Are women naturally more risk averse than men? Is status or a sense of achievement the major motivation for women at work? Should companies introduce quotas for female board members? And what is the link between people’s body language and their position in the office pecking order?
These were some of the questions tackled at this year’s Women in European Business (WEB) conference in London this week. The event, now in its 13th year attracted some 1,800 people and has become a prominent fixture in the City’s business-speakers calendar. The WEB conferences, organised by Deutsche Bank and established in New York in 1995, have since been replicated across the globe with regular events now taking place in Frankfurt, Milan, Singapore and Sydney, as well as those in the City and Wall Street. They are open to employees, clients and other business professionals.
Opening Wednesday’s conference, Colin Grassie, CEO, Deutsche Bank UK and member of the Group Executive Committee, said that the events help to emphasise the Bank’s reputation as an employer committed to developing talented women. They also provide “a chance to stop the clock” and reflect on key business issues of the day, he said. “There is nothing else like this in London. We are enormously proud of this series of events - their potential is enormous. Every year the response we get inspires us and encourages us to do more.”
Introducing the theme, “Impact: Be the inspiration. For business. For society. For you”, Grassie said people sometimes are unable to fulfill their potential because they do not understand their impact on others. Learning to acknowledge that “you matter to perhaps more people than you realise”, can transform careers and help people to become a source of inspiration, he explained.
The charge of failing to make an impact could not be levelled at British actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley who in an interview with BBC presenter Mishal Husain described how she has used her profile to petition the government, fight for people’s and animals’ welfare and, famously, change UK legislation.
Lumley recounted how in 2008 she became the public face of a campaign to help the Ghurkas, an elite unit of Nepalese soldiers within the British Army, to win the right to settle in the UK after retirement. The campaign reached a peak of intensity during a live press conference with a government minister in 2009, when Lumley was able to extract fresh concessions for the Ghurkas and secure their right to stay. Asked about the source of her drive, the 68-year-old actress said that she tries to be fearless. Her advice: “Tell your children that there is nothing they can’t do. Don’t try to pick your way too carefully through the minefield of life.”
There was more inspiration and advice in a panel discussion which followed. Emma Howard Boyd from Jupiter Asset Management, Daniela Barone Soares, a venture capitalist for the social sector, Ann Cairns from MasterCard and entrepreneur Luke Johnson discussed the importance for people of pursuing their passions, trusting their instincts and abilities, and identifying sources of support at work.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy gave the final address, following in the footsteps of WEB keynote speakers Arianna Huffington, Blink author Malcolm Gladwell and Cherie Blair.
Cuddy, a social psychologist, demonstrated how employees can use their body language to develop more persuasive leadership styles. Her work on power posing, defined as ‘brief, nonverbal expressions of competence and power’ has influenced businesses, schools and charities worldwide. Her presentation on the subject on online forum TED talks has received almost 18 million views, view the talk here.
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