Women in C-suite, politics benefit all

The United Nations, formed to promote international security, economic development, and social progress, was a fitting setting for Impact Leadership 21's discussion entitled Power of Collaboration.

The United Nations, formed to promote international security, economic development, and social progress, was a fitting setting for Impact Leadership 21's discussion entitled Power of Collaboration.

Janet Salazar, CEO and founder of Impact Leadership 21, kicked off the afternoon event by noting that there is significant momentum behind increasing the number of women in political office and the boardroom. Yet there is a huge opportunity for improvement, with fewer than 15% of CEOs and only nine out of 193 heads of state being women. She added that women can be powerful voices for change not only in areas surrounding gender equality such as poverty and education, but also issues affecting humanity, such as disarmament and economic stimulus.

Former UN Under-Secretary General Anwarul Chowdhury called the need for more women in leadership roles a matter “close to his heart” and one that he has been striving for since the very early stages of his career.

“When women are marginalized, there is little chance for sustainable peace in the world,” he said.

Former model and philanthropist MacDella Cooper created a bespoke foundation dedicated to providing educational opportunities for girls in post-war Liberia to show women they have “the power to break the cycle of poverty.”

Cooper, herself a refugee from a conflict area who immigrated to Newark, NJ, stressed the importance of aggressively pursuing opportunity and “creating your own voice and not letting someone create it for you.”

The event included a panel focused on Women and the Future of Global Leadership and included Barri Friedman Rafferty, CEO and senior partner at Ketchum North America.

“Woman have to have more swagger, more confidence,” she said. As a recent attendee of Davos, she noted with ire how often she was asked if she was a spouse. Her response: “No, I am a CEO and a mom.”

Denise Evans, VP of market development at IBM, advised audience members to “embrace risk, be more visible, and build a team of advocates.”

Michelle Patterson, president and CEO of Women Network, alluded to a topic being addressed in the event's second panel, Engaging Men: An Innovative Approach, A Call to Action.

“The days of working in silos are over. We need men and women working together. We are better together,” Patterson said.

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