Fostering Women Leadership and Empowerment

08. Mai 2017

I travelled to Bangkok, Thailand for the 8th Annual Women Leadership and Empowerment Conference from 1st to 3rd of March. The conference is an initiative of a non-profit educational organization called Tomorrow People, with the aim to provide a forum to share knowledges and best practices, and establish new connections and partnerships for those interested in creating social change.

Women Leadership Conference Teilnehmerkreis

Picture: Participants of the Conference represent nearly every part of the World (all pictures: wleconference.org)

The participants range from graduate students and scholars to business professionals, administrators, educational leaders, NGO representatives and policy makers. There were many participants from Europe and North America. In addition I got to mingle with colleagues from to me more exotic places, such as Australia, Bangladesh, India, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates. During the three-day program we heard about 30 presentations. Special to this conference was an informal, unusually open and supportive atmosphere. This allowed a stimulating discussion to follow each presentation, enhancing the learning effect.

Teilnehmerinnen der Women Leadership Conference

Picture: Participants following one of over 30 Presentations

The diversity of topics was enormous and truly global. Leadership and management research was well represented, studying the connection of emotional intelligence to empowered leadership, female leaders in the male dominated industries, women business mentoring, glass ceiling in Indian SMEs, family-friendly working practices and employee turnover, and engagement of Latina women in professional organizations in the US.

Rednerein an der Women Leadership Conference

Picture: Speaker addresses gender diversity issues as one of the biggest economic problems today

Health and health care are inseparable to gender studies and gender equality policies. This reflected in the conference program. We heard, for instance, how the gender system resonates in ageing bodies, about health, nutrition and sustainable development, and about gender mainstreaming in medical education. Culture, policies and politics were further studied in relation to microfinancing of rural women’s enterprises in Bangladesh, Masaii women’s public participation, Emirati student mothers’ time resources in higher education, trafficking on human beings, gender-based violence, and social and cultural positioning of Thai and Philippine women, Lapland’s Sami people and Australian aboriginals.

I am particularly lucky with my area of expertise: Teaching about the social processes leading to group identities, stereotyping and inequalities is relevant to all streams of research and practice. In my presentation I introduced my teaching methodology. As a practical application of the theory I showed how to break down unconscious bias to the level of awareness, so we can take effective action to curb our biases. From the discussion and feedback that followed, I felt my presentation was successful and inspirational.

Dr. Ella Roininen spricht an der Women Leadership Conference

Picture: Ella Roininen from Kalaidos University of Applied Science speaking at the 8th Annual Women Leadership and Empowerment Conference

My speech was entitled “Globally applicable method of teaching equality - How to spread the message of awareness and constructive action”. Its abstract reads as follows: “I teach women’s and minorities’ empowerment to people from all over the world. Based on my theoretical and practical insights, I have developed a training method that can provide key revelations to students, professionals, field workers, policy makers and leaders of all lines. The method is not culturally bound, as the social mechanisms leading to inequalities are the same independent of the context. The basic program can be run in two days, and won’t require more than basic facilities. This makes it an effective gender equality measure.
I share the core ideas of the training at the conference, with the aim to trigger a wider global community to implement it. In the training the shift in mindset is unfolded gradually, in a practical and sensitive manner suitable to the context. It is about discovery and inspiration. The interactive, safe and supportive workshop form encourages participants to relate the learned to their own experiences, and in this way immediately take ownership of the knowledge.

Empowerment happens when we learn to intellectualize the inequalities we face, and constructively integrate this knowledge into our everyday lives. This gives courage to claim the space that belongs to us, and to take responsibility for driving inclusion in our own environment. The results have been proved by numerous student populations. For those interested, I am available to provide workshops on a non-profit basis.”

To sum up my experiences during the three days: an in-depth look into any particular topic was not the goal of the conference, and was also not possible considering the diversity of the themes. To me the variety and new horizons were exactly what I was looking for: enjoying the open and positive spirit of the conference community, learning about new approaches. The brilliance of studying gender and inclusion is that the range of possible topics cuts through all disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature of gender studies makes nearly all knowledges relevant to one other, and lets you share with people from truly diverse circumstances and training. Learning about the gender implications in one area helps us to understand the same in other areas, as no social activity if free from gendered meanings.

If you are interested in any of the presentations I mention in this blog, I am happy to provide you with an electronic article from the conference proceedings and help you get in touch with the author.

Party bei der Women Leadership Conference

Picture: Party at the end of a conference Day

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