October 18, 2012

WOWS conference addresses the economic power of women

Deutsche Bank hosted the 18th Annual Women on Wall Street® (WOWS) conference in New York on October 16. The Bank has sponsored this conference for members of the financial and broader business community since 1995, over which time attendance has grown from 200 to more than 2,000.

The year’s theme, “Making Your Impact: Advancing the Economic Power of Women,” looked at how women are transforming the boardroom, politics, and the global economy to account for a greater share of the workforce, earned income, and consumer decisions.

The conference was introduced by Robert Rankin, Co-Head of the Corporate Banking and Securities, Head of Corporate Finance and Member of the Group Executive Committee. Rankin expressed his pride in Deutsche Bank’s association with the conference and its core mission to inspire and motivate women in business. He added that a diverse workplace is a “commercial imperative” in today’s environment, noting that this year’s theme is central to establishing a “balanced, enterprising, culturally attuned organization in the modern world.”  He said that women are having a greater impact than any other time in history, citing leaders in politics and business; numbers of women voting (the last US presidential elections “saw 10 million more women vote than men”); and the fact women control or influence USD12tn of global consumer spending – “influence in its rawest form.” He concluded by saying that as the financial services industry reinvigorates its culture and purpose it will need the range of skills, ideas and attitudes that come from a richly diverse workforce. Above all “we need to harness the economic power of women.” 

Women transforming the global economy

Jessica Jackley, Co-Founder of Kiva, the world's first peer-to-peer microlending website, and Stephanie Ruhle, Anchor, Bloomberg Television, opened with a one-on-one conversation about microfinance. Jackley, who was first inspired to start Kiva while working in East Africa with rural entrepreneurs, shared that 80% of Kiva’s borrowers are women. Also, lenders tend to choose “women because they are better borrowers who repay their debt” and wisely choose where the money is distributed, citing areas such as continued business growth, education. They also conversed about the role of social media has played in making Kiva a success. Jackley said, “Social media allows for the building of communities and open dialogue….it’s not just about proximity anymore.”

Stephanie Ruhle and Jessica Jackley talk about microfinance

Next, the conversation broadened to a panel discussion moderated by Frank Kelly, Head, Communications & Public Affairs. Comprised of influential women from both corporate and public policy sectors, this year’s panel included: Michelle Bernard, CEO & President, Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy, Dr. Iris Bohnet, Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, Ernst & Young, and Kathy Cassidy, Senior Vice President and Treasurer of GE and GE Capital.

Left to right: Frank Kelly, Kathy Cassidy, Beth Brooke, Michelle Bernard, and Dr. Iris Bohnet

Women thriving in emerging markets

Kelly asked Beth Brooke to share her observations on the emergence of women’s economic power in developing countries. Brooke called women the “greatest emerging market” that will grow into an economic force over the next decade. She emphasized that she frequently urges organizations to ask themselves: “What is your investment plan for women?”

Dr. Iris Bohnet then shared some of her research on the perception of women in today’s environment, specifically emerging markets. She reminded the audience that stereotypes are still prevalent in society and “leadership is not associated with women.” Adding, “This perception needs to change both in the US and the developing world.” Bohnet also cited research conducted in India where large numbers of women were given the opportunity to work. Specifically, two sets of two hundred villages were studied. The women in treatment villages were given the education and support to become call center employees, while the women in control villages did not receive the same opportunities. The research demonstrated that the families in the treatment group were able to recognize their daughters’ economic contribution to the family. As a result, these women had higher survival rates, were more likely to be educated, and nurtured as contributors to the families. Findings suggested that evidence of greater economic opportunities for women is met with increases in human capital investments for women. Therefore, economic and labor markets can be better served through the empowerment of women.

Women deciding elections

With potentially game-changing US elections less than a month away, the role of women in politics also became a topic of discussion. Michelle Bernard said the 2012 election cycle sees the role of women as both candidates and voters as more important than ever before. According to Bernard, “women will decide the election.” She also talked about qualities that make a female a good political leader. According to Bernard, women are more likely than men to reach across the aisle to reach a compromise, will enter politics for different reasons than men, and are more issues-driven in their political goals. 

Being a powerful leader

Referencing critical leadership skills needed to navigate today’s challenging times, Kathy Cassidy highlighted the importance of building strategic partnerships, and being able to see the big picture and think under pressure. According to Cassidy, effective leaders are a product of their experience in being able to demonstrate both tactical and strategic skills, strong communication skills, and a wealth of expertise that allows one to be comfortable working with senior leadership.
The topic of women and power was also addressed, and all agreed that should be exhibited in the form of strong expertise and “power should be used in an influential and collaborative way.”

Following the panel discussion, Roelfien Kujipers, Managing Director, Asset & Wealth Management, reinforced that women have an active role in shaping the future of the industry. Kujipers also announced that the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which empowers low-income and minority students through education, as the beneficiary of this year’s charitable donation from Deutsche Bank. 

Roelfien Kujipers announces the beneficiary of this year’s charitable donation

Guest speaker, Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts,” a book about how western culture undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people, closed the conference with a speech addressing the role of introverts in society and in the workplace. A proclaimed introvert, Cain is urging employers to embrace the working combination of introverts and extroverts, and more importantly begin to acknowledge the level of diversity that the introverted personality can contribute in leadership roles.

Jacqueline Guichelaar, Head of Group IT in Global Technology delivered closing remarks, thanking the all the contributors for this year’s conference, and encouraged attendees to network and embrace the power of diversity.

Jacqueline Guichelaar delivers closing remarks


For further information on Deutsche Bank’s Women on Wall Street conference, please click here.


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