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Issue 8, January 28 2011

Guest column by Jillian Segal AM: Report from Australian delegation to Global Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, Deauville, October 2010

Australia‟s approach to increasing the numbers of women on boards and in senior management has received improved global recognition as a result of our presence as an invited official delegation at the sixth Women‟s Forum for the Economy and Society in France in October 2010.

Although most European countries are heading in the direction of legislated quotas to kick-start the process of significantly increasing the number of women on boards, the Americans were particularly impressed by the ASX Corporate Governance Council approach of a business led model of voluntary but disclosed compliance.

Aude Zieseniss de Thuin, a Swiss sociologist and psychologist, founded the Women‟s Forum for the Economy and Society in 2003 after she was not invited to the Davos Forum that Year. On the philosophy of „if you can‟t join „em, beat them‟, de Thuin established a high-level women‟s forum that aimed to address key issues for women, and for the world, at its annual meeting in Deauville, France.

This year an Australian delegation of eight women attended, led by Jan Elsner and Barbara Heilemann from Positive Leadership, (who had attended previously) as well as Carol Schwartz, director of Stockland, Catherine McDowell, head of ANZ private banking, Amanda Mostyn from ASX, Jane Harvey NED from Melbourne, Christine Stasi from PWC and myself.

Other official delegations this year were from Scandinavia and South Africa. The forum was attended by 1300 delegates and attracted significant corporate sponsors, among them Sanofi-Aventis, Astrazeneca, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Boston Consulting, McKinsey and Ernst and Young. High level delegations attended from the US and all over Europe and several of them included CEOs. The very impressive French Minister, Christine Lagarde, who is Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment, gave a keynote address.

The program was broad, covering issues such as the environment, sustainability, better cities, health partnerships, sustainable food production as well as issues that focused more directly on women‟s empowerment in business, such as woman‟s approach to risk, the issue of women on family company boards etc. The full program can be found at:


One of the inspiring events was the Cartier Initiative which gave Awards to young female entrepreneurs and which showcased an exciting range of innovative projects. There was considerable participation by African women.

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