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Different sensibilities, different results

• Published on 21 Jun. 2011 • Category : nyforum

The afternoon session, “Different Sensibilities, Different Results,” brought together Cecilia Attias, Founder, Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women; Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Ernst & Young; Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank; Laetitia Pichot de Cayeux, CEO and Portfolio Manager, Ajna Partners LP; and Phillip Scanlan, Australian Consul-General in New York, for a discussion on women in business moderated by Cindi Leive, Editor in Chief, Glamour.

A video interview of several New Yorkers discussing women in the workplace introduced the meeting’s key themes: Are women different? Do they lead differently? Does it matter? Leive added one more when she asked, pointedly, “How do we stop having panels like this one?”

In answer to these questions, Brooke noted that “there is not a company or country in the world that is not searching for economic growth…yet one of the most untapped resources in the world is unused human capital.” She added, “As companies look for growth, women really are that–the unused human capital.” Cayuex agreed with the business imperative for women’s equality, but took the argument one step further, implying that women may even perform some business functions better than men: “Over time, and sustainably,” she said, “women have outperformed the broader index of hedge funds.” True, added Attias, yet the “the glass ceiling still exists all over the world… and the man has more facilities to get to the highest level in companies,” since women have the burden of living three lives: “they are working, they have kids, they are a woman.”

Touching on technology and women in business, Scanlan said that the Internet “is a huge transformational opportunity for each person … to fulfill their full potential.” Attias was similarly optimistic. “I think we are at a turning point,” she said, “Flexibility in the work and working from home will be possible.”

Turning toward the final question–how to achieve true parity between men and women–each panelist had a slightly different take. For her part, Attias called for flexible work arrangements and better childcare. Brooke argued that women need to “engage men, and start at the top” to change institutional cultures. Noting the success Latin America has had in encouraging women in politics–“Today you have currently four sitting women presidents,” he said, “and a lot of other women who have competed very vigorously in elections”–Moreno found the key to be “closing the gender gap in education.” Scanlan spoke of the success of an Australian initiative that brought together thousands of men and women, and called for “more initiatives with men and women.” For her part, Pichot de Cayeux favored government involvement, including “mandates for women as managers” but also passionately advocated mentorship. “If we are not today a mentor to a younger girl,” she reminded the audience, “let’s all take one.”

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