‘Change the system, not the women’ – recap International Women’s Day 2024

Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress

Women are effective business leaders, yet they make up just 6% of CEOs globally. How do we get not only investors, but all of society to see the value of female leadership? On the 8th of March we celebrated International Women’s Day with this year’s theme being: Invest in Women. Together with our partners Euronext, UN Women Nederland, Women in ETFs, Optiver and Flow Traders we curated a full-day event brimming with insightful talks from inspiring speakers.

Mentoring and sponsoring programs

The day started bright and early with a breakfast session set in the historic boardroom, a space with a backstory: there was a time where women were barred from its doors. Today, the presence of our women organizers and attendees indicates the progress we’ve already made. Moderated by our Executive Director Merei Wagenaar, the session unfolded with an engaging conversation between Sten ter Horst, HR Director Center of Expertise for Talent and DE&I at AkzoNobel and Mariëtte Los, Partner & Chief Human Resources Officer and Member of the Executive Committee at Deloitte, shedding light on their approaches to advancing equality & inclusion within their respective companies.

Mariëtte elaborated further on Deloitte’s mentoring culture, emphasizing the significance of implementing both mentoring and sponsoring programs. The main difference between the two is that mentorship is mostly about someone providing you with advice and feedback whereas sponsorship involves someone directly advocating for your because they believe in your ability and potential. She stressed the importance of ensuring that all women have access to both forms of support.

In turn, Sten shed light on AkzoNobel’s strategy for navigating diverse cultures and addressing local challenges. Through collaboration with local resource groups, they gather insights on necessary policy adjustments. While these insights inform global policies, Sten emphasized the necessity of acknowledging that not all global policies seamlessly translate to local contexts. Thus, he underscored the importance of allowing flexibility for local adaptations.

Changing the system

At 9 AM sharp, the official bell-ringing ceremony took place, officially opening the trading day. Globally more than 100 stock exchanges participate in the ceremonial bell ringing with the aim to bring attention to the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing gender equality and to raise awareness about the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

The morning programme continued with an inspiring talk by Hoba Gull, Dutch UN Women’s Representative, who emphasized that gender equality is more than investing in the representation of women in leadership positions, it’s about investing in changing conditions for all women. It’s about fighting poverty & violence, cultural norms and what we value in society. Ultimately, it’s about changing the system.

Her speech was followed by the introduction of the newly launched Pink Chip initiative. Pink Chip tracks women-led companies in markets around the world, helping investors to realize the true value of female leadership, free from the market bias that undervalues it.

Invest in women

After this insightful morning, the afternoon program was kicked off with a fireside chat between moderator Marianne Aalders from Euronext, our director Merei Wagenaar and Marije Cornelissen, Executive Director UN Women Nederland, emphasizing once more that investing in women is crucial to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. We cannot fight climate change without investing in women. Fostering equality can reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by nearly 70 gigatons between 2020 and 2050.

The day continued with a key note by Sacha de Boer, visual storyteller & photographer, who captivated the audience with an inspiring story about her encounters with powerful girls and women on her travels around the world – from Zimbabwe to the North Pole. Through her lens, she illuminated the hidden leadership roles held by women. Whether they are harvesting, cooking or teaching, her photographs showed us that it’s often the women who are the driving force shaping the world.

Last but not least, we invited Caroline Wouters, EVP and Chief Communications, Brand and Marketing Officer at Wolters Kluwer and Michiel Gilsing, CFO at Vopak, to share their take on gender related equality challenges in a panel discussion. Themes included establishing safe environments for women both within and beyond the workplace, the efficacy of quotas, and strategies for attracting female talent.

Not just another date on the calendar

The day was closed with a second bell-ringing ceremony followed by some drinks to unwind and reflect on this International Women’s Day. We look back on an engaging event that has hopefully inspired meaningful change.

And now that the dust has settled.. let’s shake it up again! Because being vocal about gender equality is and should not be restricted to one day only. Every day presents an opportunity to champion equality and challenge biases. Join the Target Gender Equality Accelerator and set ambitious corporate targets for women’s representation, equal pay and leadership in business. Application deadline: 31 May 2024.

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