An oft-repeated question at this year's IWF World Leadership Conference in Toronto was: Why are women hesitant to play the "woman card"? With this year’s theme of "Open Minds," female leaders examined a number of hot topics, including the thriving business of legalized cannabis, LGBTQ rights, burgeoning refugee communities, and the concept of political correctness in a man’s world.
During her acceptance speech at the IWF Hall of Fame Awards Gala, Nobel Laureate Dr. Frances Arnold said that her proudest life accomplishment was being the first female scientist to appear on the hit TV show The Big Bang Theory. She was joking, of course, but it was a thread that was repeated throughout the conference. Several panelists commented on the need for more women to say "yes" to speaking opportunities and appearances, rather than assuming their male counterparts are more suited as experts in their fields.
The current political and social climate inspired Allana Arkin, producer and correspondent for TBS’s Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, to think of comedy as the ultimate tool against silencing, and political correctness as an opportunity to be more creative. On the same note, Shari Graydon, founder of Informed Opinions, spoke about her aim to amplify the voices of women across Canada in the media. Her inspiring speech motivated all attendees to be unapologetic about taking space, showing up and making substantial change.
Delegates also heard from Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada and former IWF President. She reminded women to exercise power ethically and challenge the sexism that holds women in politics to a different standard, operating on the tired assumption that female leaders don’t belong in power.
At Edelman, it’s clear that women have a critical role to encourage and put our own female leaders – and clients – forward in all forms of thought-leadership. We walk away from this conference with one message and one call-to-action: Be a role model, be a mentor. Use the woman card and have a voice.
Britta Heer is managing director, Brand, Hamburg.
Elise Steeves is account director, Corporate Communications, Vancouver.
Geeta Ramachanran is head of Brand, Jakarta.
Lourdes Terán is senior account executive, Mexico City.
Smita Reddy is GCRM for Unilever, New York.