Global Diversity
Colloquium 2008: "Creating a Level Playing Field for Women"

Opening Remarks by Irene Natividad
President, Global Summit of Women

GOOD MORNING AND THANK YOU ALL FOR JOINING US TODAY IN THIS YEAR’S COLLOQUIUM ON “CREATING A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR WOMEN.”  AS I INDICATED IN MY INVITATION TO EACH OF YOU, THIS IS A UNIQUE FORUM, DELIBERATELY KEPT INTIMATE SO AS TO FOSTER PEER-TO-PEER DIALOGUE THAT MAY NOT BE POSSIBLE IN A LARGER SETTING. 

OUR FOCUS IS INDEED ON THE GENDER COMPONENT OF DIVERSITY, OUR CONTEXT IS GLOBAL SINCE WE WANT TO KNOW HOW VARIOUS INITIATIVES PLAY OUT IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD, AND OUR PERSPECTIVE IS MULTI-FUNCTIONAL.  IN THIS YEARLY FORUM, WE ASK PARTICIPANTS TO SEE CORPORATE DIVERSITY IN A COHERENT WAY, IN TERMS OF HUMAN RESOURCES AND EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP, AS WELL AS IN TERMS OF MARKETS AND SUPPLIER DIVERSITY.  IN ADDITION TO DIVERSITY OFFICERS, WE HAVE INVITED EXECUTIVES WITH NON-HR RESPONSIBILITIES, AS WELL AS GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WITH OVERSIGHT OF EMPLOYMENT ISSUES.  IN THIS WAY, WE HOPE TO HAVE A COLLOQUIUM, WHICH BY THE WAY, MEANS DIALOGUE, THAT PRODUCES A RICHER DIALOGUE.  WE ASK OUR SPEAKERS TO BE CONCISE AND TO THE POINT, AND WE ASK EACH OF YOU TO BE ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN THIS DAY-LONG FORUM OF EXCHANGES.

FOR THOSE OF YOU NEW TO THE COLLOQUIUM, PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS PROGRAM IS AN OFF-SHOOT OF THE ANNUAL GLOBAL SUMMIT OF WOMEN.  NOW IN ITS 18TH YEAR, THE SUMMIT, WHICH HAS BEEN INFORMALLY CALLED THE ‘DAVOS FOR WOMEN’, BRINGS TOGETHER WOMEN LEADERS FROM BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT FOR THREE DAYS OF EXCHANGES ON BEST PRACTICES IN POLICIES AND PROGRAMS THAT ADVANCE WOMEN’S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES GLOBALLY.  LAST YEAR’S SUMMIT IN BERLIN BROUGHT 1000 WOMEN LEADERS FROM 95 COUNTRIES.  WE ROTATE BY CONTINENT, AND IT’S ASIA’S TURN, SO THIS YEAR’S HOST IS VIETNAM, THE NEW ASIAN ECONOMIC TIGER, AND THE SUMMIT TAKES PLACE FROM JUNE 5-7TH IN HANOI.  I INVITE YOU ALL TO COME AND PARTICIPATE, AS WELL AS ENCOURAGE YOU TO BRING GROUPS OF UP-AND-COMING WOMEN FROM YOUR RESPECTIVE COMPANIES.  WE WILL SHARE SOME OF OUR CONCLUSIONS FROM THIS COLLOQUIUM AT VARIOUS SESSIONS OF THE SUMMIT.

WE COME TO THIS FORUM WITH ISSUES RAISED BY THOSE OF YOU WHO PARTICIPATED LAST YEAR.  SOME OF YOU SAID – CONTINUE TO GIVE US INSIGHT TO WOMEN WORKERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES AND MORE IMPORTANT, SHARE WHAT INITIATIVES MIGHT WORK IN DIFFERENT REGIONS OF THE WORLD.  SOME OF YOU ASKED FOR MORE INSIGHT INTO THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MARKET OUTREACH AND DIVERSITY OUTREACH.  THERE ARE THOSE OF YOU WHO ASKED ABOUT THE CHARACTER AND NEEDS OF THE NEW GENERATION OF WORKERS, AT A TIME WHEN BOOMER RETIREMENTS WILL CREATE A DEARTH OF TALENT AND EXPERIENCE.  WE HAVE INVITED EXPERTS TO SHARE THEIR IDEAS WITH YOU, BUT PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE SOME OF YOUR OWN, AS THE GOAL OF THIS FORUM IS TO HEAR FROM EACH OTHER. 

