Powerwomen Summit 2016

Women in senior positions within the wealth sector gathered to network and listen to inspirational speakers over lunch in London's latest business club in Mayfair. Elisabeth Henson, partner at PwC chaired the summit with her usual charm, instantly putting guests and speakers at ease.

Keynote speaker Bonita Norris, youngest person in the world to have reached the summit of Mount Everest and the North Pole, left the audience in awe after sharing her own inspirational story. A chance lecture about mountaineering, to which she had been dragged along by a friend, proved to be the beginning of Bonita's obsession with climbing, a sport she'd never given a moment's thought previously. After a few month's training, she went on a mountaineering expedition in the Alps, but her dream to climb to the top of Mt Everest, and see the curve of the globe on the horizon, wouldn't leave her.
However she needed to raise £50,000 in sponsorship money to take part in the expedition that would fulfil her dream.
She approached hundreds of companies over a year, promising their banner would be planted on top of Mt Everest, but every single one turned her down. With only five days to go before her deadline, and listening to the radio in her car one morning, she decided to ring the station. To her great surprise she was put on air, and given the opportunity to tell listeners how she had to kiss goodbye to her dream. Within a couple of hours, the marketing director of one of the companies she’d approached previously and who’d turned her down, rang her up and agreed to the £50,000 sponsorship.

Lesson to be learnt – never underestimate the power of the media, but more importantly remember that miracles do happen if you believe enough in your dreams and pursue them with determination, Bonita concluded.

Another interesting speaker was Jordanian-born Dr Mouna Jawhary, author of "Women and False Choice: The Truth about Sexism: How to Fight Sexism in the Workplace"
She was explaining a few interesting biological facts, such as neuroplasticity and epigenetics that show how ideas can affect the brain and how environment communicates with our cells - an encouraging observation when it comes to changing men's perception of women's role in future generations.

Guests were also very interested to hear Gaenor Bagley, Head of People, Community & Sustainability at PwC, talking about how her company deals with female promotion and leadership. PwC believes in widening the gates  without lowering the bar and not setting a quota but setting a target, with each business unit having a target. While gender issues were discussed and female promotion facilitated at the top, Gaenor nonetheless noted some blockage at middle management level.

The guest panel also included Dr Almuth McDowell, senior lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, who spoke about the power and benefits of awards, while Dr Gina Heathcote, chair of the Centre for Gender Studies at the SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) spoke about gender and ethnic diversity.