In addition to the Global Ambassadors Program in London, a dozen distinguished speakers participated in “Women, Progress and the Global Economy.” In this public forum hosted by Vital Voices and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, they shared their perspectives on how women are playing a key role in business and society in the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, and around the world.
They discussed how women leaders can make an impact in their communities and beyond. Participants included Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent, CNN; Atifete Jahjaga, President of Kosovo; Baroness Mary Goudie, Senior Member of the House of Lords; Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Co-Founder, Seneca Women; Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman, Bank of America and more.
Watch a replay of the public forum “Women, Progress and the Global Economy” below.
Women, Progress and the Global Economy
February 26, 2016
• Christiane Amanpour
• Anne Finucane
• Melanne Verveer
• Atifete Jahjaga
• Mary Goudie
• Alyse Nelson
• Elizabeth Dibble
• Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami
• Ahu Serter
• Liz Dibble
• Alyse Nelson
• Shelley Brindle
• Shani Aloni
• Andrew Plepler
• Anne Finucane
Unidentified Participants: Good afternoon, everybody, and a very warm and thank you very much today for joining us for Women Progress in the Global Economy. This is a theme that really could not be more timely.
And all this week, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Vital Voices have had the enormous pleasure of hosting dynamic women from the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe – women who are bringing new vitality to their economies, to their communities by launching and running businesses and social enterprises.
Each of our guests has been paired with a mentor from our Global Ambassadors Program. And I can tell you that many of these conversations have been extremely lively and stimulating. And I hope also that a lot has been learned from the two-day event.
After this week of intensive one-on-ones, I think it's good to pull back of it to adjust and broaden our perspective and to look at things from a wider point of view. And to that end, we've got the huge pleasure of being able to introduce a dozen distinguished leaders and innovators to give us their take on how women are driving economic and social progress, both region-wide and across the world.
And I don’t think there's any doubt at all that women's full economic participation is the key to stability and prosperity in the decades that lie ahead. And particularly given all of the geopolitical risks and challenges that we face around the world, and this is something and a topic that is recognized from the World Economic Forum right through to the United Nations.
The conversations that you're about to hear, I hope will be very inspiring, provocative, and insightful. And I think that we will all leave thrilled by the possibilities for change and progress. And importantly, you will also have the opportunity to ask questions of our panelists immediately after the program.
As I said, we're delighted that we can bring together this forum to you as part of our comprehensive program for advancing women's economic empowerment. And we have a long and proud heritage in the cause of supporting women in banking, and we’ve developed a number of internal programs and external partnerships to help connect women for the human, social and financial capital needed to succeed.
The first spot on today's program is taken by one of the world's most recognizable voices, that is the voice of CNN's Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour; herself, a renowned advocate for human rights and justice.
Christiane will be joined in conversation by Anne Finucane, who is Vice Chairman at Bank of America and who oversees our strategic positioning for the Company amongst many other things, including public policy, our environment, social and governance efforts, and also, she is the person who has made this program possible. Expect to hear a lively conversation and debate.
And before that, we're just going to play a short video. Thank you very much.
Anne Finucane: Hello, everyone. I'm Anne Finucane and I'm joined here obviously by Christiane Amanpour and it's – thank you so much for being here.
Christiane Amanpour: My great pleasure. I've always supported Vital Voices, as Melanne knows. Sometimes, I've been dragged on to the stage in Washington. It's been an absolute pleasure, great to see how it's grown so much and so effective.
Anne Finucane: Yes, well, thank you for being here. We want to be mindful of your time. So, let's get right to it. We have in the last few days and for the rest of the week, we have women from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. Mentors and mentees talking about how to improve their business, their NGO, and on more personal levels, too.
What unites these women is that they are from – many of them war torn areas, humanitarian issues, physical concerns. But what also unites them is courage and tenacity and great talent.
So Christiane, everyone is always interested to know a personal story. You're a daughter of both Tehran and the West. Could you just talk a little bit about how that may have been formed who you are today?
Christiane Amanpour: Well, just a little bit because it's really relevant given your audience and the demographics and the important power centers of the world right now. You know, growing up as a kid in Iran to an Iranian father and a British mother, I wasn’t aware of anything to do with politics or society or women's rights, men's rights, or anything like that.
It never entered my consciousness, but I was shown by example, through my mother's example and my father's example, that there was nothing a woman couldn’t do. I was never told growing up that because I was a girl child my lot in life would be less than if I was a boy child.
And remember, my mom told me, she had four girls. You can imagine, she was obviously trying to have a boy for my Dad, but anyway, it didn’t work. And my Dad now is incredibly grateful at 101 years old that we're all here to look after him.
But my mom told me (inaudible) that her friends, her female friends in Tehran who had girls, would literally be weeping in the hospital in the maternity ward, because they had disappointed and failed their husbands, and society and this, that and the other. But for me, it was incredibly empowering.
So just the fact that when I left Iran, I went to the US for university and then I entered my – the job. I never ever came to it with even a shred of doubt that because I was a girl or a woman, I couldn’t achieve. So that puts some people's noses out of joint because I was very ambitious, I was very determined to work hard and move up the ladder. But it was also incredibly liberating.
And when I look around, not just Iran, but North Africa, the Middle East, when I see all these incredible legions of women who are really making a difference – I mean Iran today, 51% of university graduates are women and they are part of the workforce, and the workforce and the economy would be a lot poorer if the women weren't part of it.
In all the Arab Spring revolutions, women were at the forefront of the revolutions. And so, they were wholly accepted parts of social change. And even in war zones, as you see these terrible stories in the plight of all the refugees who are coming out, women are the ones who are able to coral their families, take care, bring them out and try to settle them.
And I remember one of my formative experiences, obviously, was covering the war in Bosnia. And I remember, because women were also targets in Sarajevo, and we didn’t have electricity and there wasn’t running water. But the moment there was a little bit of something human and humane, the women would rush to take advantage of it whether it was a store that was open and they could buy something for their kid, whether it was the hairdressers that got a minimal amount of electricity so they could run their generator, so they could wash the woman's hair and dye the woman's hair.
It was resistance; it wasn’t vanity, it was dignity and resistance. And that I think is something that women bring to the table or, particularly in conflict and in terrible situations. I remember after the Iranian revolution when so many of our friends and people of my type, I don’t even know what to call it, had to leave. It was the women who kept their families together because the guys by enlarge were gobsmacked. You know, they'd lost their jobs, they had lost their dignities, they'd lost their dignities, they had lost their lost their raison d'être. And it was the women who kept the families together and pushed us, the second generation, forward.
Anne Finucane: You know, McKenzie did a study a few years ago and it was focused on women in the Middle East, it probably is more universal. And it is for every dollar a woman earns, 60% plus goes back to the family; and it's not just their children and husband, it's their mother, sister, brothers, and only 38% of the male's dollar, and of course it raises the question, where does the rest of the money go for them but –
Christiane Amanpour: No, true.
Anne Finucane: But, I mean, you use your platform to advance, of course, the stories of the world, but certainly women. Can you talk a little bit about that? Do you feel an obligation to do that? Do you do that consciously?
Christiane Amanpour: I do it sort of consciously and unconsciously. I feel it's sort of an osmosis that it sort of happened since – you know, I've been doing this now for 35 years. I've been at CNN nearly 35 years, 25 of those in the field.
When you're young and inexperienced, you're concentrating on doing the best, on being the best, on going up the career ladder, and then when you get there, you figure out, well, now, what can I do with it?
And I'm absolutely committed to equality and to justice. And if there's no equality between men and women in the world, there is no justice and there is no progress. And you mentioned these statistics; the UN has done the same, UNDP for several years did reports about why the Middle East is less developed than it should be, given its rich human potential, given its massive natural resources. Why is it not as developed as other countries which may have less resources? And the overriding reason is because half the population is not allowed to engage.
When the women aren't engaged, the entire society doesn't thrive. And I remember one of the most incredible pieces I remember watching on 60 Minutes, was about Muhammad Yunus. They did the first Western report on Muhammad Yunus. And I remember him saying, we gave this woman, I don’t know, $0.05 and she bought a goat, and the goat fed the whole community, basically. Or we gave this woman $0.02 and she was able to use a telephone. And that sort of was her business and she could rent it out.
So women actually, given a little bit, and as we all know, women are great bets, because they pay back in full. And you just saw these statistics about if women are equally engaged in the workforce, GDP goes up. It's not charity work to bring women into equality. It is a vital necessity for our humanity and for the success of our civilization, of our world. I mean, even the United States would raise its GDP by 5% if women were equally engaged as men in the workforce.
I have interviewed Christine Lagarde several times; I love her. I think I got the first American interview when she first became Managing Director of the IMF. I was at ABC in 2011 and I was so thrilled that she's, by consensus, got in her second term and she's done a brilliant job.
I asked her, what is it like being a woman head of the IMF? Or, what is it like when you get around a negotiating table? She said, well, we really negotiate when we're around a table. We don’t look at a negotiation as a zero-sum game that if I win you have to lose. So we're much more, sort of, consensual in terms of our negotiating and problem solving rather than seeking a personal victory and a personal win.
So I said, well, you know, so how is that and why do you think? She says, libido. I said, what? She said, you know, testosterone. But I mean, libido – basically she's saying that there's just a little too much on one side and it results in this zero-sum game negotiation. And you can – I mean, the President of Kosovo is here today. I'm very proud of this woman who is the President of Kosovo. I covered that war and I covered the whole of the Balkans, but women around a peace table makes a huge difference as well. Not just in Kosovo, but also friends as Leymah Gbowee in Africa.
