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A professional women's conference in Marbella brought together over 550 people from 17 countries
11.11.13 - 15:34 -
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'Change must come'
Freda Miriklis. J.S.
At the two-day Business & Professional Women Spain Connecting Plus conference we listened and learned about the future of business practice from an impressive list of cutting-edge speakers. At the top of the roll call of experts was BPW International President Freda Miriklis.
Freda flew in from NewYork and Rome via Paris before her brief visit to Marbella. Her next stop was Madrid before the annual conference in Korea, but despite the intensive agenda, she thrives on her job.“ It’s a real privilege to travel the world and see how the BPW vision is connecting with the grassroots,”she says, “because civil society is the only effective instigator of change. ”She’s passionate about BPW’s work, contagiously so - at one point, I find myself so carried along by her enthusiasm that I almost forget to take notes.
BPW International joins business and professional women from 98 countries in the fight for the empowerment of women in business. With consultative status at the United Nations (UN), the organisation is globally recognised as “Gender Experts”. Freda is the youngest President to date and serves as a main representative to the UN in New York and Geneva.
Born in Melbourne and a child of first generation Greek immigrants, Freda grew up in a household with “the gift of democracy” and free speech. More importantly, her parents instilled in her a can-do attitude -“I could even be Prime Minister if I wanted”.
She has always believed that women and men are equal in business, a conviction strengthened by BPW International’s biggest achievement - establishing the business case for women. Freda explains that numerous studies have irrevocably proven that the presence of women at executive board level improves profitably. “This isn’t just another piece of theory, it works. With at least three women on the board, profits increase by at least 20 per cent.”
Based on these findings, BPW International, backed by the UN, introduced the Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2009. Since then, over 600 companies worldwide have subscribed to them and the effect has snowballed.
“I’m very inspired to see the cultural shift in company thinking and most importantly, among men.They can see for themselves that this is a smart business move.”Freda knows change will take time, but is hugely encouraged by the statistics and the feedback she receives from the grass roots.She even predicts that she may see gender parity in her lifetime.“This change must come,” she repeats.
When I explain the cultural diversity on the Costa del Sol, she’s quick to point out its benefits in the workplace. “A diverse workforce means there’s more innovation in the company and businesses are compelled to think about how to do things better.”
She’s very impressed by the diversity of thought at the Marbella BPW Spain conference. “The willingness to work together and in the same direction is palpable and exciting. I’m sure lots of action will follow this and lead to further advancement in gender parity.”
We finish by practising a few phrases in Spanish that she plans to use later in her speech. “Es maravilloso estar aquí en Marbella,” she says in a near perfect accent (she’s bilingual in English and Greek).
She’s also a practised orator and later that afternoon, Freda has the entire audience in her hand within seconds. Her passion is just as contagious in front of nearly 600 delegates as it is one-to-one. “Civil society and the human spirit are the only things that can change the world,” she says, “and we at BPW International believe that change must come”. And judging by the roar of applause, all those present believe it too.


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