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Wednesday, 2 December 2015


Parveen Hassan, at the BBC100Women Leadership Debate
Yesterday before my feet could touch the ground, the BBC World Service was streaming live as part of the BBC100 Women Season 2015. I was invited to participate, sat at the BBC Media Cafe, London studios to kick start the leadership debate. The session was facilitated by Nuala McGovern from BBC's Outside Source. 
A carefully selected group of versatile women leading in business, academia, and social enterprises collectively debated what constitutes a woman becoming a leader? Furthermore, the specific qualities do women need to overcome the masculinity of their male counterparts making it in the corporate sector and boardrooms.
IMG_0811A polite, female tamed crowd with at least two men waited for their turn to be asked and responded on their views. I also attentively captured the 100Women tweets on social media during the debate.
The BBC #100Women global debates started with women descending from Europe including the Norwegian British Chamber of Commerce. They both gave their individual experiences and the behaviours adapted to make it in the corporate world. Many of the women sitting in the media cafe had similar encounters.
The brains behind this media campaign is Fiona Crack, 100 Women Editor, the BBC 100 Women Season which runs across the BBC, and the BBC World Service reaching out globally, in the various languages. 
This years topical themes cover,"if women are under pressure to conform?" The BBC's ambition, to bring a series of debates together from around the world to discuss what it means to be a 'good girl' or an 'ideal woman' in different regions and cultures, broadly succeeded. 
During the debate, I listened to women working with young women in schools, across India and Pakistan. I watched short video clips of the women actively engaging as part of this season. As expected the learning came briefly towards the end of the leadership debate. On a positive note, mentoring, networking and building a broad base of connections to assist women in their career ladders and entrepreneurial journeys. 
The global debate was far more reaching than expected from a studio cafe. The key points were: messaging, advice, support and guidance.

Although, many women went into the mentality of playing the victim, the lack of success, and the problems. None can be addressed live on air. Disappointingly the female participants never seem to call it good problems, or resolving solutions. On reflection, I wish I interrupted the debate. There was a sense of frustration of the lack ability to recognise and embrace the successful achievements to date, and the female voices who listened in. 
Allyson Zimmermann, (pictured), Executive Director Catalyst Europe AG, explained her rationale why women find it difficult," women are not at the top of the house, they are not in leadership roles, unconscious bias comes up, if you think leader, an automatic setting comes up you think leader, you think male." 
BBC Fiona Crack, set out the vision, which can be deemed a success. Each 100 Women season, Fiona attempts to be bold and try new initiatives with 100 Women. Let's not shy away from what the 100 Women season is becoming, an evolving women empowerment development programme.  On the 1st December, women had the opportunity to further network, collate business contacts, and listen in, sharing their life time experiences. It was another opportunity to revisit their personal barriers and challenges they overcame to becoming a leader in their own right. Next time, we have to agree a set of actions and assist the young women in the room, will it then be truly a successful meaningful debate with purpose. 

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