Is there still place for a women’s leadership conference?

WLC-26

Yes I’m still asked this question, even though leadership conferences with all-male line-ups continue to be trotted out with alarming regularity. So I’m taking the liberty of publishing extracts of this general press statement as a blog post on the eve of the 8th Annual Women’s Leadership Conference.

At a time when many women hold top leadership positions, some might question the value of women’s leadership conferences. However, Debby Edelstein, founder, organiser and chairperson of the 8th annual Women’s Leadership Conference, says in a world where men still dominate the conference circuit, women leadership conferences are essential for mentorship and encouragement, giving women a platform to share their knowledge and experiences.

“There is an inordinate amount of conferences where it’s still regarded as acceptable to exclude women’s voices from the debate. Much of the context that we work within remains patriarchal and unwelcoming to women’s voices,” says Edelstein, referring specifically to a number of high profile conferences last year which boasted a conspicuous absence of women in their line-ups.

“I am exposed to brilliant talent on a daily basis, I’ve been championing the area of women’s leadership for 15 years, and I’m more motivated than ever to show women in leadership how they can raise their profiles to get the recognition they deserve.”

The Women’s Leadership Conference, which takes place on 22 May and 23 May 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank, provides such an opportunity, however, with one strategic difference: In addition to a strong line-up of highly successful women leaders, this year includes a few top male speakers (namely GIBS dean, Professor Nick Binedell; journalist, Victor Dlamini; CEO of Avatar Zibusiso Mkhwanazi and co-founder of the Citizens Movement, Bobby Godsell).

This is the first time men have been included in the Women’s Leadership Conference, a decision which was made following a survey of the women who took part in last year’s conference. “Although women still dominate the event, placing women speakers and men speakers together on the same line-up entrenches the message that there is an abundant talent of top women speakers who are capable of sharing the podium with their male colleagues, women who are equally poised to speak about leadership issues.

“Importantly, the inclusion of men also helps to ensure the women’s leadership agenda becomes a conversation that men are having too,” she says.

Women are still traditionally responsible for taking care of families and communities, and as they take up more leadership positions at work, we need to see a different approach that encourages a more even distribution of responsibilities across the board. “Women’s leadership today is about changing the game completely and creating a different, healthier set of rules and values,” says Edelstein. “This can only be achieved by discussing these issues with our spouses, partners and male colleagues.”

“We want to encourage women to recognise their leadership abilities, to see themselves as leaders and raise the game in terms of the topics they speak about.  The Women’s Leadership Conference creates this space,” concludes Edelstein.

Advertisements

Faith in our Future (by a 17 year old South African)

adam speaking

A guest blog post by my son Adam Edelstein

I wouldn’t call myself an optimist, nor would I call myself a pessimist. I understand the danger when walking alone at night in the middle of Newtown, but I also see the small acts of kindness prevalent in South African society. I see the shifty looking meth head walking on the other side of the road, but I also see the laugh shared by passing strangers.

With four of our cities being in the top 50 most dangerous in the world, many people seem to think our future looks grim. Corruption is rife and most of our country’s truly great leaders are either not in politics, over 80 or have already abandoned the country.

And yet, when I go get a coffee from around the corner from my house, and the guy at the counter gives me a high five and a huge grin, I don’t feel despair or bitterness. Make no mistake, I think there is a massive weight on the shoulders of our generation, but I don’t think we’re quite as alone as we think we are. I feel, in fact, quite the opposite. I feel hope.

When asked where one intends to work after university, many people say ‘London’, ‘New York’, ‘Paris’. I myself want to travel, and hopefully work all over the world. I also, however, intend to make a contribution right here in sunny South Africa, the most diverse, energetic and, frankly, also one of the scariest countries in the world.

I’ve seen a few, thankfully rare, individuals express loathing for our beautiful country. They feel hopeless and angry towards the ‘corrupt government’ for failing us so dismally. They say that they ‘can’t wait’ to get out of this garbage dump, and finally see the beautiful beaches of Australia.

To put it bluntly, our beaches are better.

The government has failed us in many areas and they will soon have to face up to their mistakes, and yet it is important to remember the many who truly try to change South Africa for the better. The many individuals who focus on the people, rather than the paycheck, and have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil.

As the generation that I am privileged to be a part of grow up, and finally face the true heat of South Africa, we won’t take ‘Sorry.’ for an answer. We are the generation that not only changes the face of this country, but the face of the world.

Already, calls for change have been echoing in school halls all around the country, and bills for internet censorship and media secrecy have been met with outcries that the government cannot help but listen to. The voice of the youth has always been powerful, but the potential of our generation has exceeded that of any before us. School children calling their teachers to their classes, ensuring they have a matric education. Teachers striking against the terrible conditions they are forced to teach in.

Perhaps the change we bring about is due to our size, but maybe it’s actually due to our nature. We’ve been brought up by the wisest teachers and parents the world has seen so far, and we’ve witnessed some of the world’s worst disasters.

We are the countless protesting against rape in, not only South Africa, but America, the Middle East, and Europe. We are misogynists and racists, but far more of us are gay pride, gender equality and anti-bullying activists. We ignore the few who seek attention to be popular, we see one another for who we truly are and we don’t see individuals by the colour of their skin, but rather by the nature of their hearts.

We are the largest, most revolutionary generation this Earth has ever seen. We are Generation Y, the Millenials. We have the responsibility and drive to change the world and the power to overcome more problems than the world has ever known before. Not only will we fix the cracks and flaws in modern society, but we will take our race to a place only dreamt of by past populations.

So no, I am not an optimist, and sometimes I feel exceedingly grim when looking at the obstacles we have to face in the coming years. And yet, I have hope that there is true innovation and goodness in this country; hope that the terrible crimes I hear of can be remedied, not by ‘teaching women to defend themselves.’ But rather by teaching young boys that rape is unacceptable, that no means no.

I have hope that by teaching the future leaders of our country that everyone is an equal, and that your character is measured by how you treat those who can do nothing for you, the majority of us will be supremely powerful leaders.

We are the leaders the world has been waiting for, and our time is now.