EBRD Annual Meeting 2014: Women in the Economy

By Larry  Sherwin

Over the years, the Women in Business panel has become one of the liveliest and best-attended events at the EBRD Business Forum. With gender and diversity issues now a priority in the corporate suite, not to mention across societies around the globe, this is no surprise.

(As an aside to this year’s discussion in Warsaw, it is interesting to note that the word “gender” was chosen as last year’s “word of the year” by the University of Warsaw and the Polish Language Foundation.)
As always, the panel aimed to deliver a rich debate and exchange of ideas and experiences on how women enrich corporate life and empower the economy. This year’s discussion explored areas and roles in which women can contribute to the economy, and how both the economy and society can benefit.

The topic builds on last year’s discussion at the Annual Meeting, which debated the business case for greater gender diversity on management boards. The panel looked at the challenges women face in becoming key players in the corporate world in central and eastern Europe, North Africa and the Nordic countries. The panellists highlighted the key measures that need to be taken at the organisational and country level to promote women’s progression to corporate board level: from improving corporate governance in companies to introducing support systems that offer childcare provisions for both women and men.

Our panel was as geographically diverse as the subject at hand, with successful women from Hungary, Morocco, Poland and the UK participating – not to mention a recognised male advocate of the female factor on corporate boards in his native Iceland.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Moderator

  • Sally Bundock, @SallyBundockBBC, Presenter, World Business Report, BBC World News

Confirmed Panellists

  • Nezha Hayat, Chairperson and CEO of Sogelease, Société Générale Maroc group
  • Hreggvidur (Reggie) Jonsson, Chairman, Icelandic Chamber of Commerce
  • Júlia Király, Member of the Board, KBC Group NV
  • Alicja Kornasiewicz, Managing Director, Head of Poland and CEE, Morgan Stanley & Co International Limited

The panel discussion was followed by the ‘Women in Business Awards’ ceremony, which recognised three women from the Bank's countries of operations who have made an outstanding contribution in one of three categories: entrepreneurship, industry and banking/finance.

The Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship award went to Undarmaa Batbayar, President of Bishrelt Group, Mongolia. She is considered to be one of the most prominent female figures of the socio-political and business world in Mongolia. In addition to serving as President of Bishrelt Group (a leading trading company that she founded in 1994), Ms Batbayar currently serves as Deputy Minister of Mongolia’s Ministry of Culture and Education, is a member of the Lower Council of the Mongolian People’s Party and a Chairman of the Social Policy Committee at the Citizens Representative Council of Ulaanbaatar city, as well as Chief of the Family Development Center. She holds numerous prestigious national awards, including Best Worker Honours and the Order of the Polar Star by the government of Mongolia.

Gulbahor Makhkamova won the Outstanding Achievement in the Financial Sector award. Ms Makhkamova is currently Deputy General Director of the microlending organisation IMON International, Tajikistan. She has more than 12 years of experience working for international and local NGOs on issues related to economic development, gender and microfinance, but has focused on microfinance for the past decade, holding supervisory responsibilities in the areas of operations, marketing, human resources, product development and quality management. Ms Makhkamova holds an Honours Diploma in finance and banking (Khujand State University) and completed the international two-year educational programme, Leadership for Sustainable Development (LEAD International), as well as the Regional Scholar Exchange Program ACCESS (Columbia University, Harriman Institute). Her work has appeared in more than 10 publications.

Winner in the Outstanding Achievement in Industry category was Nawal Khalifa, Executive Director Finances, ONEE Water Branch, Morocco. ONEE (Office National de l'Electricité et de l'Eau Potable) – an electric utility and bulk water provider – is considered one of the best water utilities in the region. As Chief Financial Officer, Ms Khalifa is responsible for ONEE’s financial management as well as the implementation of its water strategy. Since 2001, she has led ONEE’s restructuring and more recently headed the Working Group for Water in the merger between ONEP (Office National de l'Eau Potable) and ONE (Office National de l'Electricité). Ms Khalifa is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Cameroon Water Company (CDE SA). She is a graduate of The Moroccan Higher Institute of Commerce and Business Administration (ISCAE).