I just returned last night from Oxford, England, where I attended the Womensphere Pan-European Summit on “Creating the Future.” http://www.womensphereglobalsummit.com/ Womensphere is an organization based in New York and this was its inaugural European summit. The event was held at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford. I learned many new things but the summit confirmed my belief that more women are needed in positions of power—in business, finance, science, politics, and management.
The conference was packed full of very impressive speakers, most of whom were young, extremely well-educated and already leaders in their fields. Europe is in the middle of its own financial crisis, as Germany, France and other European leaders try to find solutions to the threatened collapse of the economies of Greece and other EU nation members. This conference focused on Europe and it was a good reminder that the United States is not the only country with serious concerns about jobs, economic recovery and the sharply rising needs of the developing countries, such as China, for energy resources to fuel its exploding economic growth. In fact, I seldom heard the United States mentioned during the conference. Other topics included human trafficking, sustainability, communication, micro-financing and innovation—all addressed as global issues.
My attendance and participation at the summit was a direct result of a my connection to one of the honorees at the conference, Nadine Hack. I “met” Nadine on twitter and was so impressed by her biography, that I worked hard to get to know her and along the way, we became friends. Nadine owns an international consulting firm out of NYC and is currently the Executive-in-Residence at IMD International, one of the world’s leading business schools, located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Other honorees at the event included Arianna Huffington and Melanne Verveer, appointed by President Obama as the U.S. Ambassador at Large on Global Women’s Issues for the State Department.
At the impromptu dinner following the day-long event, we discussed our “take-aways” from the conference. For me, there were several, most of which I already believed, but were confirmed by what I heard:
= The problems facing the world cannot be solved by any one nation. The boundaries between countries are blurred because our global economy creates an interdependence that was not there twenty-five years ago. There is no going back to countries being self-contained.
= Women are equal to men but often bring skills and insights to their work that are different than men, and very much needed in leadership roles.
= We must accept the reality that the developing nations, such as China, India and Brazil, are outpacing the U.S. and Europe in economic development and their growth will powerfully impact the distribution of limited resources, such as oil and water. We must act quickly to avoid catastrophe within the next ten to twenty years. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore this. Innovation must be encouraged and funded.
The Womensphere Pan-European Summit was an outstanding event. It was an honor to meet and build relationships with the people I met there. On a final note, I would say that it seems more urgent than ever that the U.S. needs to put away the political grandstanding and gridlock that is preventing us from focusing on solutions to our problems. Demonizing teachers, under-funding education and college loans are not actions that will put the United States back on track in this increasingly competitive world. We cannot rest on our laurels of past glory days. We must invest in our future by investing in our children, our educational system and innovation.