‘We Need to Help More Women Become Visible Role Models’


Business Events Sydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith recaps the main messages from the Global Summit of Women.

Lyn Lewis-Smith, CEO at Business Events Sydney, spoke this month at the first She Means Business conference as part of IMEX Frankfurt. She talks here about the earlier Global Summit of Women.

The Global Summit of Women, known as Davos for women, which took place in Australia in April, is an annual summit dedicated to accelerating women’s advancement in the global economy. This year it brought together 1,000 global leaders from across the public, private, and non-profit sectors in more than 60 countries to share creative strategies and practical working solutions.

The theme of the 2018 summit — Women: Creating Economies of Shared Value — is really about connecting women with each other; sharing ideas, solutions, and advice; and helping them establish and grow their global networks.

The summit’s skills-building sessions were about sharing solutions to challenges that women typically face. A big part of these sessions was getting organisations to recognise and value the different skills that women bring — not expecting those women to adapt to fit into a traditionally male environment. The sessions were also about equipping women with the confidence to go after their ambition — be that to make it onto a board, secure investment for a new business venture, or move into a new role.

One of the best ways to really understand your target audience is to make sure that audience is also well-represented within the organisation. According to a 2015 report by EY, women will control 80 percent of all discretionary consumer spending worldwide by 2028. Those female consumers are also entrepreneurs and business leaders who can provide first-hand insight that will help companies deliver products and services in a way their largest audience wants to receive them.

Yet too many businesses with large female customer bases still have minimal — if any — female representation on their board or within the senior leadership. So the biggest customers have the smallest voice. That has to change. The only way we will get where we need to be is to keep talking about it, keep setting bold targets to focus us, and keep throwing a spotlight on what needs to change.

We have so many incredibly talented women within the business-events industry, and toursim more broadly, and that is something we should celebrate. However, there are still nowhere near enough women at the very top of the industry.

With so much female talent, we have a great opportunity to set the benchmark when it comes to diversity at a C-suite level. We need to do more to make sure there are clear career paths for women both before and after they go on maternity leave. Too often when women choose to have a family, they are not given the chance or the encouragement to keep progressing after they return to work. It is our responsibility to make sure that women are given the same opportunities when they return as they had when they left, and give them the support to take full advantage of those opportunities.

It’s often said that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” so we need to help more women become visible role models that others will look to and follow.

Meanwhile, overheard at She Means Business, where Lyn Lewis-Smith was a speaker:

Katja Wagnerberger, CEO KWevents GmbH: “It was very inspiring for me to learn that we do not always have to compare ourselves with the men. We women just need to trust in ourselves and our abilities to negotiate openly and clearly. Without justification and false modesty.”

Gabriele Preisinger, Fullmoon Group’s new business manager: “The lectures have really awakened me to think about our own behavior. We women should trust much more in our own way and stand up for what we want. It’s as easy as this.”

Katja de Marné, senior manager MICE, 029: “I found the lecture by [female fighter pilot] Nicola Baumann particularly fascinating because she always trusted her intuition and believed in herself — even when everyone else said she could not do it all. We need a lot more of such female role models.”

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