Case Studies and bedtime stories

The EMBABE Diaries

…in which I meet the Finnish ambassador and become a Guest Editor

on June 12, 2013

Today, my friends, has been a great day (so far – studying for the macroeconomics midterm and finalising my electives selection are up next, so can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep my spirits up).

This morning, I attended a “Women on Boards” roundtable organised by the Romanian chapter of EPWN (European Professional Women’s Network). The event was impeccably organised, with an international panel including the Finnish ambassador and representatives of EBRD, the EU Commission and the UK Embassy, and a national panel including, among others, Mariana Gheorghe – the CEO of OMV Petrom, Romania’s largest company – as well as my very impressive friend Narcisa Oprea, the first woman on the board of the Bucharest Stock Exchange. For three solid hours, we discussed and debated: are quotas good or bad? Should we be focusing on getting more women on boards or more women in the C-suite? Are the obstacles to women’s advancement structural or cultural? And, last but not least, what can we do? It was, in short, a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable start of the day. 

To make things even better, as I was leaving the EPWN event, I found out that my review of (and assorted ramblings around) Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”  was published today on Morning News Brief, a leading English-language news website in Romania. You can read it here – hope you like it! 

When I got home, I remembered an article I first read a few months ago, written by EPWN founder Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and explaining why she felt the need to set up the organisation. It was written in 2003, but I find it just as relevant ten years down the line. So relevant, in fact, that it could well have been written today as a foreword to Sandberg’s Lean In.  You can read the full article here but I’ll leave you with a few excerpts:

“Every so often, one feels a need to explain […] [w]hy we still insist that rich, educated women are a cause worth working for, when the real crux of global women’s issues lies in the class struggle, among women who have no choices, no options, among employees who have never heard of the word empowerment.

[…] Having risen in the business world, the political world, the legal and scientific worlds, we have a new arrival’s view of what’s going on at the top. We’re like second-generation immigrants, at home but not always at ease. We don’t always like what we see once we’ve sweated through a couple of decades of climbing. We may even dream of changing the way things are done. Most women today rediscover feminism at 40.

[…] In many Western countries, we’ve got the vote, the education and the early choices. But we have yet to learn how, when and, above all, why to wield power. […] It’s about learning the facts – which companies are better for women, how to strategically and sustainably manage a career, how to communicate ideas for impact. It’s about learning from each other – about how much our individual situations are actually societal, cultural or organizational and that we can understand and learn from them better together than on our own. It’s about learning to ask for what we want. Because despite our many advances, we are still, as a whole, trying to succeed in someone’s else’s system more than trying to adapt the system to our own dreams and ambitions.”

Off to grapple with electives, see you soon!

Alex

P.S. As those who have read my last post may have already guessed, I was exaggerating somewhat in the title. Of course, I didn’t actually work up the courage to go and introduce myself to the Finnish ambassador, but we did sit at adjacent tables! Plus, I managed to talk to a fair number of other people I didn’t know – which, in my book, is a magnificent feat in itself.

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