International Women’s Day: Empowering Women

Elizabeth Filippouli NYC 2016As the world marks International Women’s Day this week, we caught up with the founder and CEO of Global Thinkers Forum, Elizabeth Filippouli. Named as one of Oxford University’s Said Business School’s 42 top graduate entrepreneurs, Elizabeth talks about the importance of women empowerment , what we can do to achieve gender parity, and the women who have inspired her. 

Tell us a bit about Global Thinkers Forum

Global Thinkers Forum (GTF) is a global platform that brings together a diverse network of visionary thought leaders to effect positive change in the world. GTF promotes accountable leadership, women empowerment and youth development and it is also a bridge-builder that creates opportunities for knowledge exchange, collaboration and strategic philanthropy. We are London-based and we have a presence in five countries: UK, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, UAE and expanding rapidly. We launched GTF in 2012 in Amman, Jordan under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania and we are extremely proud of our very prestigious Advisory Board with high-profile members from 20+ countries.

Women Empowerment is one of your key focus areas – why?

Women empowerment is part of our five-year goals and core area of focus. We believe that women have a very influential role to play in shaping a new ecosystem for social progress and excellence. Our world needs women forerunners who can understand that collaboration is key for progress and sustainable development and will seek partnerships with obvious and unanticipated stakeholders. It needs women leaders who know that it’s all about the people and they will serve ideas and values for a large vision. It needs women leaders who will take steps to achieve extensive impact and will also look to develop new leaders on various levels and across all sectors in order to foster growth.

If we want to secure sustainable development, this can only be achieved through the advancement and empowerment of women. Creating more opportunities for women to generate real face-to-face dialogue and to share experiences will go a distance in healing rifts and increasing cooperation, trust, and mutual respect within our societies and between East and West.

What does the organisation hope to achieve for women globally?

Global Thinkers Forum is committed to effecting positive change through collaboration, accountable leadership and strategic thinking around some of the world’s key challenges. Women are at the heart of these issues and, through our initiatives, we aim to promote and empower them globally. Our ambition is to nurture women leaders who will be able to break the glass ceiling and bring about positive change in their professional community and society in general.

What difference has Global Thinkers Forum made to the lives of women?

Within four years since GTF’s launch under the patronage of Queen Rania, Global Thinkers Forum is successfully catalysing women empowerment. We have organised seminars and workshops to help women advance their business skills and enhance their leadership potential through values-based decision-making. We have also organised angel investors’ events to promote female entrepreneurship and create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to showcase and pitch their ideas. We have also promoted and celebrated women changemakers around the world, giving voice to inspiring women who come from different countries, cultures and sectors and act as role-models for the next generation of leaders. We are consistently building a momentum from our inaugural event in Amman, in 2012, “Women in MENA: Power and Creativity” up to our upcoming signature conference in Istanbul in November 2016 under the theme “Visionary Women: Passion & Purpose for a Better World”.

Gender parity is not achievable in our lifetime; according to the World Economic Forum it will take 117 years for the gender gap to close entirely. Doesn’t this paint a depressing picture for ourselves, our daughters and grand daughters?

I would not focus on any depressing angle, I would focus on the mission and on getting into the final outcome-which is indeed achievable. Women empowerment is an imperative that does not only affect women’s lives, it also affects men’s lives and the future generations. We need to join forces and collaborate in order to achieve not only a better future for our daughters and grand daughters, but also for our sons and grand sons. Our societies need more skills, more talent and would definitely progress and prosper faster and better by including more women in the work force.

What can be done to significantly reduce the gender gap?

Education is key to reducing the gender gap and especially values-based education. Our values reflect what is important to us. They are a shorthand way of describing our individual and collective motivations. Together with beliefs, they are the causal factors that drive our decision-making throughout life and this is exactly why a values-based education can significantly reduce the gender gap. Educating girls and women increases their knowledge of the world, their access to information, their aspiration to achieving leadership positions and their opportunity to decide, for themselves, how they want to lead their lives. These educated girls and women may also become mothers, nurturing the same set of skills and knowledge to their children, the next generations. They may also become leaders in their business, their community or their country; hence, they will be able to lead by example and transfer their skills and values through their position to a wider audience.

How will you and Global Thinkers Forum be marking International Women’s Day?

We are planning a social media campaign with a focus on Syrian women and girls who are displaced and suffering tremendously. It is the least we can do to raise even more awareness and possibly more action to help.

Which woman inspires you?

I am inspired by women who are leaders, movers and shakers and they genuinely care about humanity. Women who are warm hearted, they are fearless fighters and they maintain their human approach, like for example Diana, Princess of Wales, Aung San Suu Kyi, Queen Rania of Jordan. The individual circumstances that these women have to endure also on personal, social and certainly historical levels have made their lives more complex, more challenging and add even more value to their efforts to create positive change against many odds.