Leymah Gbowee, basically organized, I mean, for want of a better organizing principle, a sex strike. To get the guys to get serious about making peace; and that brought peace and eventually democracy to Liberia. And there are all sorts of not just anecdotes, but real, game changing ways having women in equal measure, in equal level evolve.
Anne Finucane: So, what do you think about this sort of 30% club?
Christiane Amanpour: I love it. Well, my friend here, Brenda Trenowden, who's the head of the 30% Club here in England and a fellow mother at Tunbridge School where our sons are together and in the same class is doing something really great.
I mean, look, you're a business woman; if you have more women around the Board table – it's like in every other endeavor; it makes a difference. And I think somebody told me, or maybe it was Christine Lagarde that – I'm going to get this wrong, but wasn’t it hedge funds or something – aren’t the ones run by women get – doesn't it get a better return?
Mary Goudie: Yes.
Christiane Amanpour: Yes, thank you Mary, absolutely.
Anne Finucane: And also, I might add that, I mean, coincidence, I think not, that we now have many more women in both the board room and in senior management in financial services as banking and, well, there are a lot incidences of problems, aren't there?
Christiane Amanpour: Well, you know, yeah.
Anne Finucane: I mean, truly – because you have the discussion.
Christiane Amanpour: You have the discussion, I mean, look; one of the things I think we've sort of – we're either slow on or we failed on, or we need to more work on is the following; somehow we have lost the meaning or somehow the idea of feminism has been turned into a dirty word. And if we can't figure out how to define feminism in its actual meaning and make that a positive word, then we kind of need to do a lot more work to get us over the hump.
Feminism simply means equality. That's all it means; men and women equally represented in whatever sphere of endeavor it is. And unfortunately, too many people think it means female domination and male emasculation. And that's a real killer for those of us who are trying to have an equally represented world. Because that is what feminism actually means. I mean, that's how the feminist movement have taken it and that's what it means.
And I think it's really sad to see younger women, and perhaps feel that the battle has been won and that they don’t need to be as politically and socially and culturally engaged in this struggle for equality. And maybe look at us, even me, I mean, I don’t consider myself old. I think I'm like normal age. But I feel that –
Anne Finucane: I call it a good age; it's a good age –
Christiane Amanpour: It's good. But I mean, it's like – no, it's not over, it's getting better, but it's not over. And if we got 30% maybe in boards and they're not yet executive positions, that's the next struggle. It's still not quite enough, it's moving the ball forward.
I think Prime Minister Cameron, I think President Obama have been brave and had done something meaningful when they say, there should be transparency in what women – or how women are compensated in companies and all of the rest of it. I think women should be proud of earning a lot of money. And I'm just going to say this; whenever anybody writes an article about me, they always say, the highest paid foreign correspondent in the world. Well, first of all they don’t know, so fine. But secondly –
Anne Finucane: I can only hope.
Christiane Amanpour: Yeah, but here's the thing, I used to get embarrassed about it. I used to go, no, please, everybody's going to get so jealous of me and I'm just here. And now I'm just thrilled. Yes, I am, even if I'm not. I am the highest foreign correspondent, highest paid, because that's so important, because money talks and the rest walks.
We really need to lobby hard for equal compensation. I just – now my mantra is equal pay for equal play. It is an abomination and a violation of our human rights to be paid less for the same job. Or actually, less for even a bigger job. And I think that once we get up there, that things will shake out a lot better.
Anne Finucane: I want to see if I can connect a few dots here. You have been critical of the West not stepping in soon enough on Syria. And I had the pleasure of attending a seminar session you gave in Davos, where you spoke with three clerics, religious leaders from Iran, Iraq and then the Archbishop of Canterbury, and I was very struck, I don’t know if you were, perhaps you expected this, that they spoke about that regardless of their quest for peace and justice, the reality is they had a discontented particularly young male population that were dedicated to terrorism because it's the only outlet they have.
What did you make of that and what role could women have played there? I mean, it seems like such a lost opportunity that the women were nowhere in that conversation other than your questions.
Christiane Amanpour: Well, I was actually quite surprised by the way they were so open about the failings inside Islam, because you don’t actually hear that much on stage. I was actually very surprised and pleased by that; I thought that was a step forward in the public debate.
The real problem is that, for whatever reason, a lot of young Islamic men are feeling unrepresented, uncatered for, disenfranchised, whether it's in Paris, whether it's in the UK, whether it's in Syria, or wherever it might be. And clerics of an older generation who have assimilated in the West and who feel French even if they've come from Algeria or whatever it is, they are trying always to – well, at least that is what they tell us, to try to explain to people that, yes, you're a Muslim but you're also French, and the State has done this, that and the other for you.
And they are being told to shut up and you don’t understand the younger generation. We are angry and we are –
Anne Finucane: Shut up by the younger men.
Christiane Amanpour: Yes, and we're angry and we need to do something. And the real problem is that this imbalance has happened whereby the Salafist, what I call Salafist Wahhabist wing of Islam, of Sunni Islam, has taken over and is dominating the general conversation about Islam right now.
ISIS, which proclaims it’s Caliphate and all the rest of it and does the most heinous things, as we've seen, claims that it is pure Islam and this is the way the prophet said it had to be. Well that's because they are – it's my way or the highway, whereas, I'm the only one who knows the truth and I'm the only one who can tell you the truth. And that comes from the very, very hard line old wing of Islam that emanated mostly in Saudi Arabia. And that is the dominant voice right now.
That's the real problem, a real problem, and so when they come out and they do whatever they are doing, because they're sort of a cult, they have been able to attract these affected people from all over the world.
Anne Finucane: What would you have hoped the West would have done sooner?
Christiane Amanpour: Well, my considered view, and it's not just my view, it's the view of many prominent national security experts, military experts; President Obama missed an opportunity with the red-line in Syria in 2013.
When President Obama declared that there was a red-line if the Syrian government used chemical weapons, i.e., weapons of mass destruction on their own people, there would be consequences. And sadly, he stepped back from that. And when many people –
Anne Finucane: They crossed it, he didn’t do anything. Is that your –
Christiane Amanpour: Right, yeah. That's exactly right. And it's one thing for that to be part of your domestic politics, but it's another thing when you haven't been able to judge the consequences of that decision on the region and on the rest of the world, like the Russians, like whoever else.
They look at you and they say, or they look at the United States and they say, well, we made this ultimatum and we failed to step up to the plate. When it was –
Anne Finucane: But don’t you think he might have had a point in time where diplomatic engagement was working, or seemed to be working, at that moment now?
Christiane Amanpour: No, there wasn’t. I mean, it was a complete disaster in Syria. There was no diplomatic engagement at all. But that's one thing. The concurrent thing with that is that because there has been no consequential attempt either diplomatically, militarily, or whichever way to stop that war when it could have been stopped; ISIS is a result of the chaos in Syria and in Iraq. I mean we could go on for –
Anne Finucane: So, I want to stop you –
Christiane Amanpour: So, that is why ISIS is up and that's why they are enslaving women, they're cutting the throats of journalists and others, they're calling a Caliphate. But the vacuum that happened in Syria and in Iraq is what allowed this terrorist group to create a Caliphate. It owns territory. It has territory. No other terrorist group in the history of our modern experience has owned territory. Al Qaeda didn’t.
Anne Finucane: But just to put it in the context of this evening, or this day – so, women have been further set back here?
Christiane Amanpour: Very much so, very much so. Can you imagine the women in Raqqa? I mean, I've interviewed many of these people; the survivors, those who managed to escape, whether they were Yazidi women from Iraq, whether they were other Muslim women who have been kidnapped. I haven’t actually talked to any Western women who have gone over there. But they are enslaved.
Anne Finucane: What do we do, though? What do we do for – just not on the larger geopolitical, but for women; is there a role that – is there a way for the women to re-emerge in any way that could help here? It's not possible?
Christiane Amanpour: No, no, it's only possible if the war ends. It's only possible if the war ends because, I mean, look, the President of Kosovo knows very well that when you have these situations where you have this ethnic and tribal fight that's allowed to get out of control; whether it's in Kosovo, whether it's in Bosnia, wherever it might be. There is no hope until the war ends, otherwise you have a massive exodus – well, you have bodies stacking up. You have terrorism exported. You have an influx of refugees and you have destabilization of all the countries around.
Everybody is hurt by that, and most particularly the most vulnerable. So, who are they? The women and the children. Who's getting trafficked right now? Women and young girls. This is a huge black market side effect of the refugee crisis.
Anne Finucane: But if you could change the world, what would be the first thing you would do in this situation for women?
Christiane Amanpour: In the world or with Syria?
Anne Finucane: If you could change anything in the world for women in Syria, what would you do?
Christiane Amanpour: Stop the war. Yeah, but now we're on the hands of Russia. Russia can dictate when we stop the war. So, I think we have to think about stuff like that because it's all about leadership, which brings us back to women. So what if there had been more women around the table? I don’t know, Anne, I really don’t know, but I will say one thing; that as Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton had a view that was shared by the top national security apparatus of the Obama Administration. So that would be David Petraeus, it would be Leon Panetta, it would be the others who are in her – the Chairman and Joint Chiefs, etcetera.
