Inspirational speakers at Relocate’s International Women’s Day lunch

Relocate Global hosted their Think Women International Women's Day Celebration with inspirational speakers on the topics of art, charity, diversity and role models.

Think Women
International Women's Day is a global event and Relocate Global celebrated the contribution that women make at a lunch in central London on Friday with a variety of inspirational speakers.

Using art to unlock creativity and problem solving

Peter Moolan-Feroze, artist and business consultant, began the morning’s discussion by inviting participants to unlock their latent creativity.Peter trained as an artist at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, the Slade School (1979-1983), London University and then post-graduate at the Royal Academy Schools (1984-1987). For the last fifteen years, Peter has been an external consultant at the London Business School. He has designed creative learning programmes for companies including Deutsche Bank, A.T.Kearney, Givaudan, M&S, McLaren Automotive, Unilever, Estée Lauder and Jo Malone.He explained that he has worked with teams and executives using the power of art and sketches to overcome challenges, design new ways to tackle difficult problems and come up with new strategic initiatives.“I am essentially a Renaissance thinker,” he said, “and I believe in the power of cross fertilization between subjects.” This encourages managers to realise that solutions can occur by employing subjects outside your own their own skill base. For example, he arranged for professional ballet dancers to come to talk to executives at McLaren Automotive about the process of movement and fluidity.“By the end of the session, the ballet dancers had shown that there is a whole new language with which to talk about movement and flow, and that by using a new vocabulary, new opportunities can arise,” he said. “By taking a completely different approach to solving problems around car design, exciting new possibilities opened up.”

Dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty key for modern businesses

Using art helps to inject an ambiguity, an uncertainty and create a space for unanticipated opportunity to arise, he says, something that is not often found in business, where planning and certainty are prized.“Businesses can no longer plan five or ten years ahead, as they used to,” he explained. “If you tried to do that, you’d be dead as a business. It’s all about responding to rapidly changing environments and adapting to a world in flux. A lot of progress comes from solutions outside your own environment.”His experience with business leaders is that while they may be looking for new ideas, they often underestimate how important a fresh perspective can be.“The issue with expertise and leadership is that sometimes you need to find an answer to a problem from a place of inexperience and openness. That can be hard thing for leaders to do.”

Karin Joseph of the Amos Trust spoke about charity work with street children

Karin Joseph of the Amos Trust, a small, creative human rights charity, spoke next about work of the charity among street children in eight countries around the world, and the importance of support and resilience in the face of challenging work.One of its key areas of work is to transform the lives of girls and young women on the streets, so they can live free from abuse. The organisation works with teams of local women in places as diverse as South Africa, Tanzania, Burundi, India, Egypt, Mexico, Kenya and the US and UK.The project, called On her terms, helps women and girls who live on the street, and the women who help them.“As women, we are all involved in different parts of the same struggle,” she explained. “We can find support and encouragement in the same ways, by connecting with other women with shared experiences.”She said that many women in the workplace had experience of things that had happened that were not on their terms, and they could reflect on that.“Women are fantastic networkers and connectors and we can build on that to make a difference in the world,” she said.In the round table discussion there were contributions from men and women from a range of different businesses about how women can act as role models in the workplace to encourage younger people. Attendees also raised the issue of how companies were missing out on a loyal and hardworking tranche of society – working mothers – and why making the workplace more accessible to this group could make good business sense.

The importance of women as role models

Belinda Smith, of Grace Coaching, summed it up, saying, “As women we can invite other people into our lives, and if we keep inviting each other in our projects and lives, then great things will happen.”There was a surprise visit by television present Cherry Healey of Inside the Factory (BBC1) and Karen Hobbs, comedian and information officer for The Eve Appeal, a national charity which raises money for ground-breaking research into the five gynaecological cancers (which kill 21 women in the UK a day).Karen Hobbs talked about her experience of being diagnosed with cervical cancer at just 24, and talked about the signs to look out for, and what to do if you're worried, as well as talking about International Women’s Day and what it had achieved.At lunch, Lauren Toure, senior consultant at Frost Included f(i), used evidence from the worlds of science, finance, economics and salmon farming to explain how diversity grows resilience, mitigates against risk and heightens the probability of success in nature and in organisations.Frost Included runs inclusive leadership training at the CEO level and Lauren has over 12 years’ experience within the diversity and social inclusion sector including the London Olympics 2012 Organising Committee’s Diversity and Inclusion Team.“In a few years we won’t be talking about diversity and inclusion,” she said, “it will be just part of the culture.”

Lauren Toure spoke on the importance of diversity

Lauren is registered blind and explained how advances in technology had helped her.“As a disabled person, I have had a fantastic career, and I have never been discriminated against. When it comes to motherhood, however, people have very entrenched views about it,” she said. “People assumed that my priorities had changed. For true equality to occur in the workplace, we must level the playing field.”She said leaders needed to understand why diversity is vital to the workplace, show and lead by example, and deliver and make interventions that changed the workplace environment.“We need to change the policies and the processes,” she said.This starts with recognising and tackling your own bias; opening up “in groups” so that managers are not always asking advice from people who look and think like themselves; welcoming feedback and giving permission for staff to disagree; mentoring people from different backgrounds, and modelling the behaviour you wish to see, such as working from home, encouraging both men and women to take up shared parental leave, and flexi working.