Leading the Conversation on Women’s Empowerment and Diversity in Russia

Over the past month, I’ve had the honor and privilege to speak at two prominent Russian conferences…

The prestigious Woman Who Matters Forum in Moscow, as well as the Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference in Sochi.

It was a truly inspirational experience rubbing shoulders with and sitting alongside leaders of international companies and experts across various sectors and industries to discuss the issues surrounding gender parity and diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

In Sochi, for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Conference, I offered tips and advice to already successful businesswomen and leaders in their own fields, looking to up their game. I emphasized the mindset, character and resilience needed to be a longstanding entrepreneur, and how to turn apparent obstacles faced by women in business, into successes and revenue.

In Moscow, during the multi-day Woman Who Matters Forum, I advised Russian leaders of influential companies. In order to succeed and see actual results, companies need to take a wholistic approach to tackling employee retention and overall corporate strategy. Not only is it important to build confidence and empower returning employees, but it is paramount to educate companies, especially management too. Key points of advice:

  • To truly empower anyone in the workforce, concentrate on building confidence;
  • Companies need to make a concerted effort to increase inclusivity rather than focus solely on hiring diverse candidates;
  • Robust training is needed so that employees of all levels can deal with unconscious bias.

I was now an Ambassador of the western world, an influencer and thought leader in Diversity and Inclusion, who had the specific task to empower Russian companies and the women attending, with noteworthy dialogue and the tools to change cultural stereotypes.

To prepare for my talks, I researched past Russian speakers and how they conveyed information. I didn’t want to just read off slides or lecture the attendees – I needed to make an impact. My mission after all was to impact and inspire companies in Russia and the women attending and so I had to achieve what I had travelled so far to do. So for the final session in Moscow, I didn’t present slides, but instead had a conversation with the audience. A simple chat. I spoke slower than usual, with an effort to really break down concepts that particularly in the west, we take for granted such as the difference between diversity and the separate but hand in hand concept of inclusion.

Despite resistance, I fought for my interpreter, Alyona Cherkashina, to sit center stage, right next to me. She had been shadowing me the whole time, and if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have had the impact I had during my other speeches. Not only that, this was a real life, real time example of inclusion which was the topic of my speech. We went over a few key conclusions to ensure they were translated in the intended context. We worked hand in hand. I spoke, paused and then she spoke. Same pace, same eye contact, same emphasis on key words. It worked! The audience reacted. There were multiple comments on the power of our words and how they meant something. With that, I can say I achieved what I had traveled so far to do.

I had a great time exploring not only the beauty of Russia, but being part of an extraordinary development in empowering its women. Thank you for your hospitality and warmth and on behalf of Uma, we look forward to developing our future endeavors together! Until next time Russia…

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