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Women’s leadership issues in focus

Annarita Marion

A conference aimed at helping women executives smash through the glass ceiling is to be held next week.

The Chartered Professional Accountants of Bermuda will host a women’s leadership conference, the second of its kind, featuring top international speakers.

Annarita Marion, president and CEO of the CPA Bermuda, said that — even though there had been some progress in women reaching the highest levels of management — more work needed to be done.

Ms Marion added: “You have got to ask yourself why is the UN looking at trying to bring in legislation and policies to increase the number of women in C-suites.

“It’s not happening and it should be happening. It’s frustrating because we see it not happening.”

She added: “A lot of it is when people move up, they get sponsored and the sponsors use some of their own political capital — and it tends to be people who ‘look like us’ — and that’s men.”

Ms Marion added that networking tended to revolve around after-hours drinks or games of golf — which could leave women excluded.

She said: “A lot of this informal networking, women are just not a part of. So we do need conferences like this to give the young ones coming up guidance and encouragement.”

The conference, to be held at the Fairmont Southampton next Monday and Tuesday, will feature keynote speakers Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, and Dr Purna Sen, director of policy for United Nations Women.

Ms Miller will present three strategies. The first will be on how to become a person of influence, followed by “attracting the attention of influential sponsors” and “build your brand as an emerging leader.”

Dr Sen, who will speak on the second day of the conference, will talk about women’s empowerment and gender equality and UN policy and commitments in the area.

Ms Marion said: “The conference will also give men an understanding that women are different and that they have to approach them differently, otherwise they lose some very smart people who should be in their C-suites which can affect their bottom line.”

She added that successive surveys had shown that companies with the most diversity across the spectrum tended to do better in business than non-diverse ones.

Ms Marion said it was hoped to attract an audience of at least 250 people for the conference.

She added: “It was the people who attended the last conference who said we should do it again. They found it very useful.”

Dr Sen will also lead a panel of island figures to discuss Bermuda’s progress in creating policies to further women’s initiatives.

Other panel discussions will look at women trail blazers and the challenges they faced, if women have to conform to male stereotypes or if they can be themselves and still advance up the corporate ladder and an all-male panel discussion on why they think there are not more women in top jobs, despite attempts to promote their interests.

Ms Marion said the conference would be of value to women professionals from all sectors of the economy, from international business to non-profits.

She added: “Attendance at the conference will give participants the opportunity to enhance their unique skills, bring value to their organisation and their careers.”

For more information, contact CPA Bermuda at 292-7479 or cpd@cpabermuda.bm. To book tickets, visit ptix.bm.