Reflections on the Women’s Forum in Deauville – building the future with women’s vision
No, not Marilyn Monroe, though she is also one of our icons. We now have a new icon: Marilyn Waring – Professor of Public Policy at AUT University who was one of the members on the first day panel ‘Women’s vision for 360° growth’. To Marilyn economics is a constructed ideology with an obsession on GDP. She states that economics is a social science that should put very different parameters to value creation and value destruction. She emphasised the importance of our planetary boundaries and value created by women. Her realistic approach that we don’t need to do away with GDP completely should also ensure for traditional business leaders to take her very seriously.
Marilyn found herself in very good company. In fact, many of the speakers, and the attendees according to the sms-trail showing on the screen that surrounded the panels were very connected on the vision that we need a green, sustainable, collaborative future.
Another very inspiring lady was Juliet Schor – Professor of Sociology at Boston College (watch Juliet on Plenitude), anunorthodox economist (her own description) who shared her vision of ‘the new wealth’. She believes very strongly that we need to revalue time, true materialism, ‘do-it-yourself’ and social connections. She was quite convinced that people really want to work less in order to connect more. She was also very passionate about the fact that we need this to get to a different kind of world to sustain our planet. Apparently those countries that work the most hours are also responsible for the largest carbon emissions. She addressed the need for us to decarbonise our economy. Her answer to the question why her views are not turning into reality, especially as they make so much sense, was: ‘Poverty of imagination’.
The speakers were not just academics. There was so much imagination present with many women entrepreneurs sharing their wonderful stories. From Kresse Wesling who has been passionate about waste from a very young age and is now a business leader in using waste to create fashion (handbags made from the hose waste of the London Fire Brigade was the first) and Lauren Thomas, founder of Mozambikes to Isabelle Schlumberger (JCDecaux) and Helen Goulden (Nesta) who talked about collaborative consumption.
The Forum was not just about economy. The Women’s Forum addressed growth truly from a 360° perspective by going beyond the economics discourse through focusing on women rights/issues overall, from our position in companies and the media to the perception on male and female leadership and, last, but certainly not least, on human rights.
In fact, the opening panel on the first day was amazing and a real scene setter for the rest of the Forum. Shirin Ebadi – human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate – impressed with her integrity and profoundness. She brought us the real life example of where we all can put words into action by supporting 14year-old Pakistani girl Malala, an education rights campaigner, who was shot by a Taliban gunman last week.
The Taliban said the shootingwas in retaliation for Malala’s work in promoting girl’s education and children’s rights. Shirin Ebadi was very clear about the key to liberation: education. Leymah Gbowee – executive director Women Peace and Security Network Africa and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate – shined through with ‘realness’. She made me laugh because of her energy combined with pragmatism. ‘Women’s rights struggle is borderless’, she says and we need to connect the masses with the top leaders; top down and bottom up needs connection.’
Dominated by women (and rightly so), there was one man who stuck out for me: Sanjit Bunker Roy – Founder and Director Barefoot College with his amazing story of educating African grandmothers to become solar engineers. His Barefoot College takes education across borders with devotion to solidarity and community. To me it is extraordinary that he does not qualify for World Bank grants, as he does not meet their criteria. Yet the results he is achieving tell it all. There is probably quite a bit of truth to the saying he quoted ‘Never let school interfere with your education.’
The Forum was held in Deauville (FR), a town characterised throughout history as a venue for exchange, sharing, and the profusion of creativity of eclectic worlds. It was where Coco Chanel conceived her business. The Forum was filled with energy and pretty colourful: the speakers, panellists, organisers and attendees a collection of very impressive and inspiring women (and yes, some men). It was the first time I attended this forum, which I understand, has been called the ‘Women’s Davos’. I hope it won’t be my last – thank you wonderful ladies!
Watch inspiring videos from the Women’s Forum here.