Notes on the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership inaugural meeting

Tuesday morning, January 24, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the inaugural meeting for the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership. Members were invited by Secretary Clinton and include leaders of American and foreign public and private sector organizations. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERDCYwIqqXI]

For those that could not watch the live broadcasting, WBDC marketing assistant, Bethany Hartley has provided some notes from the meeting’s discussion.

First, what is the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership?

“The Secretary of State’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership (ICWBL) serves the United States Government in a solely advisory capacity concerning major issues and problems in international business and economic policy, including the effective integration of business interests and women’s economic empowerment into overall foreign policy; the role and limits of international economic institutions from a gender-specific perspective; and the Department of State’s role in advancing and promoting the role of women in a competitive global economy.” -from the Secretary of State website

Objective for the meeting:“What are the ideas that we can promote that can help women be able to fulfill their own potential. How do we widen that circle of prosperity which will lift the entire global economy – women and men alike – and how do we, within our own organizations, do more to train and promote women to positions of leadership?” Secretary Clinton The meeting targeted issues currently impacting countries around the world. Hot topics included:

  1. Child Care Options For Sweden’s Maud Olofsson one of the main problems hindering financial growth and business leadership for women is the lack of child care options available to women. By sharing parenting duties between parents and allowing for child care to be more easily accessible and financially feasible, women would not be derailed from their career. South Africa’s Wend Luhabe affirmed these challenges.
  2. Insurance Offerings for Women South Africa’s Wendy Luhabe also raised the issue of insurance offerings for women. It is Luhabe’s belief that women are not covered nearly enough, stating examples of families being destroyed from having to repay medical bills when children fall sick and a need for further coverage for women when a divorce takes place.
  3. Building Wealth Through Sustainable Credit and Grassroots Programming India’s Meera Sanyal discussed how there is no overt gender discrimination in India, yet constantly changing policies for credit cause confusion. There is a need for basic savings methods because if women keep the money in their home they will spend it on their family.Jamaica’s M. Audrey Hinchcliffe discussed her country’s problem being that of a small, wealthy few control the less fortunate larger population. It’s a pyramid that needs to be altered by implementing programs to provide training and financial assistance to the large base and thus creating a more stable economic standing for the whole country.
  4. Innovative Program Models Wanda Engel, Executive President, Unibanco Institute, discussed Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program where funding is provided for families with children as long as children are attending school on a consistent basis. Brazil has a high number of uneducated people which creates a poor economic situation. With this program, children are becoming educated and potentially able to achieve a higher economic standing than their parents through professional work. Many of the other countries representatives at the meeting expressed interest in adapting the Bolsa Familia program in their homelands.
  5. Women on Boards – About 3% of United States CEOs are women

“One fact is already clear, including more women at the top of organizations, businesses and the public sector- it's not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. It's good for business, it's good for results” –Secretary Clinton Overall, the meeting was inspiring and thought provoking. Essential topics were discussed including access to capital, women helping women and getting more business education out there to promote women in leadership roles. These are all issues we look at every day at the WBDC and the reason we continue to provide the support we do for women.

What do you think? Did you watch the meeting? What would you ask the members? Most importantly, do you think anything will come of this council?

Supplemental Links: Cherie Booth Blair’s foundation: MWomen Initiative

Secretary Clinton’s September speech at APEC

List of Members: ICWBL Council Members

Introduction of Meeting: Secretary Clinton

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