PART OF THE REASON FOR THIS INVITATION LIES IN THE CONTINUING REALITY THAT NO ONE HAS THE MAGIC ANSWER TO ENSURING GENDER EQUITY NOT ONLY HERE IN THE U.S. LET ALONE GLOBALLY.    THE WALL STREET JOURNAL JUST LAST WEEK HAD AN ARTICLE WHOSE HEADLINE READ:  “ON DIVERSITY, AMERICA ISN’T PUTTING ITS MONEY WHERE ITS MOUTH IS.”  THIS MAY BE A SHOCKING ASSESSMENT ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE RESOURCES, THE RANGE OF INITIATIVES, LET ALONE THE SHEER EFFORT THAT SO MANY OF YOUR COMPANIES HAVE PROVIDED  TO CREATE A DIVERSE WORKFORCE.  BUT THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’S HEADLINE WAS BASED ON THE FOLLOWING:

·                             40 YEARS AFTER JOB DISCRIMINATION WAS OUTLAWED IN THE U.S., WOMEN STILL EARN ONLY 77 CENTS TO EVERY DOLLAR THAT A MAN EARNS;

·                             EVEN YOUNG WOMEN WITH MORE EDUCATION THAN MEN THEIR AGE EARNED LOWER WAGES.

·                             WHITE MEN STILL HAVE THE MOST POWER IN BUSINESS.  WHILE WOMEN MAKE UP HALF OF ALL MANAGERS AND PROFESSIONALS, ONLY 15.4%  HOLD CORPORATE OFFICER POSTS IN THE FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES, DOWN FROM 16.4%.  IN FACT, 74 COMPANIES IN THIS LISTING HAD NO FEMALE CORPORATE OFFICERS AT ALL.  MANY LARGE COMPANIES FAMILIAR TO MANY CONSUMERS – WAL-MART, GE – HAD FEWER THAN 25% WOMEN IN C-LEVEL POSITIONS.

·                             ONLY FIVE COMPANIES – REYNOLDS AMERICAN, OFFICE DEPOT, NORTHEAST UTILITIES, EDISON INTERNATIONAL, RELIANCE STEEL & ALUMINUN AND THRIVENT FINANCIAL FOR LUTHERANS – HAVE WOMEN HOLDING MORE THAN 40% OF THEIR CORPORATE OFFICER POSITIONS.

BECAUSE THE NUMBERS CONTINUE TO STAGNATE, WHENEVER A FEMALE SENIOR OFFICER LEAVES A COMPANY, THE GAINS ARE ERASED AND THE STEREOTYPE CONTINUES THAT THEY ARE NOT CAPABLE OF HOLDING LEADERSHIP ROLES.

            WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO CHANGE THESE NUMBERS IN THE U.S., LET ALONE GLOBALLY.  WELL, ALL OF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE ANSWERS –

·                             COMMITMENT OF CEOS WHO UNDERSTAND THE CONNECTION BETWEEN DIVERSITY AND THE BOTTOM LINE;  WHO KNOW THAT IMPROVED COMPETITIVENESS COMES FROM HAVING A BROAD BASE OF TALENT, NEW IDEAS FROM A DIVERSE WORKFORCE THAT ENABLES ANY COMPANY TO REACH DIVERSE CUSTOMERS IN EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD;

·                             THE NEED FOR CEOS TO MEASURE ACHIEVEMENT OF DIVERSITY GOALS BY TYING COMPENSATION TO REACHING THOSE GOALS;

·                             THE NEED TO DEVELOP ALL EMPLOYEES TO REACH THEIR UTMOST POTENTIAL AND TO ENGAGE EVERYONE FROM THE TOP/DOWN TO ENSURE THAT A COMPANY IS INCLUSIVE OF ALL TYPES OF EMPLOYEES.

ALL OF YOU IN THIS ROOM CAN UTTER THESE GOALS IN YOUR SLEEP.  THE CHALLENGE IS ENGAGING EVERYONE ELSE IN THIS EFFORT, AND WE HOPE THAT TODAY WE CAN PROVIDE SOME IDEAS THAT CAN HELP YOU ADDRESS THIS CHALLENGE.

 

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