And that's what we should do whatever we can do to help end this war, even if it means supporting the moderate opposition and other things that were more proactive than what was going on. And I think most analysts right now, if you talk to David Kilcullen who is a Lieutenant Colonel in Iraq and an aide of General Peraeus, if you talk to even the former Defense Secretary William Cohen, if you'd read what the former French Minister Laurent Fabius has said as he's been exiting; this has been a terrible dithering and a terrible collective failure of the West.
And it has not just been about Syria, it has been about everything including London, including Paris, including San Bernardino. It doesn't stop in Syria. And this has really changed our lives and it's not, I'm not talking about just Syria, but the concurrent lack of hope amongst a huge group of people in the United States and in Europe, for instance, is having a tectonic effect on politics.
Look at your presidential campaign, look at the campaigns here, in Europe, look at the rise of the extreme left, look at the rise of the extreme right, look at the insurgencies and the anti-establishmentarians. And it's because a giant vacuum that has been created by a lack of global leadership of these particular issues. And a feeling that people have been hardened by the middle class. We – all politicians pay such homage to the middle class, and they're getting shafted left, right and center.
Anne Finucane: Really, you should speak your mind. You should not hold back.
Christiane Amanpour: Sorry, Anne.
Anne Finucane: Wait. I'll lose you and we won't have gotten to – could you tell us, and I'm sure you have a thousand of them, one story you are – you made your bones as a war correspondent. I'd love to hear how you had the ability to make that all happen, but one story about a woman that you would have met along the way in any of your war torn areas that inspired you or could inspire us for a moment.
Christiane Amanpour: Well, there were many of these kinds of stories that I came across in Sarajevo. Sarajevo, this wonderful European city that happened to be mostly Muslim, but was mixed; beautiful European built, little mosques with minarets but a very, very western oriented city.
People who would – sheltered the Jews during when they fled from the Spanish inquisition, where the Haggadah is in the National Museum there in Sarajevo. And at the time the ordinary men, women and children were under the most uncivilized and inhumane bombardment, where all our western leaders refused to intervene, just like Syria.
This is why I'm so strong about Syria, by the way, because I've been there. It's called Bosnia. I am of the Bosnia generation, and Bosnia was smaller, less catastrophic, just because it was smaller. But the last huge influx of refugees into Europe was Bosnia. The large huge numbers of mass murders of civilian was in Bosnia. The last genocide in Europe was in Bosnia, and I reported that, and that was my formative, formative moment.
But what always stays with me is the humanity of the people there who refused to be destroyed by this, and the people – I saw it for men and women, but since you want a story about women, these women who were not spared because they were women, who was sniped and shelled along with their children at bread lines and at water lines and etcetera.
And one woman I went to visit one of my first weeks in Sarajevo, and she had been sitting in her apartment, which was sort of, in the line of fire from the frontline. And one night, a heavy round of artillery was fired through her house and it pierced her husband's chest. And I remember she told me that; it went right through his chest and killed him right there sitting in his armchair.
And I interviewed her periodically throughout the five years of the war, for five years of the war and afterwards. And she had a little boy. And I never saw hate for one single moment in that woman's eyes. And I never saw her teach her kid that those dirty Serbs killed your dad and we've got to go to war again. Never. And I genuinely believe that in my experience in all the wars and disasters that I've covered, it is usually the mothers who teach their children not to hate.
It is still so painful, and I'm sorry, but every time I get asked this question, it's still so painful because it is so important that that's what women can do. And I see it in Afghanistan and I see it in all these places where there had been these incredible catastrophes or wars or whatever it is. And it's generally the women who have to keep the home together, have to keep the kids together and understand, because they give birth, that they have to keep the generations alive. And you can only be alive if you refuse to hate.
You can only keep going and keep reproducing if you refuse to hate. And I do believe that that is what I learned in the field and that's why I get so worried about what's going to happen in Syria. Because we have now created another – what are they going to think of us when the war is over? What are they going to think of us who didn’t do anything when the war is over? And that is going to come back to haunt us for generations and that’s what worries me. That's why we need more women around the peace table, around the negotiating table, and in the highest halls of power. And that's what this should all be about.
Women need to be in the pipeline, to be Presidents, and to be Prime Ministers and to be Defense Ministers and Foreign Ministers and Bank Chairmens and Head Masters, and Head Mistresses of schools, and University Presidents. Because that is the only thing I can think of that would change the current dynamic. It's the only thing that hasn’t been tried. It's the only thing that hasn’t been tried. Let's try equality and justice.
Anne Finucane: Christiane, thank you for your – first of all, congratulations in all your success and it is so incredible that, in spite of it or because of it, you have such great conviction and a remembrance for all of us and the dignity of women. Thank you.
Christiane Amanpour: Thank you, Anne. Thank you all. Good luck.
Melanne Verveer: That was an incredible conversation. I'm sure we all agree with that. I'm Melanne Verveer, and I am really, really happy to be here today. I want to start by saluting Bank of America Merrill Lynch, because I think in many ways what the Company is doing, is leading the way by example for what so many others need to do; bringing together the private sector, in this case, with an NGO, Vital Voices, and they do other kinds of work in this space as well.
But proving that it is a good business investment and it is a tremendous investment for social progress to invest in women. So, thank you and thank you to Vital Voices and for all of you who have come up to me already, reminding me of when we met years ago through the Vital Voices network, it is just extraordinary to see you here. You're on the frontlines of change and that's what this is all about; women on the frontlines of change in economies in creating sustainable peace, and doing so much to drive social progress.
Thank you; your example is extraordinarily meaningful.
And speaking of women on the frontlines of change, we have two extraordinary women with us here. Atifete Jahjaga, the President of Kosovo; an extraordinary challenging job, she's done an amazing job over the last five years. And I'm sure has an extraordinary perspective as well that will enlighten us and give us more guidance as to how we should all work together to go forward.
And next to her is another remarkable woman, a member of the British House of Lords, politician, Mary Goudie, who has not only worked in the UK, but worked globally to advance these issues, and many of you know her from that work.
Let me start picking up where the last conversation ended. A very emotional in some ways, but very rational at the same time, conversation about how critical women are to stable societies, to ushering in sustainable peace, to growing their economies. And nowhere is this more true and more critically important than in post-conflict societies.
Madame President, you come out of a long time conflict in Kosovo. Christiane talked about Bosnia, the consequences of that. The remnants are still there and you have worked as hard as you can. And I know this from personal experience watching you first hand, to really make everyone around you understand how vital women are to the future of Kosovo. Why?
Atifete Jahjaga: Melanne, thank you so much, and I really want to thank you for the invitation to be here this afternoon with you to be amongst so much of the powerful women in this audience and so much of the men that are supporting the women. Because without you, our mission would be a little bit harder to achieve what we want.
Indeed, Melanne, it's true that there is no stable society without the full inclusion of the women within the society. Because the women are not the agents of change; they are also the agents of the economic growth. They are the agents of peace, agents of the stability, and agents of the development. Each and every one of us from our positions, which are being bound by our constitution and by our laws, we are having to build a sustainable society to promote peace and stability, but we will not do that without the full inclusion of the women in every cell of our society.
And as Christiane has mentioned and as you just mentioned, Melanne, and for the sake of the audience; Kosovo has just came out of a terrible war 16 years ago where over tens of thousands of people has been killed and massacred. Over 20,000 women has been raped as a tool of war during the war time. And still, 16 years after the end of the war, we still have about 1,700 people starting from a private home, and six years old baby up to 80 years old men, which are missing in different massive graves in the territory of Serbia.
And so, we set in the moment for ourselves and we look at that and said, like, how we have come up to that situation and by whom that has been caused? The women has been a crucial, or they have played a crucial role throughout every stage of my country has gone through. First with the resistant, the peaceful resistant, that was having 20 years before the war, before the conflict had started in Kosovo.
Then they had to play a crucial role during the war time because we have seen in Kosovo, we have seen in Bosnia, and we are seeing now in Syria that the women and children are the biggest victims of the war, and most of the time, their bodies become a battlefield of nasty and terrible wars that are taking place around.
And then we suddenly, after the wars and after the conflicts, we kind of like have a tendency to forget the role of the women they play. But this is what we need to put a stop; we need to put a hold on this and we have to raise ourselves and say, like, no, the women has to be an equal members on building the peace around the countries because there is no lasting peace in any country if the women are not a part on the peace process in the round table.
And we have seen that from the case of Kosovo. Before including the women around table, we didn’t move forward. Like Christiane has mentioned before, that women are the ones that are more keen of not forgiving, but for keen of a moving forward because you cannot – there is no force in this world that will make you forget what has happened with the rape, with the genocide, with the ethnic cleansing. But it's that drive that you think about the children, you think about the future generation, that you flip the page and you want to move on.
Melanne Verveer: We all know this is so true, and yet it is so difficult because it's difficult the women around the table. I remember one night in Afghanistan, I've often talked about this, a woman said to me, one of the activists, she said, stop looking at us as victims; and you've had so many women who have been victimized, and then she went on to add, you need to see us for the leaders that we are.
How have you worked to bring some of the women in Kosovo – you're obviously an example and a role model. How hard has it been to get them accepted?
Atifete Jahjaga: It has been hard and it is even harder now, Melanne. For 16 years in the role, the 20,000 women, which has been direct victims of the sexual violence during the war time as a tool for – in our country. They have been continuously stigmatized by their family and by their own society. It was a taboo theme that could not be – or it was not dare even – nobody to speak publicly or individually about that topic.
