President of CERN Council represented women of scientific community at the IO-MBA Annual High-Level Forum 2015: “Women in Leadership”

Submitted by kkaltenh on Mon, 05/11/2015 - 16:13

US Ambassador Suzan LeVine, Prof. Doris Schopper, Prof. Agnieszka Zalewska (from left to right) Image: Lidia Kleshchenko

by Lidia Kleshchenko (IO-MBA student)

Professor Agnieszka Zalewska, President of CERN Council, participated in the Annual High-Level Forum “Women in Leadership” which took place on April 29 in Geneva. The event, intended to set a tradition for annual university conferences, was organized by a group of students participating in the International Organizations MBA programme at the University of Geneva, which maintains friendly relationship with CERN since its creation. Dr. Maurizio Bona, Advisor to the Director-General of CERN, represents the Organization at the IO-MBA Advisory Board.

The forum gathered influential leaders coming from Geneva, Bern, Rome, and Krakow to discuss perceptions, challenges, and opportunities women face in leading roles in international organisations. The panelists were Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization, Suzan LeVine, United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Michael Møller, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Doris Schopper, Director of CERAH, Appointed Member at ICRC, and Professor at the Medical Faculty at the University of Geneva, and Agnieszka Zalewska, President of CERN Council and Professor at the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The discussion was moderated by Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director of Gender Parity Programme at the World Economic Forum.

Before the forum Professor Agnieszka Zalewska along with Ambassador Suzan LeVine attended an informal meeting with the IO-MBA students, sharing stories of their personal career paths. One topic of the conversation was the difficulties that occur when combining a family life and motherhood with a management position, which a lot of women have to face.

The discussion continued as the forum began, gathering around 270 people in the audience. Irene Khan underlined in her keynote speech that women in leading positions may not be better or worse than men, but they often tackle the issues that men might neglect. Having become the first female Secretary General of Amnesty International in 2001, Ms. Khan faced with this phenomenon in her own practice, having used her power to insist that protection of women against violence should not be overlooked, even in light of the 9/11 tragedy which has happened the same year.

The panelists agreed upon the importance of gender equality for both social and economic development unanimously. However, equality may take more than 80 years to become reality if the current trends continue, according to the data presented by Saadia Zahidi. That is why it is crucial to bring men to the discussion, Michael Møller remarked, noticing that the audience consisted mainly of women. Nevertheless, professor Doris Schopper, who spent a significant part of her career in the field with MSF, admitted that, in her view, there is an inequality with which we cannot do anything about: women are, indeed, physically more vulnerable than men. However, says professor Schopper, the question should be: what CAN we do? Political empowerment, in her opinion, is an essential factor we have to start with. Ambassador Suzan LeVine pointed out that any human being, men or women, should have the freedom to choose their path based on their personal preferences. She reminded the audience that we are all different, and women-leaders, or women-mothers, or those who manage to be both at the same time, are equal – if they are happy with their choice. At the end of the discussion Professor Agnieszka Zalewska pointed out that nowadays there are clearly more women than men at the universities. It must mean, she concluded, that in the future we will see more and more women taking up high-level posts.

Watch the full forum HERE.

Read the Bulletin article HERE.