On Monday evening, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) for Luxembourg, in partnership with The NETWORK, held its very first International Women's Day event.
Around 50 people attended this virtual event, entitled "Celebrating Change - Challenging the Status Quo", during which guest speaker Rajaa Mekouar, Private Equity Investor, addressed women's successes in Luxembourg and beyond and why we still need to celebrate International Women's Day. She noted that, for her, a successful woman was one who carried "a purpose that goes beyond their own persona". Citing the late US author, publisher and businesswoman, Helen Gurley Brown, she stressed that the "impostor syndrome" is "still very much alive" among women and the glass ceiling remains in place.
Turning to the world of Private Equity / Venture Capital, Rajaa Mekouar noted that despite the evidence that diversity enhances returns, there are still too few women at the top or receiving funding for their companies.
To address such challenges, she advised women in the audience to remember their defining moments and why they happened, be aware of conscious and unconscious gender biases around them and to persevere - but not to try to do everything all at once. She added that so-called failures should be seen as lessons and emphasised the importance of networking and joining forces, thinking outside the box and taking action.
In the Q&A session that followed, Rajaa Mekouar reiterated that all experiences (positive and negative) can contribute to future successes. She lamented that women in Luxembourg are still not comfortable speaking up and sharing their success stories. To overcome limiting beliefs, which are often driven by education, cultural background and personal experiences, she encouraged the audience to seek help from a psychologist or through meditation and to ask others for feedback.
The second part of the event took the form of a more interactive, three-step "appreciative inquiry" workshop, during which participants were split into breakout rooms (Zoom) to discuss various topics related to building a better world together. The three steps were: discover (i.e. what is already working well?), dream (what would the situation ideally look like?) and design (how can we build on what is already working well to reach our dream?).
- flexible / part-time working and teleworking, as well as parental leave, have been working well for many (but not everyone)
- work smarter not harder
- solicit outside help, e.g. a caterer or cleaner, if needed
- the need to disconnect and get out more
- the importance of joining local activities
- employers need to listen to their employees' concerns and needs (bottom-up approach)
- networking for our own success (including networking with men to help them understand women's issues)
- in an ideal world, women's career development would look the same as men's; women would not need to "pull a chair to the table", because the chair would already be there
Participants concluded that we cannot do any of this alone and need to work together to move forward.