And three years ago after a very nasty debate out of one of my proposal to put forward a law in the parliament of Kosovo to recognize the legal status as a civilian victims of the war for the women in Kosovo. After a very nasty debate that I heard in the parliament of my country, I said, like, this is over and this is going to get ended in my country. And I will not allow that under my leadership, under my presidency, and so that's why within those three years I made one of my top priorities of my presidency regulating the status, the legal status of these women, for their re-integration and re-socialization of these women, but mostly the access to justice. Because these women, they don’t need the money, they don’t need jobs, they don’t need nothing; they just want whoever has done this to them to find the justice.
And this culture of impunity, it's still existing in Kosovo for about 16 years. In Bosnia, over 20 years, in Rwanda and in many other countries. And we have to put a question to ourselves. How long more we are going to tolerate this injustice and this culture of impunity, which is existing in our society? So, that's why I was personally a part of many of the campaigns that has been done in the country.
I have met with every single woman in our country which was a victim of the sexual violence. And true, the lady from Afghanistan, she was right, because we should not treat them anymore as victims. We should make them survivors. And it's up to us; it's what we are doing, how we are going to make them from the task of citizens of our country to turn, then, to be active participants in our society. To turn from the victims towards survivors and so they can be contributors to the further development of our country.
Melanne Verveer: So, Mary, I remember so well one of the women in the DRC, another conflict area said, we want to go from the situation that the President just described in Kosovo, we want to go from our pain to power. Now, she didn’t mean power the way all of us may think of ultimate power. She meant a market, a job, an ability to have normalcy again, to have control over her life.
You've been so active in the economic space, and we know that women's economic participation is absolutely central. On a macro level, we've got so much data today, and a lot of the data has been flashing up on the screen. We have the Secretary General of the UN saying, women's economic participation is a game changer. We've got major, major companies as well as multilateral organizations saying this is the difference it would make, yet it is so hard.
What will it take in 2016 to really move this agenda in a way where we can move from the statistics to the concretization of these experiences in ways that women will make the progress?
Atifete Jahjaga: Well, there's three or four ways, but it must happen now. Just one thing to say, that 2016, 2017 we are sort of on our way because thanks to the United States, thanks to Great Britain and now thanks to Japan, the whole question of women's empowerment; we have managed to put pressure on our governments, respectively, to say this has got to be on the global agenda. Nobody would believe five years ago that financial inclusion for every woman could be available.
Not exclusion, but inclusion; and we worked to get that on the G-20 Agenda. That is 20 countries; the global leaders coming together to agree that that should happen. That's not enough. We get these things there, but all of the people in this room and around us have to work with their members of Parliament, with their members of Senate, with their local councilors and themselves, insisting that these regulations are put into place.
One of the other key things that holds women back is education. Education around the world is still holding women back. Even in this country, even in America, even in France and Germany. Because educatorss still believe that not every door is open to women and will not teach them that every door is open to you. Because they still put women into the silos of, yes, get to university, but then you won't work.
Because, as you know, in some countries culturally, in Germany, mother-in-laws thinks it's terrible that their daughter-in-laws work. And in Japan they used to think that. But the GDP of Japan is so bad now; the Prime Minister of Japan is becoming one of the world leaders for women's empowerment because he knows he has to get women back to work. He pleads with Melanne to come to Japan. He pleads with other friends of mine here; come to our conferences because their men now are desperate to get women back to work.
The educators from primary and nursery school have to understand that every door and mothers and fathers have to understand that every door is open to every child at whatever background they come from, that they can make it through. And it's not just fight, they can get there. And we have to encourage at every level. And that's why we have to keep an eye on school governors. If there's an appointment vacant, you should apply for it. Just do it for one term, when I say one term, five years.
So then, not just one school term, that's too easy. Then you can make the change and ensure that children are being taught that every door is open to them, not just to other people, and fight for them.
Melanne Verveer: We have a significant number of entrepreneurs in the room, and I know it's really difficult in post-conflict societies, but essential to move women into the economy, as Mary described, on a larger level. What is the most urgent need in a society like Kosovo, which has desperate economic needs, what do women most need to become entrepreneurs? What kind of obstacles do they confront?
Atifete Jahjaga: Melanne, I always say that the investment in a woman is not only an investment on the individual, because you invest on individual, you invest in the child, you invest in the society, and you invest in the future of the country. It is a smart investment, which automatically translate into the welfare of that individual, of the family, of the society in the entire country.
There is a lot of difficulties at the moment which relates not only to Kosovo, but some of them has been also mentioned by Mary, which are systematic and also they are structural problems that many countries are trying to address from one perspective to the other's perspective. Especially this last decade, private sector, but also the public sector has taken so many of the measures in order to prevent some of the obstacles, which are not allowing the women to be fully economically empowered.
Melanne Verveer: So what are some of those?
Atifete Jahjaga: And the deep problem is that they are using and putting so much of the loss of the procedures in place. But at the same time, they're not paying so much intention into the implementation; how are those are implemented in the ground? For example, there are three main problems in Kosovo; one of them is the access to the finance. Second one is, yes, access to the finance, access to the loans, in the bank loans, where the interest rate goes up to 13% in our country for opening one small business.
So which of them would be able to afford that kind of the interest in the country so there is no positive discrimination in the relation to the women? This is another initiative that I have sought at about a year ago, and we are about to get a very suitable solution within many of the banking system in our country. Second is the access to the property. Where in our country there is a huge discrepancy between the law, which forces the same rights for the men and the women, and between the implementation of the law, which we started a few years ago, eight years ago, when it didn’t launch the law with 1%, and today we are 3%. So, my God, how we are going to move on?
And so, I have been personally involved for two years with a huge support by the US Embassy, by the German Embassy, and by the British Embassy in Kosovo doing the campaign in Kosovo, encouraging the women about using their legal right as regard of the property rights. Because that is the basic in order to start up the business within our country.
And the third is what Mary has mentioned, about the low percentage of the labor force within the women in the labor market. And this is all related to the education, because the latest survey that has been done in our country that shows the highest percentage of the women which are more educated and more specialized; they are more keen to getting a better job. And so, we have a lot of reforms to do in our educational system in order to make the women more competitive and more eligible for the labor market in our country.
Melanne Verveer: We can take the Kosovo experience and extend it broadly, because I'm sure these are the same experiences in many of your countries. You've heard the conversation with Christiane and Anne focused on, in some ways, on boards of directors. Mary, like other colleagues of hers in this room, has been very active in the UK's 30% Club, which is really driving progress for women on boards of directors and even higher on the executive committees of boards.
And somehow, it seems so far remote from talking about the problems on the ground to talking about running companies, but it's all tied together.
Mary, explain to us why this effort, the effort you're making here, the effort that's being made around the world is so important to bring women into those positions of decision making in companies. And then with you, Madame President, I want to move to politics, but this clock keeps going very fast. So please –
Mary Goudie: Some of the audience heard this quick answer earlier today, so I'll change it slightly, but the reason that myself and other colleagues here founded the 30% Club, is that we know and also we don’t believe in quotas. I'd like to make that very clear to this room because there are some who believe we have quotas. That's just fine for the time being, but nothing changes.
You have to have the position where at least 30%, well, coming up 50% of women are on all boards. But it’s not just on the top, it's in the executive suite, it's in the pipeline coming through. And that is why it is important that by starting this campaign, it's not an NGO, as I've said before, and it's not a company. And it's not making any money; we all pay for it ourselves to keep the campaign going. It is a campaign and we hope to be out of work quite soon. But we know that where we have women in the board room, women at middle management, women throughout, you get better decision making, you get people to ask questions, you get rational decisions and people will be prepared to listen to each other and weigh up what is right and what is wrong.
We will also make a big change to those who work in the workforce as a whole. Because people who think – I want to get on a board, but they forget the responsibilities to the workforce, their salaries, their pensions, their children.
Also, we have to think about where work is put out of the United Kingdom, put out of Kosovo, put out to other places in the world. You think of Asia; if we don’t have legislation in place around human trafficking, on bonded labor for global countries, as we now have in the United Kingdom and in other countries. We can ensure, and with women on boards, and in women in middle management, we won't have people dying on the fish boats because they can never get off, because they are taken in slavery and never leave.
We will not footballs being made in holes in the basement, and we will not have clothes being made in Bangladesh by women paid GBP1 an hour and also are beaten up by the men who run those places. So, it is important – that is why coming back to women on boards, it also will change the education of a country. It will change the GDP of the country, and it's a win-win situation.
And furthermore, women do makeup 50% of the population. But we are getting change thanks to Prime Minister Cameron and Prime Minister Brown before that who setup the Davis Inquiry, which has now become at the Hampton Inquiry from the last few weeks. Again, a person in place for five years only; so in public appointments in this country, it's five years then you move on to something else if you're lucky.
Melanne Verveer: We can tie what happens to women on the ground in a post-conflict society all the way up to equality in board rooms because it all fits together with a purpose to really drive the kind of change we all want to see.
One of the areas in which women have made the least progress is in political participation. And you can look at every data point, and it shows that while we're closing the gap dramatically in education or in health, making not as much progress, but considerable progress in economic participation, and that needs to grow for all the reasons we know. Politics is still the toughest. And yet, half the population of the world is impacted by the decisions that the other half of the population is making; the perspectives of women, their talents, their experiences aren't focused on the area of public policy and what those decisions represent.
