Hosted by Giulia Iannucci, CEO and Founder of KnowThyBrand, the event started with H.E. Yuriko Backes, recently named as Luxembourg’s new Finance Minister. “While the gender pay gap has decreased in Europe, Luxembourg still has a higher gender pension gap, we need to keep women in full time employment, it’s important”. She quoted Former IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde “Women’s economic empowerment is not just good for women but for society overall. If the number of female workers were to increase to match the number of men, GDP would expand by 5% in the United States, by 9% in Japan and by 27% in India” to add that favouring women at work also makes economic sense.
Yet half of the students in high schools are women so how can we explain that when arriving at a C-level position, there is such a gap. Minister Backes reminded us of the questions women often faced when being offered a higher position at work, a situation she also lived as a diplomat when she was offered the position of minister: Can I do this? Am I capable of doing that? Women have to support each other and continue to act as role models for the future generation. “We need to lead by example whether as Minister or entrepreneurs; we don’t want to tell young people what they have to do but support them in their choices, their career instead and we should encourage women to be investors, entrepreneurs, not to doubt themselves. We need to sponsor women”.
Nasir Zubairi followed by opening up the question around quotas. As the CEO of the LHoFT, he faced the situation of not having women applying to vacant positions and had to be proactive in finding relevant candidates. “I personally don’t believe in quotas but in equal opportunity, I want to hire the best person for the job even if I value diversity”. He recognised that Finance is man dominated and that this is a problem but generally speaking men seem to more readily take risks when women need to be asked twice. He concluded “We need to treat people equally and support men too because if a woman becomes engineers, the opposite man should be able to become nurses, for instance.”
After a testimonial from Kids Life Skills and Luxembourg Tech School about gender inclusion and the importance of parental support and education to break down gender bias, the event ended with a panel discussion with Denise Voss (Chairwoman – LuxFlag), Julie Becker (CEO – Luxembourg Stock Exchange), Georges Bock (CEO & Founder – InvesTRe), Darren Robinson (Managing Partner – Anderson Wise), Sara Kaiser (Program Director – Luxembourg Tech School) on Championing Women in Finance and Technology in Luxembourg.
While observing that women in Finance and Technology were more represented in the Sustainable Finance field, as mentioned by Voss, they all agreed that we should favour quotas to contribute and support more women taking higher positions within organisations. Robinson reminded us of a time when he was head-hunter and some of his clients asked him to only present them applications made by men. “Fortunately, things have changed and today, clients request a balanced pool of candidates” adding “Women need encouragement to apply, they should take more risks”. Participants widely shared this opinion including Voss “we sometimes need to ask women twice but once they take up the challenge, great things happen”. Georges Bock insisted on the importance of gender equality and the need to change the state of mind. “Boys and girls should embrace diversity from a very young age and find how to take advantage of it. Understanding each other is key and failure is always part of success”. Sara Kaiser added that stereotypes are deeply rooted in societies and it needs a common effort to create a favourable environment to exchange, involving more female coaches as it is important to have role models. A feeling shared by Becker when noticing that the audience was mainly composed of women and that men should feel more concerned about this topic: “gender diversity today for a sustainable future tomorrow”. She added the importance of “closing the gap of financial education. A recent study published by UBS reveals that more than half of women globally (58%) defer to their spouses to manage critical, long-term financial decisions.” Reasons range from “my spouse never encouraged me” to “my spouse knows more” about the topic. “Dare to dare, you are the CEO of your life so work hard, be bold and keep smiling” concluded Becker.