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Global perspectives on equality, strategies for personal and professional success, and challenges faced by women in business were among the key topics of discussion at the IMEX America Women’s Leadership Forum, which took place Tuesday, October 11, and was attended by over 40 delegates.

Susan Sarfati, CEO of High Performance Strategies, focused on empowerment as a critical dimension to the narrowing the gender gap across the globe, and gave examples of growing equality represented by case studies of women’s leadership in Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia and Somalia as well as the recent female winners of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Leonora Valvo, CEO of etouches, an event software company, presented over 15 strategies for success, including the need for continual pushing of personal boundaries and comfort zones, the importance of positive thinking and the value of what she called ‘full emotional response.’

Kate Thompson, Associate Regional Vice-President of HelmsBriscoe highlighted the issue of how best to manage work-life balance and family pressures and noted that these were still critical challenges for many women and especially women entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Questions from Forum participants focused on how to deal with gender inequality and stereotyping in the business environment. Some of the solutions discussed included the importance of ‘genderless’ thinking and establishing clear parameters of responsibility, as well as maintaining a strong focus on business performance.

“It’s a win-win for every co-worker, wherever they are and whatever their role,” said Thompson. “Focus on business performance and it should help show you the way through any gender issues or obstacles.”

“This has been a really wonderful session,” said Mary Beattie, global account executive at ConferenceDirect. “It is great to hear so many thought-provoking ideas on how to ‘get to the top’ from experienced and successful women in different sectors of business and different places around the world. It’s nice to be able to relate to the common challenges that they face.”

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