You, Madame President, obviously, are in one of the highest offices a woman can aspire to. There are more women in the presidencies, even in Eastern Europe today than there were, but you're still are very, very small club. What is it going to take and how hard is it?
Atifete Jahjaga: Well, Melanne, I will not hide it; it has been very hard and it will continue to be a same harder as it used to be for this five years even in my last month in the office. And it has not been different; they choose to be over for decades, over three decades, over two decades, over a decade and even in the last this half of the decade that I was a part of that.
But the big question mark is that how long, or how much more, we have and how much more efforts has to be paid by the women around the world? We are still speaking about the numbers that we can count in our fingers. We are 10 women, if I'm not wrong, the heads of states. And there are 11 heads of the governments in the entire world.
There is still a tendency of using the term that I hate to hear that all the time, that the women in the highest position in the country is considered as exceptional or is being considered as a special case. Now we need to put a stop on that. It is not exceptional, it's not a special case; we are there because of the values that we possess and we are representing the half of the society as the rest or the other part of the world is expressing.
In our country, 51% of the population are the women. And I believe it varies from 48% up to 50% also in the other countries. And we have to do everything possible in our power in order to introduce that policy in place, that there is no difference for the men or the women. Until the time that the future generation will not speak anymore about the gender equality, but it will be a fair and open competitive process for men and the women in our society.
Five years ago, Melanne, when I was elected, my mother was one of the very first people that called me to congratulate me. And she said, congratulations, my daughter, and please don’t forget me. I said, like, Mom, I will never forget you because you are my Mom. And she said, I did not say as a mother, I said as a woman because I will not forgive you, your daughter will not forgive you, the future generation will not forgive you. Because sometimes we have a tendency, like it or not, that we are sometimes the biggest enemy of ourselves. And we should not be; we should mobilize ourselves.
Being a small country like it is in Kosovo, or being in the biggest country, like in the US or in the United Kingdom, we need to support our women, because, maybe today, I'm going through some things. Tomorrow, you will be the one that has to go through the same things. And in our country, no matter that the roles and responsibilities for me has been exactly the same. Like for every other man that has served in my office before me, it will be after my mandate. But what was different is that I had to show 300% more, or 3,000% more, in order to be accepted to 1% or up to 5%.
And it was more of the news; what kind of the hairstyle I'm having or what kind of the shoes, or the bag, than what I'm kind of the strategies and the policies we are putting in place. So that has to stop and we are the one that has to do that. And we have to take it and keep it closer and hold it strong, each other, in order to be successful because we cannot move on.
In our country we have introduced quota. A 30% quota for the public services and in the politics and that is existing already in our laws and in our constitution since 2008. Last year I had a very nasty debate between myself and high officials of the European Union, because they came with an idea of removing quota. Just to define that, that is against the human rights.
Well, how much of the human rights would be after a year time, we decrease up to maybe 5% or lesser than that? Because that's a percentage which we came there, we can debate for days and days about how proper is the quota, but it's the only way that we move from the quantity towards the quality. And as my dear friends of all of you here says that women's rights are the human rights once and forever. It's the only quota that is engraved in my office in the golden letters. And it's something that we have always to insist on.
Melanne Verveer: One of the things we will not debate is that you have done a great job as president; it will be a sad day when you leave next month, or the month after from this office. But you have many years to continue to make considerable contributions, and we have no doubt that you will.
And I think in politics, as many of you know from your countries, when women can come across the aisle, even as they do in the United States in our Congress, we don’t have anywhere near the numbers of women we need in Congress. They work across party lines and put so many issues on the agenda that would never get there, which I think is the point you were making.
Mary, thank you for your leadership. President Jahjaga, thank you for your leadership. Time is up, unfortunately. This conversation will have to go on at the end of the day and well beyond. But thank you so much for all you both do.
Unidentified Participant: Well, thank you. So great to see so many friends and family, frankly, out there. I see them all waving to the panel. This is true solidarity in the room and these are very hard seats to fill, so to speak, but I was so taken by the conversations already.
Anne gave us powerful statistics on the business case for why women in the economy. I think the – Christiane Amanpour said it so well when she said this is something we haven't tried yet, right, women in leadership. We haven't tried that as a solution. And then the President spoke so eloquently about, you know, why women's economic participation is such a difference.
The panel with here today I think you would all agree with that, their bios are in your program but we're going to talk a little bit today about women's entrepreneurship as a key driver in global progress. And so, Amel, I'll start with you.
Former President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Tunisia. What role of women entrepreneurs are playing in Tunisia?
Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami: Thank you first of all for the invitation and I'm very happy to be here in London and thanks for Vital Voices and Bank of America for hosting us today.
Just to let you know is that the Tunisian woman is having a very distinguished and very privilege status not only in Tunisia but I think in all the region. It is very highly educated women that did enjoy different rights, rights of education, rights to vote and for equal pay, equal – for equal job, equal pay and this is right that we are very proud of it and I'm not sure if some other countries in the world are having this right.
Unfortunately, when the revolution did take place, it took place in 2011; there was a kind of threat to certain rights that the Tunisian women were facing. And when I'm talking about women in general because women entrepreneur are first of all women, so our role actually, we mixed a little bit our economic role to the political ones.
And first of all, we acted revolution despite the instability of the environment, we did continue to invest. We did not escape the country. We continue to invest. Some multinationals, unfortunately, did suspend their investments but we were there as women entrepreneurs.
Actually, the local private sector did continue to invest in this country because we love the country. We believe in the future of our country. So we wanted to be there. We initiated different kinds of projects. We tried to be open minded and we built channels with the university, with students, with the youth because we're facing a bigger problem of unemployment.
So when we built this channels with students because we wanted the students would rely and youth – students in particular and youth in general that they would rely on themselves to initiate the proper projects. They do not have to rely on the government, you know, on others to initiate their projects.
I think this is a very important. We also tried to empower the role of women because in Tunisia and I'm sure it's the case in other parts of the world; the women in rural areas are the one who are working. Usually men are sitting in the cafes and women are the ones who are working the whole day and –
Unidentified Participants: We see that consistently around the world by the way so.
Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami: Yes. Unfortunately, yes, but I think we need to change it but we'll keep on working to change it. So we try to empower those rural women by offering them certain programs who -- because they need this. They need some training.
But besides this as I said in the beginning, our role was political but also we try to be – because our role also in – at the economic level because it was also important. So what we did is that we made sure that many women entrepreneurs be present in the parliament because it's important to be present in the parliament so that they can impact the regulations and this is something very important if you want to work on a more enabling environment.
Unidentified Participants: Well, Ahu, you were telling us a little bit about what you’ve been doing. As you know from the program, Ahu, is President of a very important company in Turkey and sort of in her spare time, she's created a platform for investing women entrepreneurs in Turkey and has really created something very, very new and original. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Ahu Serter: Sure. My journey starter – I always think about using your business as a source of activism. So I started thinking about it when I was younger and when you are young, it's really tough to figure out a lot of things.
I'm the oldest of my family and we are two girls and then I have some cousins. And when I graduated from university, I wanted to make it in the States; I wanted to show myself that I can do it without my father and the family business.
So I went to the states and then I did my MBA and became involved in the finance and so had fun and stuff. And then my father was telling me, if you're not coming back to Turkey, you know, I'm going to have to sell the business.
So at that time, the business was really very small and it was not answering to my dreams so I didn’t want to return. But I realized, you know, as this – with that bluff and everything, I said, you know, why don’t I go back and then try to make changes first starting with my company.
So that, you know, you can dream from top down but you have to start building the company from bottom up. So that’s when I went back and Christiane said, we have to speak with numbers so I'm going to give you some numbers.
When I went back in 2002, we were a company of eight million euros, total turnover and today, we are in the first – Fortune 500 of Turkey and we have more than EUR200 million of turnover; 2000 workers, half of them are women and we have more than half women in management level and the board level.
So this is –of course, that’s my duty and I'm going to do it and then as I started growing companies and people were hearing in the industrial zone. So troubled companies started coming to me and, you know, they needed – I tried to give them advice and with advice alone, you cannot really – I realized that you cannot really save them.
So I started investing in them. It almost kind of proved to me that you can start by changing the lives of the people around you and then you can graduate to the other levels. And my board, my uncle and my father, they said, you are too entrepreneurial, it's too big, stop, and then that is how I started investing on my own.
And then they became good track records for me, good successes and then as you work in stuff, you have limited resources and limited stamina as you get older. You want to put your resources onto something that people really use it and appreciate it and worth of the opportunity.
And then I found women in my 40s. It's really an opportunity. It's worth investing in because you're appreciated, you get your return and it's an excellent opportunity for investment and that's how I found Arya Women Investment Platform.
I have three daughters. Arya is the latest one. She's four and Arya is from Game of Thrones, strong girls. And my other one is Lara after Lara Croft. So it is – for me, it is my way of helping women and creating powerful women in the world and that's how Arya came about, father of daughters and women like us, we invest in these women.
We also need to teach women to become – how to become investors not only entrepreneurs. That’s another issuer that we're working on. And in one year, we invested more than $500,000. So we work as a venture capital for – it's not a social enterprise or anything.
We invest, we want our return, we want to make our investors also rich hopefully and my goal in 10 years is to make Arya as a well-performing venture fund actors in the Middle East – Turkey and the Middle East.
