In this fast-paced world, Women Creating New Economies was the timely theme of the 2013 Global Summit of Women held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in June. The largest summit in its 23-year history, 1,100 women from 72 countries convened to explore women’s essential role in the new economy.
While women came from all over the world, the largest delegations came from Mongolia (82), China (77), South Africa (56), Vietnam (52), the United States (47), France (42) and the Philippines (40).
Roughly a third of the participants came from the corporate world, a third were entrepreneurs and a third represented governments or nongovernmental organizations. More than 30 government mInIsters, including one head of state, participated.
The opening ceremony Thursday night featured the Malaysian prime minister and first lady, the president of Kosovo and the vice president of Vietnam. Then the work of the summit began in earnest on Friday morning by focusing on the megaeconomic trends affecting the world, particularly women.
By 2030, only 37 percent of the global gross domestic product will come from developed countries, with the rest coming from the emerging economies, mainly in Asia. Women there are well positioned to benefit from this growth since Asian women are the most active investors in any part of the world. Moreover, women investors in Asia are the biggest risk takers in the world. Women entrepreneurs in general are well positioned to take advantage of how digital social media facilitate networking, marketing and funding through crowd sourcing.
Other topics addressed during the summit included the representation of women on corporate boards, reducing workplace stress, social entrepreneurship, innovating business through technology, and how to engage men in diversity efforts.
A conversation on leadership between PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi and Summit President Irene Natividad was the highlight of the program’s close. A dinner hosted by the first lady at the prime minister’s residence, a gala dinner featuring a performance by the Spanish opera star Pilar Jurado, and the closing dinner hosted by Malaysia’s queen at the new palace provided great opportunities for networking and fun along with the thought-provoking discussions.
The following is a snapshot of women from each group represented at the summit. Each is an extraordinary individual, but also representative of the dynamic women who attend the summit.
CORPORATE: Parnisiree Amatayakul, managing director, IBM Thailand. Parnisiree participated in the CEO roundtable as one of several chief executives discussing the challenge of “Matching Skills for the New Economy.” Parnisiree told her own story of being the only woman in her sales group when she started at IBM. She shared an interesting perspective of how technology allows her to have “work/life integration.” Technology enables her to stay connected to work and also with her family via live chat and video clips of important events that she’s unable to attend in person. She sees social collaboration as key for success in the upcoming decade and believes women are well suited to this. She encouraged her audience to be open minded and always willing to learn from others.
ENTREPRENEUR: Willa Shalit, an American artist, theatrical and television producer, photographer, author/editor, and social-conscious entrepreneur. While Willa has been involved with women’s issues for many years – she was an original producer of “The Vagina Monologues” – she attended the summit in her capacity as one of the founders of Maiden Nation, a company formed around the principle of “empowering women through ethical fashion.” Willa, who was a panelist in the session Social Entrepreneurship, spent much of the summit connecting with designers, producers and exporters and sharing her vision of supporting women’s entrepreneurial projects.
Non-governmental organization: Shukla Bose, founder and CEO of Parikrma Humanity Foundation, a nonprofit organization that runs schools for underprivileged children in India. The schools provide high quality English education to children—many of them girls—from slums and orphanages. Shukla spent 26 years in the hospitality industry—including more than a decade as a CEO—and in 2000 she gave up her high-profile corporate position to start the Parikrma Humanity Foundation. This was Shukla’s first summit, following which she said, “If in summits like this we get to meet interesting and dynamic women, then count me in as a permanent attendee.”
During the closing ceremony, Irene Natividad, summit president and the indomitable force behind this gathering for 23 years, announced that the 2014 summit will take place in Paris June 5-7. Many of the women in Kuala Lumpur said goodbye to their new friends and business contacts with, “See you in Paris next year!”
This Article originally appeared in Enterprising Women