Inspiring women to show up authentically

28 August 2020 | Columns

PATTY OLIVIER

Showing up during a crisis isn’t always easy. It demands an open mind, perspective, an acceptance that things will and must change, resilience, and the ability to adapt. And, importantly, it requires great leadership!

The year 2020 has brought unprecedented challenges that have exposed the critical importance of good and strong leadership in all situations.

Against the backdrop of tough economic times, the Covid-19 global pandemic has rattled the idea of ‘business as usual’ and made us all reflect on the future we want to see in our lives, our homes, our workplaces and our communities, at a local and global level. Furthermore, the challenges posed for the world of work have called for new ways of being, new ways of thinking, and new ways of leading. This is particularly true for women!

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently reported that Covid-19 has been the biggest setback for tender equality in a decade. “Before this crisis, the WEF predicted it would take 257 years to reach economic parity between women and men — this was already scandalous. It is both devastating and frustrating that this figure has been set back by generations more." (WEF, 2020).

Indeed, it is in times like these that we are called to rise to the occasion and to show up as individuals and as leaders! And as and for women, now is as important a time as ever to re-engage our efforts towards gender equality. It is against this background that the Old Mutual Women’s Summit was held this year with the theme: Showing Up!

Through the Women's Summit, Old Mutual Namibia has been investing in the development of emerging female leaders since 2011, with the objective of promoting and facilitating women's empowerment on the premise that when women thrive, and are not restricted by their gender, the world thrives too. Since 2017, alongside our project partners, Leading Edge and Greenfolk Management Consultancy, the summit has also focused on inspiring new ways of thinking and doing, by providing a platform for impactful conversations, led by game-changing African women (among them Shirley Zinn, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu and Monica Musonda) who are implementing change at a grand level.

The Old Mutual Women’s Summit took the bold step of showing up virtually this year, for its first ever e-summit, in the form of a Zoom webinar.

Graced by world-renowned global economist and New York Times bestselling author Dr Dambisa Moyo, as the e-Summit’s keynote conversationalist, the theme, Showing Up, highlighted the importance of coming to the table ‘authentically’, ‘in your truth’ and ‘well-prepared’.

During her keynote conversation with the e-summit’s moderator, Afra Schimming-Chase, she encouraged participants in the summit to come well prepared to the party, to be receptive of constructive criticism, to have the temerity to rise above rejection, and to know their skillset better than anybody else. “You can transform your life and invest in yourself in such a way that can help not just yourself and your community, but the whole continent, to change the narrative.”

Taimu Itembu, an organisational and gender strategist who works in public and government affairs at ExxonMobil; Karen Powell, a creativity and prosperity coach, and Zenzi Awases, a geologist and founding president of the Women in Mining Association of Namibia (WIMAN), participated in the panel discussions. They all spoke to the powerful impact that men and women can make when they bring their full authentic selves, their talents and their leadership to their organisations, their communities and the world.

The e-summit was a beautiful display of the unique opportunities that arise when we step out of our comfort zone, accept the reality and adapt to change. The virtual format allowed the summit to double its regular viewership and expanded its audience footprint to truly reflect a pan-African and global presence, with participants singing in from 18 countries.

Old Mutual is excited about expanding this conversation in our upcoming Lean In sessions and looks forward to continuing its important work of inspiring excellent leadership.

* Patty Olivier is the CEO of the corporate segment at Old Mutual Namibia

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