An international CEO network tackles the issue of gender discrimination

The CEO Equal Opportunities Network is a new player in the pursuit of equal pay, opportunities and representation between men and women. It gives leaders a platform to discuss these important issues.

A new initiative towards a more gender-balanced workplace

This year in October, the CEO Equal Opportunities Network was officially launched by the SweBeLux-NoBeLux Chamber of Commerce. It is placed under the patronage of three entities:

  • the European Commission Representation in Luxembourg,
  • the Government of the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg,
  • and the Embassy of Sweden.

SweBeLux is the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg and Belgium. In these countries, it represents Sweden’s economic interests. SweBeLux also operates, under the designation NoBeLux, as the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg and Belgium. As such, it represents the interests of:

  • Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden),
  • Finland,
  • Iceland,
  • Greenland,
  • and the Faroe Islands.

NoBeLux is SweBeLux’s sister organization. SweBelux-NoBeLux has three offices: one in Stockholm, one in Brussels and one in Luxembourg.

Discussion as a factor of progress

The CEO Equal Opportunities network was introduced during a public conference at the Foyer Européen, in Luxembourg. The event’s main topic of discussion was female representation, and more specifically:

  • the importance of increasing female representation in companies,
  • the scarcity, and sometimes lack of women managers and CEOs in some major companies,
  • the necessity to talk about the barriers women face today when they advance towards companies’ boards and leadership positions,
  • the central role played by world and economic leaders in social progress.

Several keynote speakers and panelists shared their views on these matters, as well as their experiences. They tried to answer the following questions:

  • What have their companies achieved so far, in terms of female representation?
  • What are the most impending challenges?
  • What is the way forward?
  • What can other male and female leaders learn from their experience?
  • Why is it so important for them to be part of an international network?

Two companies in the limelight

During the network’s launch event, two companies were commended for their efforts to foster equal treatment between men and women in the workplace, and to eliminate the gender pay gap.

A dream workplace: Reykjavik Energy

Sólrún Kristjánsdóttir is Reykjavik Energy’s head of human resources. In her keynote speech, she described how this Icelandic company came to receive two gender equality awards. She explained that Reykjavik Energy has made gender equality a part of its brand, and the reason of its success in a challenging economic environment.

A trailblazing company: Ingka Group

Before the networking lunch that closed the event, Sari Einy Brody from Ingka Group gave a speech about her company’s approach to closing the gender gap. She is the Global Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Ingka Group, Ikea’s largest franchisee. She talked about the necessity for women, as well as for men, to join the discussion and to address gender equality issues together in the workplace.

Gender equality: a priority for Nordic countries

The October event was not NoBeLux-SweBeLux’s first attempt at addressing the issue of gender inequality. Earlier this year, on April 29th 2019, they held a CEO Gender Equality Conference at the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.

Another previous CEO Gender Equality Conference was organized by NoBeLux-SweBeLux in June 2018. Lydia Mutsch, at the time Luxembourg’s minister of Equal Opportunities, was invited to speak there. She declared:

“Gender equality is an unfinished business, but the progresses made in Luxembourg over the last few years should be motivation enough to us all to continue our efforts.”

These previous conferences were not placed under the banner of the CEO Gender Opportunities Network. Yet they reflected NoBeLux-SweBeLux’s desire to be part of the conversation.

The CEO network should now help NoBeLux-SweBeLux structure their efforts aimed at gender inequality. It gives Nordic, Belgian and Luxembourgish leaders a platform to effect change in corporate culture.

A regular exchange of innovative ideas

CEOs will meet four times each year to talk about equal opportunities. They will share their thoughts on the issue, and describe ways to overcome gender inequalities in the workplace.

The network is also going to host a public conference each year with:

  • keynote speeches,
  • roundtables,
  • debates,
  • networking lunches.

Thanks to this event, the network should be able to rally other concerned CEOs. Apart from these meetings, members will be able to meet throughout the year to discuss their thoughts and ideas. CEOs will share concrete management strategies that help foster equality at work.

Such a network offers its members an opportunity to branch out and find new allies in the quest for equal opportunities for men and women at work. By joining forces, they are hoping to come up with innovative ideas, and to take the matter forward, once and for all.


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