Unidentified Participants: So every little way – everything you said is basically the principles of our book. You actually exemplify everything in our book. It's amazing to hear using your powerful purpose, investing in women, making the case through analytics, you know, using your passion but seeing women as a good investment.
Ahu Serter: I mean, you have to put your money where your mouth is so that’s what I did.
Unidentified Participants: I wanted to just bring it back something the President said about really supporting other women because I – you know, I've really been shocked in the past few months on number of occasions about sort of the old boys club that even though I know a lot of people think it doesn’t exist anymore, there's so many places where I see even them.
Those are my fellow graduates from 25 years ago in college helping each other all along the way and they take pride of that. They love it, right? They love to do business together.
But, you know, we have this issue I think with women where we generally haven't been very comfortable doing business together and I think you're breaking that mode right there by investing women on businesses, supporting each other and that’s huge.
I wanted to just bring it to Liz because, Liz, you’ve travelled the world in your role at the State Department and you’ve really seen economies changed and maybe strategies changed and I wondered – I think Ambassador Verveer said it very well before but I wondered if you’ve seen local leaders changing their approach to thinking about women not as victims as Melanne said but as agents of change, as agents of economic growth. Have you seen any change or we're still on the same boat?
Liz Dibble: No. I think we have seen tremendous change. I was talking with Amel earlier. I was the commercial attache in Tunisia, US commercial Attache in Tunisia 25 years ago and there were very few women entrepreneurs.
There were also very few women commercial attaches. The attaches used to get together once a month and have lunch and sort of compare notes and I was the only female.
So things have changed. I think that’s important to recognize. There's still a huge way to go and, you know, these two colleagues here who are real entrepreneurs are making a difference on the ground.
But I think it is important to recognize that change has occurred. It's incremental but you have to keep shipping away at it. Something you said, Ahu, about education is really important.
In order to change the statistics, you need to change the attitudes and that takes a while. It starts with education. It starts with networking and, you know, that's an overused word but I think we all recognized the power of having somebody to turn to, having someone in to bounce ideas off of.
Learning from other people's not just successes but failures and I think they're – the things like the 30% Club here group of women – groups of woman entrepreneurs that have been formed around the world really give people a chance to learn. But with that also comes responsibility and it's a responsibility to reach out and help others.
You’ve been successful and you are doing just that by reaching out and helping others do the same. So, yes, I'm encouraged by progress.
Unidentified Participants: But I think, you know, the global investors program not to be too shameless because actually I'm not with Bank of America or Vital Voices but Vital Voices and Bank of America have done an amazing thing.
I mean, when I saw – when we got on stage I saw a lot of the ambassadors, the mentors and mentees cheer each other on coming on the stage and I, you know, I think the programs which in 11 countries. Alyse Nelson, the CEO, will talk about it more but, you know, it's an amazing program because of these exact relationships that really –
Liz Dibble: That’s what they accomplished in four days. Imagine what we can do in four years.
Unidentified Participants: Exactly. So giving it back to you, Ahu, I mean, you are and I agree, networking is an overused term but I think it is an overused term because it's such an essentially concept and, you know, I did allude to the sort of all boys network.
But, you know, and people talk about the new girls' network, there's a lot of different euphemisms. But really how important has networking doing for you? I mean, you come from family business but yet, you know, you’ve reached out and created a whole new network among your peers. Does it help doing your business as well?
Ahu Serter: Tremendously. You already answered that question for me. Actually, education is – networking is a source of education and observation and, you know, fulfilling your curiosity and every person you approach for networking, it doesn’t have to be like in order to be a successful networker, I don’t really feel like I need to be talking to everybody like I haven't talked – spoken to Anne today.
But I have taken my, you know, notes about here that I want them to exist in me or Christiane or all the successful ladies that are in the program. I think for me it's kind of an observation source and the more you network, the more you're open. You know, you'll learn and then as you learn this journey of discovering keeps getting better and better.
Because when you're a young girl and then you have a family business, you think you just need to run it and that how you're going to be make it nice for your workers or anything, you know. And then you see all these wonderful people around you and what they're doing and then you come up with the ideas of doing things.
Some people just, you know, I don’t understand people who leave the family business, you know, say, I'm going to go and start everything a charity. Why don’t you use that power and then learn from other people, put them together, you know, realized your power and use it to make a change?
So that’s why networking was – and I learned it from my American peers I have to say and because it's so systematic and then it becomes natural later on. So I really like it and I like to discover about as many people as I can.
Unidentified Participants: And there's something, about, you know, getting energy from each other because, you know, it's not that easy.
Ahu Serter: Yes.
Unidentified Participants: I don’t want to sit up here and pretend that, you know, women entrepreneurship is an easy topic and we'll talk about the challenges in a minute. But I think when you find your people and I think we can probably in this room say we found our people, you get the energy that you need to keep going because there a lot of challenges.
Ahu Serter: Yes.
Unidentified Participant: And I actually wanted to mention that there's a lot of people who are – this has been live stream so a lot of people wanted to be here who couldn’t. We had server limited demand. But if you look at #womenlead you can include them in the conversation and I think it's important because we want to get the word out.
I mean, I think a lot of us in this room are believers but we need to sort of make the case and bring others into the conversation. So I guess we should turn to challenge as well because there are a lot of challenges that woman entrepreneurs face and in a country like Tunisia, I think it's important to hear from your perspective what you think the most pressing challenges are and then where do you think we could make some change.
Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami: For us in Tunisia maybe the access to finance and access to market is the main challenges that woman in entrepreneurs in general are facing and women in general face. But I'm taking this opportunity and I would like maybe to address some messages that -- to the fact that maybe now the most important challenge that we are facing is unemployment in Tunisia.
And now, we are having a very high percentage of unemployment. We consider it high because we never had this number before. It's 18% and unfortunately, as all of you are aware, Tunisia was able to overcome the political transition. However, we need to overcome this economic transition.
And unfortunately what's happening, we had some – we want to throw some insecurity, you know, faces, some terrorist attacks, and this is – I mean, these things happen in all over the world. Tunisia was not the only country that went through this and unfortunately, this had very bad effect on tourism and other sectors of the economy.
And I know that as a private sector, as a woman entrepreneur, we have our homework to do. We rely on ourselves, you know, to solve this problem of unemployment. But since I'm here in London and I'm having in front of me, I mean, representatives of the international community, I think it's important that the international community best support the transition in Tunisia because the failure of the economic transition in Tunisia will affect the transition in all the region. This is very important.
Saying that here just –maybe the final comment that I would like to share with you, for me, it's very important too and this what we are – have been lobbying. We're lobbying on having women in – having – I mean, being in the different decision, the key – decision key positions in different parts of, you know, in the companies or politics or whatever.
However, what surprised me is that usually when you have women appointed as ministers usually women are having minister in charge of women affairs or cultural affairs and we never see women taking care of people – ministers like minister of finance or taking care of central banks. I hope that we'll come one day and we can change this kind of stereotype idea on the fact that women can be in other key decision position.
Unidentified Participants: Liz, I've been – you’ve again been all over the world, have you seen some solutions that are working or are there programs that you prefer or are there things that you’ve seen that you could share with others?
Liz Dibble: Yes. I think the important thing is that it needs to be holistic approach and I would agree with what Amel has said, first of all, about Tunisia. I have a soft spot for Tunisia but has been--
Unidentified Participants: You were stationed there.
Liz Dibble: I was stationed there, yes. What you’ve said about education and networking, there – everyone has a role to play. Governments have a role to play in cutting down in red tape, in promoting transparency, promoting the rule of law, commercial law and as well as other kinds of law.
Changing – as I said before changing mindsets and attitudes, that’s the education systems, there are programs that help with things like access to credit as you mentioned, Amel, is a real challenge and I know from the United States, we have programs through the agency for international development and the overseas private investment corporation that help provide that programs to just give people a little leg up to get their foot in the door and then once they get their foot in the door as you mentioned, watch out, there they come.
Unidentified Participants: So, yes, so access to credit, access to markets, access to networks, and access to training are generally four things that are – have been studied and really are what could really accelerate or fast forward in our parlance women's economic participation.
I know Bank of America has a program with Tory Burch in the US Elizabeth Street Capital. I mean, in the US for example, women entrepreneurs are growing up 1.5 times the national average. Women entrepreneurs are steadily growing every country around the world but we don’t yet seem to have the rails to help them really succeed.
And so I think you're exactly right, access to capital has been one of the biggest impediments and so again we're half of what Ahu is doing. Do you find that you're doing public-private partnerships or is it all private sector?
Ahu Serter: We do have partnerships but they're not investing. If you take investment from a public, you know, arm, it – you kind of – in my opinion, you lose the agility of growing a company. You have to answer too many questions while you are, you know, involved in your business and I – and entrepreneur should be free and very fast throughout the business.
But I do think that all these funds like Tory Burch and stuff, I think it's the positioning of the funds and the levels are important. When I founded Arya and looking at the women that are helping me in the investment committee, they're all coming from big private banks and, you know, they're dedicating their time to Arya.
So we said, okay, we're going to specialize in the second stage entrepreneurs which is $250,000 to 2.5. So that’s – they already passed the dead zone and then – because most of the businesses are dead in the first stage. And we have more expertise to give to them in the second stage because we have dealt with bigger companies, that’s one, and secondly, these women have more chance of survival and if they can make a $2 million company, for example, or $10 million company, the impact you're creating for women is more and given the limit of resources and time.
