On March 8th, 2021, the Kainach International Forum held a panel of esteemed political, business, and community leaders in celebration of International Women’s Day. Moderator Megan Stettler facilitated the conversation between global leaders from Greece, Austria, and Canada.
The discussion opened with video remarks from Simone Schmiedtbauer, European Parliament Member. She spoke of hope and encouragement for the future of women in politics.
The panelist then tackled important topics surrounding gender equity, protecting against stigmas, and developing women in leadership. MMAG Karin Buchgraber explained the importance of factoring in the time taken for paternal leave into overall retirement compensation.
“The time that women spend at home with their kids, is not valued. It’s like you’ve never worked during this time, even though it’s hard work.” said Buchgraber. “You’ve educated your child, you’ve done everything for your child, but it’s actually like you haven’t been working during this time, so it’s not part of everything you’ll get when you retire. That’s something that has to change, because I think that’s very valuable time and it has to be valued also by the government.”
Questions from attendees arose concerning the stigma that can come with the hiring process and pregnant women. Duggal expressed the need for robust human rights resources as well as the effective skills that women bring to leadership positions.
“I’ll speak for Canada, there’s protections against attempting to discriminate against a woman who is pregnant applying for a job. There’s severe penalties that will happen if that’s concluded as exactly what took place. More and more we have to remind our fellow colleagues that bias is something that needs to be addressed; unconscious and conscious.” said Duggal, who went on to explain the value of these women in the workplace.
“We understand the connection of human beings and at the end of the day when a woman walks through the door who’s about to give birth, that woman is an entrepreneur. She’s had to manage herself, the finances, how she’s going to accommodate learning for this child, how she’s going to accommodate the care of this individual, and the medical of this individual. Along with great partnership with their partners, their spouses, the learning you take from that experience as a female is something we have to protect.”
Duggal emphasized the need for education and to allow individual learning about gender equity - that we should continue to champion change and at the same time provide information and space to see actual progress.
Looking ahead, Eugenia Manolidou encouraged recognition and education about the role of women.
“It all comes down to education. Being able to accept women who want to become mothers and do their job. The fact that a woman has a child, means she’s much more productive, efficient and effective because she doesn’t have any time to waste.” said Manolidou.
“They become more patient, but then it becomes much more rewarding. Women know how to pay back and how to reward the people who support them. Women are so generous. There’s a timeless tradition and desire of women to constantly be there and help in any way they can. I think that the future of education, as far as women are concerned, is to try and educate as many women as possible all over the world.”
A final message from Duggal encouraged women to find their voice in these political and business communities.
“My message to everyone is this: I look back on the shoulders that I stand on and they are a beautiful fabric of individuals, men, women, representations of a whole bunch of backgrounds. I want to call out that there are a lot of industries where women are not present. You don’t see them, you don’t feel them, you don’t hear them and those are the industries that are missing out on the opportunity of celebrating the diversity of when we all get together, with all of our backgrounds, and the power that brings. Anytime you can put your hand out and help someone through that door, break that ceiling, it is the most critical moment.”
As the discussion wrapped up, our panelists spoke of the need for women leadership programs. In today’s virtual world, this may look like monthly Zoom meetings or programs with board members and executives to have those discussions to encourage women and all individuals to find their voice in their communities.
The next Kainach International Forum “Critical Success Factors of International Joint Ventures and International Strategic Alliances” will be held April 5th to look at the legal aspect of international business for global expansion success.