Gender Alliance Summit

Based on the report by Chi Nguyen

More than 200 people from over 50 countries signed up to take part for three days in the inaugural Gender Alliance Summit from 26th-28th August 2020. The event marked the first efforts to shape how this community can work to achieve gender equality.

With support from the Bosch Alumni Network online activities grant and the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt, including members of the Global Diplomacy Lab and the community of the Global Leadership Academy the event was being led by volunteers from across these networks. Different thematic fields were explored by speakers and all participants in highly interactive formats.

Gender Equality: Perception or Reality?

Hosted by ElsaMarie D'Silva, Armin Pialek and Chi Nguyen

The summit was kicked off with a powerful keynote by Ambassador Louise Blais, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She shared her own reflections on the march towards gender equality, from her perspective in her leadership roles as a career diplomat. She noted that gender equality is deeply connected to our own enlightenment, and called to take actions: small and big to help advance this work.


Inclusive Diplomacy

Hosted by Trini Saona, Carolina Acosta-Sheinfeld and Dalya Salinas

The first of the four thematic sessions explored the issue of Inclusive Diplomacy. With many forms of diplomacy being upended, in part by COVID-19, there is an important opportunity to reframe this field. Dr. Ines Kappert, head of the Gunda-Werner-Institut on Feminism and Gender Democracy, delivered remarks about why it is time to care. She introduced this notion of care as a critical value that we must recognize globally. She noted that the pandemic has demonstrated the essential place for care in our society, and that we must begin to centre care as part of our leadership, roles and work. With more than two thirds of care work being done by women and girls in our world, it is time for a radical rethinking of how much of this work is unpaid or underpaid. 

Following Dr. Kappert’s remarks, the participants had a chance to explore how their own organizations could take on a healthier approach to care, and shared resources, ideas and ways that care could take on a more significant role. The session concluded with a few ideas and proposals that begin to emerge from the breakout groups.

Women, Peace and Security

Hosted by Colette Mazzucelli and NS Nappinai

This is an issue that has significant gender impacts, and in the age of the pandemic, these have become even more devastating. Co-host NS Nappinai opened the session helping to define the term security, noting that security really extends to freedom: freedom of speech, fear and the ability of women to strengthen their own privilege in society.

The session’s keynote, Penny Abeywardena, the New York Commissioner for International Affairs spoke about how her city’s government acted quickly, responsibly to tackle the pandemic. She noted the significant role of women’s leadership under the current mayor (Bill de Blasio’s government). Additionally, Abeywardena noted that in her role, as she works with and adjacent to a significant diplomatic portfolio, the important role that drawing from existing global best practices is critical to inform any innovation agenda. She remarked that what was useful and of particular importance and value were tested best practices — in a time of real crisis, it is important to be able to have access to great ideas, projects and initiatives that have been tested before.

Prompted by Ms Abeywardena’s remarks, summit participants moved into breakouts. The focus of these discussions were to help surface current projects already underway or ready for a new phase and stage in their work. In the reports back to the plenary, it was clear that many saw significant opportunities to collaborate to respond and address issues of security. These could include best-practice mapping, data gathering, or new tools to help track and better understand the depths of this challenge.

"We want to influence policy to accelerate change."

ElsaMarie D'Silva

Investing in Women-led Business

Hosted by Sylvia Mukasa, Rania Reda, Gaurav Mehta

Women’s entrepreneurship has many dimension. With three remarkable co-hosts, Sylvia, Rania and Gaurav each brought their own expertise. A key challenge identified in the opening of the session were the explicit and implicit ways that women lacked access to infrastructure such as capital and funding. Other challenges included the everyday sexism that women experienced as they worked to grow their business: such as being mistaken as the colleague and not the boss at pitches.

In these breakouts, summit participants explored some of the significant challenges being faced as women entrepreneurs. This include having less access to knowledge about potential funding opportunities, resources; access to peers or mentors to help them be supported to sustain and grow their opportunities; explicit and implicit sexism that meant that they were often having to prove their worth/value; the lack of role models in business; and legislative or policy barriers in their own countries that made growth a challenge. This session concluded with several ideas such as the creation of a women’s fund, coaching circles to support entrepreneurs, as well as addressing the sexism women experience in the business world.

Engaging Men in Gender Equality

Hosted by Julie Smith, Mina LopezLugo and Imran Simmins

To set up the discussion, Julie Smith helped to explain why and how all of us — whether we identify as female, male or along the gender spectrum — are impacted by ideas of gender inequality. This final thematic session relied on the barbershop talk: a chance for all to explore how gender runs through their lives.

Imran Simmins helped to kick this session off by inviting several male-identified summit participants to reflect on unconscious gender bias in their own lives and how this had shaped their experiences. Some of the personal insights and reflections shared touched on both societal and personal influences.

Following their lead, summit participants moved into breakouts specifically giving the opportunity for safe spaces to be created to explore and discuss gender norms. Participants worked in either male-only or non-male (female or non-binary) groups to talk about how gender roles shaped their lives. Many personal and professional reflections took place as participants examined how gender norms created barriers (or opportunities) in their own lives.

When groups returned to the plenary, it was clear that national and cultural contexts played a significant role but that each one had an opportunity to contribute to helping to find ways to ensure that men were working as allies to support gender equality. It was clear that this work must continue, and a call was made for men to help shape and set the agenda for the next Gender Alliance Summit.

A Demo Day was curated on 25th September 2020 to showcase the projects developed after the Gender Alliance Summit and invite partners, foundations and others to support in any way they can. Collaboration continues today.....