July 11, 2014; No. CCXX

No. CCXX; July 11, 2014
Special Issue: GLOBAL SUMMIT OF WOMEN 2014, No. 2



Representing four continents, five women who lead major companies participated in a spirited discussion of changes in the 21st century workplace led by Summit President Irene Natividad at the 2014 Global Summit of Women, which took place in Paris, France on June 5-7, 2014.  Nku Nyembesi-Heita, Chair of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and CEO of Ichorcoal in South Africa, Marriott President for Europe Amy McPherson from the U.S., IBM Germany Managing Director Martina Koederitz and Van Cleef & Arpels Managing Director Chloe Jay from France, were joined by Accenture ASEAN Managing Director Lay Lim Teo of Singapore in a Women CEO Forum, which looked forward and back at the changing workplace.

Chloe Jay and Amy McPherson at Women CEOs Forum

Martine Koederitz and Irene Natividad 

All recalled early days of their careers when seeing women in charge was a “default”, according to Nyembesi-Heita, so women tried to dress like men with navy suits and blouses with tied bows, took assertiveness training, assumed that top-down management, office-based work and a domestic-market focus were the norms. Now faced with a competitive global economy that is more interlocked and volatile, the availability of technology which has speeded up communication and information access, and the reality of more diverse workforces and consumers have slowly forced a redesign of the way work is done.  Lay Lim Teo cited Accenture’s ‘virtual’ company without a central office which has freed her from the worry of relocating that most women executives face.

All agreed that given work responsibilities that now cover wider territories, collaborative and consultative skills, normally attributed to women, have become necessary in order to lead productive teams.  They agreed as well that technology has freed many workers from working solely in an office setting, and that company cultures which develop ‘trust’ in workers’ capacity to complete work wherever and whenever they can do so are the ones to thrive in the future.  While the same objective metrics for measuring performance are still in place, all five CEOs indicated that “soft skills” have become equally important, and that ‘how’ an employee succeeds is now as important as what has been achieved.

Lay Lim Teo and M. Koederitz

A. McPherson and Nku Nyembesi-Heita 

When asked what workplace changes still need to be made, Nyembesi-Heita suggested that a major one would be to alter the perception that “if you’re not physically in an office, you’re not working.”  Lay Lim Teo pointed out that CEOs “have to be okay about showing employees how we balance our own lives,” and lead by example.  In a competitive economy, “investment in maintaining your qualifications is an employee’s responsibility,” according to Martina Koederitz, but a company must provide those resources needed to do so.  Chloe Jay cautioned that leaders must speak as ‘we’ and not ‘I’, because that is the reality of a successful enterprise. Lastly, Amy McPherson reminded everyone that diversity of markets, consumers and employees now require diverse corporate leadership, which is not yet fully in place.


Henryka Bochniarz, CEO of Boeing Central & Eastern Europe, opened this session by polling Summit delegates as who made purchases of cars, vacations and technology tools in their households.  Reflecting research showing women as 70-80% of consumers in developed economies, Summit participants indicated that they made the majority of these buying decisions.  Given women’s impact in the marketplace, what are some companies doing to attract more women clients?

Renault Senior Vice President of Engineering Nadine LeClair indicated that this car company continually looks at the ‘DNA of women’s lives’ in different countries to increase market share.  They look at the rational and emotional factors that influence women’s car buying habits and the ratio between them.  Rational factors cover safety, trunk access, gas mileage, etc., while emotional factors covered personalization of car interiors and exteriors.  She noted that the ratio differs with each country – in Brazil, safety ranks paramount among women, while in western Europe, personalization assumes greater importance.  While Renault doesn’t design cars for women, they take into account the elements that make the cars responsive to women’s lives.