So that’s why we – so there needs to be different positioning of the capital not just micro, you know, not just loans but different things. So I'm hoping with what we are doing, we can – venture funds started asking us whether they could co-invest with us which is a very good thing.
Unidentified Participants: Yes. That’s a good sign
Ahu Serter: Yes. All my male friends are investing in technology and stuff. They started, this is a really good idea, and then, we want to do this thing, if you have something, can you pitch it to us so we can co-invest. So this was one of my – and it actually is happening much faster than I think.
Unidentified Participants: There's a critical mass I think that you started develop and once you get past that, it starts to snowball of it.
Ahu Serter: Yes. You need to get certain people in the wagon and then, yes, it's going faster.
Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami: I mean, obviously, in 25 minutes, we can't really address all the different areas of entrepreneurship and I think there are lot of people in this room who are in finance. So to hear you talk about the different levels of capital and sort of getting women access to those levels are super important.
I also think – I was just thinking about another project that Vital Voices is involved in which is encouraging to buy women owned. So this whole idea that we can each make a difference from wherever we sit is a really important concept because we can – I think someone said earlier, we can't wait for just the top – I think it was you – a top-down approach. It has to be a bottom-up approach as well.
And so all of us I think could make a difference if we really go out and try to use our purchasing power to really buy women owned and to support women owned. This seems like small thing but it's actually a powerful thing when women control 80% of purchasing power.
So there is something that we can all do but obviously to know that you from your positions are really trying to make a difference from – again from AMCHAM, you know, from the State Department and then from the private sector and investing is really important.
I think we're running out of time. So I think we have one more panel, Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices and some of the global ambassadors will be up her and then we'll have a nice reception afterwards. Thank you very much.
Alyse Nelson: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you all for being here. I'm Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices and thrilled to be a partner with Bank of America who thinks so much like we do that certainly mentorship is critical in the path to leadership.
And I think one of the things that you saw up there which I really believe in is that often mentorship is talked about as if it's soft. It's a nice thing to do. But actually it's smart, it's a strategy and as you saw and I think it bears repeating, 77% of those who have been part of this program over the last four years have gone on and really grown their businesses.
Actually, 23% of them grew their businesses by more than 200% as a result of the program and remember, this is only within a few years and what we also know is that those that are mentored are more likely to go on and mentor others.
So to get into this discussion here, we have both mentor-mentee and, of course, one of our great partners at Bank of America. So first, Shani Aloni. She is Executive Director of the Haifa Rape Crisis Center in Israel and she's joined us this week as one of our mentees.
And Shelley Brindle who is Executive Vice President of the Home Box Office, HBO, I have never even heard Home Box Office, I was thinking if it's HBO.
Shelley Brindle: You're dating yourself really.
Alyse Nelson: And finally, Andrew Plepler who is Environment, Social, and Governance Executive at Bank of America. You know, I think one of the things that’s particularly exciting right now about global mentoring is that there is a generation of women who have achieved I think more than they ever thought possible in their careers, in their personal lives and they're looking around the world and thinking, I want to give back but I only just want to give back in my own backyard.
I don’t just want to write a check. I want to reach out around the world and give my skills, share my power, which women tend to do once they gained power they want to share it, and really open up my network for others. So Shelley, how have you seen that to be true with you and being part of this program? How do you think the value of mentoring plays in to the successful path of a woman leader and if you have had a mentor who, you know, shaped your path, we'd love to hear about that.
Shelley Brindle: Well, there's several – there's so many ways I can answer that question as Liz knows last year, I announced that I was going to be leaving HBO next month and it really came from having been there for 25 years and achieved more than anything I ever thought I would have, I think, you know, call it my midlife crisis but it's like how can I leverage my experience and figure out how I can pay it forward in some meaningful way but not knowing exactly what that was going to look like but knowing I needed to really step back to be able to figure it out.
And as luck would have it, Alyse comes to pay me a visit in my office after I participated in Vital Voices program last year saying, I think you'd be great for the global ambassador program not really knowing what to expect or what to do. And then when I learned that I'm here with Shani, I have to say not only humbled but a little embarrassed because I spent a 25-year career selling our way to television and here's someone that’s great in her career based upon really, you know, creating something incredibly meaningful in her community and the country.
So I have to say I approached this week with like, my gosh, what on earth am I going to be able to do for her and I have to say this whole experience couldn’t have come at a better time for me because I realized that I – maybe some might disagree, I hope not, but that I really do have some really viable experience and lessons that I've learned through my career related to leadership and really I think mobilizing people to drive results and you could define those results obviously clearly based upon what you're currently doing.
And it's been this very much crystallization for me this week is this mentoring is exactly what I need to be doing right now and going forward and I think it's been an affirmation for me that I'm taking the right path and whatever I do next, this kind of teaching, advocating, well, this is absolutely going to be a critical part of that going forward. Thanks very much to this week.
Alyse Nelson: I'm so glad. Shani, so I wanted to ask you, I mean, your work is so vitally important and I know to take a week away from this work is a lot, it's a sacrifice. And I just want to -- why did you come on program, what were you expecting but also what are some of the lessons you're taking away and how do you think you'll pay forward some of those lessons to those that you're working with?
Shani Aloni: I've been working in NGOs all my life, all my adult life. My masters is in non-profit management so that's all that -- that’s everything that I know, that’s everything that I've always done.
And at least in Israel, NGOs and businesses meet usually for two reasons. It's because the NGO is coming to ask for money or, you know, working on a mutual project and then it's usually one giving service to the other. This is very little – there are very little opportunities for learning and knowledge exchanging.
And just – I have to get -- I was thinking on a small story that I wanted to share just to give an idea of how big the gap is. When I started working in my organization, it was three years ago, I did start it, it's been on for a long time and I started working three years ago and on the first year, I heard my staff saying the same sentence.
They said, you are very much a director. You're more of a manager than what were used to. And I couldn’t figure out what was it that they meant. So I think it was after about a year that I was really frustrated with hearing this sentence and I asked one of the staff members, I said, please, once and for all, can you please explain to me what do you mean when you say I'm a director more than what you're used to.
And she said, don’t get me wrong, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that the way you talk about goals and objectives and annual planning, we're not used to that around here. And that is I think to say a lot about the mentality in the NGOs. Some things that businesses find very natural or not very common in the NGO world.
So I just saw this week as an opportunity to take whatever I could – whatever I could from the, you know, corporate mentality language and practices and see how it can apply to NGOs. And Shelley was saying she wasn’t sure if her knowledge could – her experience could be valuable, I think after a week, we can both say for sure how valuable it was and –
Shelley Brindle: Usually valuable.
Shani Aloni: Yes. And I think it's – it was so obvious how much I can use of the experience that Shelley has to corporate world.
Alyse Nelson: And, you know, I think mentoring as I was saying before, it really – it's not just, you know, the sharing of knowledge, it's the sharing of networks, right, and opening up sort of that as we often call it borrowed social capital that you gained from a mentorship.
Building upon that, sort of typing about sort of that, you know, traditional public/private partnership or corporate NGO partnerships, typically, you know, in the past have been about check writing. Obviously, this partnership between Vital Voices and Bank of America is not about that at all.
It's very much about, you know, your strength, our strength. How do you see that to be valuable? Do you think that is the way with the future in terms of where we're going? In terms of investing? And then why women? Why does Bank of America feel strongly about investing in women and how have you incorporated this into your DNA? You know, not just sort of that little side initiative on women but as we know, things will only be successful and sustainable if they're part of the corporate DNA.
Andrew Plepler: Sure. Well, first thanks for having me representing the male gender. We've not – we've not fared well today. So I'm trying to restore our dignity.
So you touched on quite a few things there. First of all, Shani talks about this funder supplicant dynamic between corporates and NGOs and I think that has to end, I mean, that's been a real philosophy of Bank of America which is more around partnership. There are mutual learnings and if we're going to solve complicated problems in the society, this notion that you come to the company for a check and then you go off and do your work and there's no mutual learning, I think is a failed model.
So we very much looked at these relationships whether it's vital voices or whether it's or whether organizations like Shani's is in exchange of learning so that we can be more effective in deploying the resources that we have. The last panel talked about access to capital, we have innovative models where we can reach nonprofit organizations who may not yet ready for bank loans but there are vehicles to still get them financing to grow they businesses particular in that middle range that was discussed, that $250,000 to $2 million range of financing.
So we can be an innovator. We can use our relationships with other lenders to provide capital.
And then the last point I'll also talk about the supply chain. We spent $2 billion a year with diverse suppliers of Bank of America. That's an enormous economic development driver and how do you be most efficient and how you're deploying those resources to get to women-owned, the minority-owned businesses in the supply chain to be an economic driver.
So we really think of this as how do you harness all of the resources of the company and we think about it, it is no longer just writing a check but harnessing all of the capital and the resources that a company of our size and scale and be a partner and play a role in the society that can be constructive.
Alyse Nelson: Shelley, I would imagine, in your career, I think of your industry as pretty male dominated. And I just –
Shelley Brindle: Only at the top.
Alyse Nelson: So I would imagine to get to the top, there were people that helped you along the way and what I wonder is, you know, did you have mentors? You know, I think that one of the things that we've seen and certainly researched bears to be true is that women tend to be outside some traditional social networks and so they don’t always benefit.
