Women’s Forum Singapore 2018: A Candid Chat with Chiara Corazza
Modelled after the powerhouse World Economic Forum at Davos, the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society (WFES) was founded by a group of notably influential French businesswomen. Their aim: to stir better debate and ways of growing women’s contribution to society and the global economy.
Now in its 13th year after having seen multiple international editions and keynote speakers including Nobel Prize laureates and the who’s who in the global business, government and civil society scene, the first ever Women’s Forum Singapore will be held at Raffles City Convention Centre from 12-14 September 2018.
With over 50 countries represented and more than 1000 participating delegates, the Women’s Forum Singapore 2018’s theme of “Bridging Worlds for Inclusive Innovation” seeks to address the headwinds of rising geopolitical challenges, climate and environmental change and technological job disruption across Asia-Pacific.
We speak to Chiara Corazza, the current Managing Director of WFES (former MD of the Greater Paris Investment Agency and a French Legion of Honour Knight) to learn more about the cause, and her personal motivations.
HNW: What differentiates the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society (WFES) from other women’s interest groups and economic/business platforms?
Chiara Corazza: One of the main differentiators of WFES as a global powerful and influential platform, is to not only represent issues pertaining to gender, but also those riddling society. While we aim to highlight the strong impact of women plus how and where they can effect it, WFES has always sought to bridge the gaps in the world and therefore, humanity. This can only be done by creating a world of inclusion, for both women and men.
What frustrates you the most about women’s role(s) today?
The fact that women are not always where they belong—where they deserve to be and where they can bring their added value to the ideas and innovations—is a major challenge today. There are change-makers who fail to find the right platforms, especially in emerging realms created by disruption such as those of algorithms, technology and innovation. This under-representation must be addressed, which is the very purpose of Women’s Forum Singapore. By putting innovation in the foreground, we aim to highlight how inclusive innovation can add to the call for women’s leadership globally. Whether it is women in STEM, women designing cities of the future or women behind improved mobility, we must place women where things are changing.
Does gender equality mean fairness?
It means fairness, and it means justice for all.
What do you think are the benefits to larger society and the world, when women are empowered to influence decision-making and contribute on equal levels as men?
At the Women’s Forum, we believe women and men can bring added value and nuanced perspectives that make the world more inclusive. 30% of our speakers and delegates are men because we believe the need to include them in our vision. Effective change cannot happen until both men and women are working together, or else we will perish much like the Amazons! Fighting together will bring collaborations that are beneficial for all.
Only 5% of global CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women. This need for women’s leadership in business is recognised by our CEO Champions Initiative, the results of which will be shared ahead of the Singapore Summit in partnership with McKinsey. Did you know that gender equality will add over 20 billion dollars to the Singapore GDP? And over 240 million jobs worldwide! Gender equality is more than an ethical consideration—women in leadership can bring increased profitability for both society and business.
You have built a successful career in both private and public service. What drives your motivation to change the system/status quo?
My two sisters and I grew up ambitious—not for ourselves, but to bring positive change in the world. We have wanted to engage for impact not through mere idealism, but with passion, energy, goodwill and courage to truly make a meaningful difference in the world.
The struggle for fairer opportunity and empowerment works against a deep-running system of both external and internalised misogyny and androcentrism. Do you believe a change in awareness and understanding of the issues we face is achievable for this current generation, or only in the future?
The change is achievable—but we must act now. This is the right momentum. That is core to the mission of Women’s Forum Singapore and the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society.
In the course of your career, do you recall moments when you felt the most negative impacts of a gender divide?
In my almost 40 years of career as a professional, I have worked hard in a man’s world. Whether it was in my role as a journalist, as the Director of International Affairs for Paris Region or Managing Director of the Greater Paris Investment Agency—I have never had the impression that being a woman was a hindrance to my abilities to be a leader in any way. But it is only now as Managing Director of the Women’s Forum that I notice the divide—women are not where they can make a difference, even in the countries where they are privileged. This is why it is crucial to be reactive and put the women who are deserving in the right place. Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society aims to provide a platform and put deserving women in the right place. It is my way of giving back to the community.
Have you ever felt pressure to alter your behaviour or appearance as a woman or minority, in order to be perceived as a more credible candidate, professionally? What do you understand of such an experience?
No, never. I have always presented myself by allowing my personality, my nuanced perspectives and creativity, my courage and competence to make things happen. It is not imitation or alteration but energy and ability that mark the credibility to be the right candidate.
Are family and career necessarily a dichotomous choice for a modern, urban individual? How do you think our systems can better recognise and value the social contributions and work of parents?
I have two children who are both in their thirties. I travelled a lot throughout their childhood, but they were always of utmost importance to me. I made sure to constantly share my stories from around the world with them, and I wanted them to know of the positive and personal impact I was making. I was able to do this with the support of my husband who understood that having a wife with a career was what it meant to have a happy home. It is crucial for men and women to recognise and support the aspirations and leaderships of the other. It is not about satisfaction but rather finding the perfect balance.
What is your personal motto in life, underlying all that you do?
Nurture through the differences of others!