Nadine Leclair

Odile Lasternas-Brecy 

Since women do tend to be safety conscious, how do they protect themselves?  Generali Managing Director for Corporate and Commercial Business Odile Lasternas Brecy pointed out that insurance products are primarily designed for men and are based on male behavior.  Well, this Italy-based insurance company decided to survey women to view their concerns.  What they found is that women are worried about ‘how my family can be supported if something happens to me’ – the future of their children, who takes care of them, health care, and protection from unexpected crisis.  Men care about their families as well, but more in the sense of financial legacy.  Based on their research, Generali has created products that fit women’s concerns.

Moving from protection to freedom, Harley Davidson’s Director of Women’s Outreach Claudia Garber presented the company’s market alignment of motorcycles with the fulfillment of women’s dreams of personal freedom.  “Riding a Harley is an act of rebellion,” a statement used to tap into women’s sense of empowerment as a way to fit the product to the women they’re trying to reach.  As a result of this marketing strategy and proactive initiatives to quell women’s fears of riding these powerful machines, women are the fastest growing market segment for Harley Davidson.

Claudia Garber

Eva Kail 

From women consumers to women as citizens — Vienna has proactively looked into how its urban spaces and transport system can best serve half of its constituents.  Led by Eva Kail, Gender Expert in Vienna’s Urban Planning Group, the city looked into how women and children can better use its public spaces, how apartment design provides shelter that meet family needs while promoting community networks, and how transportation can provide safety and access for women of all ages.  Vienna has been much recognized for these innovative efforts to serve its female population.


For the first time in the Global Summit of Women’s 24-year history, three former and current women Presidents participated in a discussion forum on “Redefining Leadership” led by CNN Anchor and Host of The Business View Nina dos Santos.  Malta’s President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, Finland’s Former President Tarja Halonen and Kyrgyzstan’s Former President Roza Otunbayeva were the first women to assume their country’s highest office.  All were surprised by the role-model impact of their election in changing the dreams of young girls to aspire for the presidency.  As Pres. Coleiro Preca aptly pointed out:  “Our visibility is contagious.”

In defining women’s leadership, all three cited women’s ability to bring together disparate parties.  “Women have the unique ability to unite ambitious men,” stated Pres. Otunbayeva, who had to do exactly that as she worked to put in place the democratic infrastructure in her country.  For Tarja Halonen, sustainable democracies require its leaders to be brave, patient and disciplined.  All agreed that citizens worried about growing corruption can become comfortable with women leaders, who are viewed as more transparent, responsible, and willing to stand up for what they believe.  Pres. Halonen pointed out, however, that “women aren’t saints” and “nobody is easily clean in a global economy,” so regulations and rule of law are important to establish and to maintain.

Being Presidents, who happen to be women, all three felt an added responsibility to raise the status of women in their respective countries.  They cited their own struggles with building political careers while raising families, so they espoused measures in order that “We don’t have to choose,” according to Pres. Halonen, “We take both”, which means that resources must be put in place by governments and companies to enable women and men to integrate work and life responsibilities.  As for strategies for advancing women into leadership roles, Presidents Halonen and Otunbayeva support quotas in politics and business.  Pres. Coleira Preca sees quotas as transitional vehicles, which don’t necessarily produce the results intended.  She cited the fact that Norwegian quota for women directors has not resulted in more women CEOs or senior management.

Presidents Halonen and Coleiro Preca

President Otunbayeva addresses the audience

Lastly, all three Presidents saw the need to ‘grow’ women’s economic opportunities, with Pres. Halonen indicating there are still too few women business leaders, and that this is something on which she will now focus.  She also cautioned women to keep moving forward:  “You can never get back your past, but you can be your future.”

Don’t miss the 2015 Global Summit of Women in Sao Paulo Brazil!

France’s Minister for Women, Cities, Youth, and Sports Najat Vallaud-Belkacem hands over the Summit to Brazilian delegates at the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Summit in Paris.

Subscribe by clicking here.

Global Summit of Women
1100 G St. NW, Ste. 700
Washington, DC 20005  USA
tel: 202-835-3713 / fax: 202-466-6195
email: summit@globewomen.com