The marvellous halls, adorned with mirrors, paintings and valuable chandeliers, all catapulted us into another era but our goal remained clear: to support PWI yet again, sponsoring their most important event of the year, after having contributed to the creation of the video to mark the association’s 30th anniversary and recorded an interview with our CEO Katya Aricci (click here to read).
The evening revolved around the main theme of “Overcoming bias for a more connected world” and saw four speakers take to the stage to talk about their professional experience, each describing what they themselves do to promote gender balance.
The first to take the floor was Giusy Caruso, an acclaimed Italian pianist and musicologist who has lived in Brussels for many years now and delighted the audience not only with her talk but also by playing on the Steinway and Sons piano in the Caryatids Ballroom.
It was then the turn of Stijn Heytens, Managing Director of McDonald’s Belgium, who talked about the projects he has set up in his company to promote the role of women and foster development of local communities.
In her opinion, being a woman has never been a problem in her working life for two reasons: firstly, because she fulfilled an apical role in the company which meant she enjoyed complete freedom and autonomy; and secondly, because the world of languages and translations is predominantly female.
For example, she talked about how in the early years of Arkadia Translations the team consisted entirely of women. At a certain point, however, she realised that it was necessary to introduce a different point of view and so she hired the first man in the company.
Since then, she has always been careful to guarantee a certain number of men in the company, ensuring a significant presence both in terms of number and role.
Katya also explained that it was, however, quite difficult to balance family life with her commitments as a businesswoman.
As long as it is assumed that running a family is the job solely of women, their situation (also outside the home) cannot be expected to change. And in this sense, anyone who manages a company has a strong responsibility to recognise flexible working methods to support family life for both men and women.
Katya is well aware that she represents an exception to the rule for women, especially in Italy. She mentioned, for example, what happened a few days ago to the astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti who, when leaving for her last mission to space, was asked who would be looking after her children: a question that no journalist has ever asked her male counterparts. So, as long as questions like these are being asked, true gender balance is still a long way from being established…
The last to speak was Aurélien Herquel, founder and CEO of Hu-Man, who talked about his label which is committed to building bridges between employees and management, in order to humanize the workplace.
Giusy Caruso then returned to the piano and her soft music accompanied the guests as they moved to their tables for the dinner, which ended with a fun lottery where the many prizes included Limited Edition Barbie dolls in the Samantha Cristoforetti version which was chosen by Mattel (another sponsor of the evening) as a role model to inspire the next generation of leaders and dreamers.