs), in cooperation with the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, the European Social Fund, Montclair State University, the Instituto Cervantes and UN Women.

With this roundtable, FEDEPE expands its international image as a leading organization for the representation and promotion of women’s leadership in business, economic and institutional arenas.

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