But also, they tend to have less access to mentors and to sponsors with your company. So how is that -- how did that shape your trajectory?
Shelley Brindle: Quite a bit, actually. I was the first female in the executive floor at HBO and one of the things I tell women, it's – if you can get a P&L job, get a P&L job. Because one thing people can never argue about is the results.
And so having P&L responsibility, I think has always been just really great insulation, if you will, for any particular gender bias. But that being said, I had those mentors and sponsors and I think it's really important to notice to really – to note the difference and I'd say early on, I had mentors and mentors are ones as we try to do this week as far as impart their knowledge to kind of help you and that kind of stuff and then I was really fortunate enough to have sponsors and they are men and women and they are people that literally come down and pull you up in the organization.
And quite frankly, generally, it's because it's a selfish benefit and that's OK because they see something in you that actually is going to ultimately benefit them and they might pull you up and help you in your career and I'd had both and I think as I've been very reflective on my career, I think I'm really more grateful than I – I'm more aware of their impact and what they’ve done for me and it was people that, you know, could give you an honest feedback and, really, that people, quite frankly, included you in the meetings and in the conversation that made other people uncomfortable that you were there.
And I've had many people do that for me and for that, I absolutely had taken that lesson and have done the same for others in my organization.
Shelley Brindle: You know, I think there's so much – so many myths about mentoring. I think one of the things I've certainly learned through Vital Voices but also through my own personal experience is that a good mentor will celebrate your successes, hands down. A great mentor will help you learn from your mistakes and embrace them and not be afraid to take that next risk and be there with you when you fail and pick you back up and help you move to the next step.
But actually, one of my great mentors is here, Melanne Verveer, and, you know, I think the wonderful thing about mentoring is that I can never pay Melanne back. What does she need from me? But, you know, I have to pay it forward and I think that's the real power of it.
I wonder, you know, Shani when you go back to Israel, How will you pay it forward and how – I know one of the things that you talked about in this experience is that you’ve not only, you know, really gained knowledge but have really felt part of something larger which I think is really important because I would imagine in your work, you feel often, probably very isolated. It's a very difficult, trying to work to be on the front lines, dealing with crisis as that sort of first responder.
So, you know, how has this been helpful for you in terms of feeling like something larger and then how do you hope to, if you figured that out yet and take that back with you?
Shani Aloni: I have to say, when I was first introduced to Shelley last week, it was by e-mail and again, an e-mail saying Shani, your mentor is going to be Shelley Brindle, she's the Executive Vice President of HBO, you should write her in advance and, you know, contact her before you meet in London. I closed that e-mail and I had no idea how I was support to start a conversation with a vice president of HBO.
So Shelley wrote back first and she wrote something like well, it's a privilege or an honor to get to know you and work with you. I closed that e-mail, looked at my partner, and said this woman is crazy. Because this is HBO.
I think when working -- like he said, when you're working in nonprofit especially in such a difficult field as sexual violence, there's very little glamour. There's very little reward, you know. Most of the time we're just, you know, digging in mud, hoping that something we're doing is right and is making an impact. And I think if there's one thing that is just amazing, a great gift that I got from Vital Voices is that I learned to see my organization and myself as part of this global network of women changing the world. And it really is.
I mean, the world is changing and it's whether it's a women in Liberia that is recording personal stories of women who went through war or it's a women in India that's selling scarves made by women, you know, so they have income to feed their family, we're all part of – and these are real women that I met – we're all part of this network. We're all part of a group of women that are fighting together to change the world.
And here are these, you know, two organizations, Vital Voices and Bank of America and this woman who is sitting on the top of the corporate world and they all think that my leadership is important enough to take a week off their time to invest in my leadership and to invest in my organization so that's just an enormous acknowledgement of what it is that we do and I say we as in, you know, the women who are part of my organization, part of other organizations that I'm part of their network.
So I think if there's anything that I can do from this week to take back is this acknowledgement and we've -- I mean, having some conversation along this week about, you know, how much do you promote yourself and how much you promote -- what is it that you promote yourself through social media, you know, we've been having a lot of discussions about social media and one of the things that I've started doing was just to show this acknowledgement not, you know, show my work in London here and just to say and it's not only been, you know, just promoting Vital Voices or Bank of America but it's been showing the women –
Shani Aloni: Nothing wrong with that but it's showing women volunteers, staff members, colleagues in my organizations back at home, look, this is -- this is -- here are people, you know, in other countries that are showing the importance of what we're doing so I think just get -- taking the sense of pride with me back home would be something I can give my colleagues and friends.
Alyse Nelson: So, Andrew, I know – Andrew, I know in your work prior to coming to the bank and certainly at the bank, you’ve done a lot of these cross collaborations. How do you feel that sort of bringing those kind of unexpected partners together, always yields the greater result. How have you seen that to be true?
Andrew Plepler: Well, Shani just said, I mean, to breakdown those barriers and perceptions that people have in stereotypes of, you know, nonprofits are defined this way, big banks are defined this way, you know, successful executive in the corporate world is defined this way and, actually, spending a week together and understanding that we all have the same objectives, we all want to solve big difficult problems and we all bring something to that challenge and we bring different experiences and different skills and different resources.
But if we get together and understand that Bank of America, at the end of the day has the same goal as the Haifa Rape Crisis Center, we can begin to solve some of these problems but if we all sit in our offices, you know, and just think about our stereotype of, you know, what's been built over years, we'll be left where we are today which is with some very, very challenging situations around the globe.
So I'm optimistic when you hear a description like that of, you know, here's how the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can work together to solve big difficult problems and if we put our minds to it, that's exciting and encouraging.
Alyse Nelson: And what advice have you gotten from your mentors that you'd impart to people here that you feel is relevant?
Andrew Plepler: Well, Anne's been a great mentor and I don’t say that just because we just had a session that said suck up to your boss so that's – one of my great lessons in life has been to do a little bit of that along the way.
But, really, really innovate. Really feel free to fail and be empowered to fail is probably the best lesson that I've been given and if you're too scared to fail, you're not going to solve problems and if you can have bosses in life and seek out mentors in life that encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try new solutions and know that not all of them are going to work, that's probably the best advice I've gotten.
Alyse Nelson: Great. Shelley, what about you? Advice you’ve gotten from a great mentor?
Shelley Brindle: You know, I think, you know, I'm just very big on authenticity and define success and get them on your own terms and that's something that I've always tried to be really, really true to and I have to say there's been this inverse relationship between how much I cared about what everybody else thought and how successful I've been.
And I think if you can let go of the fear, it's amazing how successful you can be. And I think I learned that from mentors, not necessarily because they told me that but is by watching them.
Alyse Nelson: Actions. Yes. Yes. What great advice from Shelley or other mentors that you'd want to impart to people here?
Shani Aloni: I have – actually, okay, I got a lot of amazing advice from Shelley this week but I want to say something a little bit different. I want to talk to this crowd and say, I think, a lot of – and that is maybe something that I saw this week. A lot of times, I see women and men, you know, waiting for when they retire to volunteer or waiting for, you know, when – you know, or having this dream of one time I'm going to change my job and go work for an NGO and the internet is full of jokes about this kind of sentences and so I think my advice would be or my request would be, you know, whether you're specializing in marketing, whether you're specializing in IT, whether you're specializing in logistics or, you know, anything, you know, the NGO world can gain from your knowledge and from your experience.
So please don’t wait for when you retire. Please get involved now. I know it's hard. I know you must be a very busy people and, you know, I know there's so little time, you know, in this world. We have so little time but please know how valuable your knowledge and experience is for NGO. You wouldn't believe how much -- how much we can do with your knowledge as an experience. So get involved today. Don’t wait.
Alyse Nelson: Right.
Andrew Plepler: But the reverse is also – the flipside of that is also true which is, you know, we have a tremendous amount to learn. I think sometimes the nonprofit world assumes that all knowledge comes from the mountain top but much of the knowledge is from the field and we get better doing what we do the more we learn from your experiences.
Alyse Nelson: Thank you all. Thank you so much.
Anne Finucane: Hello, everybody. So first of all, thank you all. Thank you for those – all of you attending to the mentors and mentees that are in the global ambassadors program who have been here all week. We are so grateful for the participation of all those who came here on stage. President Jahjaga, she had to leave, so she gives her apologies. Baroness Mary Goudie, thank you very much. To Christiane Amanpour for her incredible, candid interview. Liz Dibble, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, and all the very impressive women and men that were -- that were up here to share their thinking and their candid conversation.
I wanted to – we heard so many inspiring and provocative thoughts but I wanted to – I wrote down the words as you said them. Success as well as failure, business sense but passion, brave statics and metrics but inclusion, education, opportunity, justice. These are not the usual remarks and words you here in a conference.
And we spoke about being the daughters of women and men and the mothers and the sister in the odds and the friends of a future generation of leaders, half who we hope to be women. So that's a very important piece.
So my thanks to the people that I work with at Bank of America for making this always a good event but I think particularly good here today. So, thank you very much.
And to Vital Voices, Alyse, thank you very much. She is well into a pregnancy that I'm sure this is hard to be here. So, thank you very much. And to Melanne Verveer who is always our great partner and Kim Azzarelli from Seneca partners.
So my last note is in addition to inviting you all to join us for drinks and conversation, just a few last words to energize us all and those are other words I heard today. Triumph, power, and dreams. Thank you.