CHAIR of KPMG, Bina Mehta; former president of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE and Aviva Group CEO Amanda Blanc were among influential speakers who took part in an annual International Women’s Day debate in London last Friday (4).
Mehta said events like International Women’s Day “are a chance to step back and reflect”. She was speaking at a debate for non-parliamentarians hosted by Lord Dolar Popat and his wife.
Addressing guests, Mehta said, “Over my 30-year career, I’ve seen huge strides in how diverse our business has become. And I’m proud to lead a diverse board.
“I’m committed to breaking down biases, through the big actions and small acts of everyday kindness. But collectively we can all agree to supercharge our efforts. It’s good for business and it’s good for society.”
Ukrainian leader Olena Malynska, who was another guest speaker, said, “The current situation in Ukraine is inconceivable. I know you are all watching and looking at these horrible pictures; I think every human being feels an urgency to help.
“Each and every one of us can do something to help. Raise your voice for peace. Mobilise help.”
Group CEO of Arriva, Blanc, said research conducted for the Women in Finance Charter Accountable Executive Taskforce showed that if nothing changed, “it will take another 30 years to achieve gender parity”.
She added, “That’s another 30 years of wasted talent. Like many other women in the workplace, I have experienced misogyny, bullying, intimidation and been made to feel uncomfortable at work where I should feel safe.
“It’s an experience shared by many, often in far worse circumstances – and unfortunately the data is clear on that.”
Opening the debate, Lord Popat said, “The rights and the futures of women and girls all around the world are under threat from these difficult times. We must seize the opportunity to be a genuine force for good. We must keep our promise to women and girls around the world.”
Santander CEO Nathan Bostock told attendees, “It is with a mixture of emotions that I stand here –humbled, inspired and at points shocked by what I have heard and the ongoing challenges that many women face. Key to this will be continuing to have an honest and open dialogue, to listen, to challenge assumptions and to seek to find and deliver the practical changes that both women, and men, need to embrace in order to break the bias and achieve true parity.”
Founder of Yutybazar, Simi Lindgren, spoke on artificial intelligence, noting that “the beauty industry is worth over £27 billion in the UK alone, and when you think of matching people to the right beauty products to remove the friction of discovery, evaluation and purchase, AI seems to be the answer.”
Other speakers included Soma Sara (founder, Everyone’s Invited), Dr Shahzadi Harper (menopause and perimenopause doctor, The Harper Clinic), Anjula Acharia (CEO, A-Series management and investment), Alice Hendy (CEO and Founder Ripple Suicide Prevention) and Angela Ghayour (founder, Herat School).
Held similar to a parliamentary debate, each speaker got five minutes to speak on the importance of International Women’s Day.