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BackWomen in Business Conference Chairs, Josefina Haque, MBA 2018 and Alexander Barrett, MBA 2018Interview

Women in Business Conference Chairs, Josefina Haque, MBA 2018 and Alexander Barrett, MBA 2018

By Sheena Dave

As the event's chairs, can you give us a brief overview of this year’s Women in Business (WiB) conference?

This year the WiB conference is on Friday 9 March and is being held at 8 Northumberland Avenue, near Trafalgar Square in London. The conference has been the WiB Club’s annual flagship event for the past 17 years and is a prominent forum for all professionals and students to engage with important issues facing women in a dynamic business environment. This year our goal is to emphasise collaboration and to go beyond generating awareness to equip attendees to become agents of change for tangible results. The agenda for the day mirrors that journey, mixing inspirational individual speakers with insightful panel discussions and practical skills workshops.

What goes into planning an event like this?

A lot more than any of us ever imagined! We first started brainstorming ideas about seven months ago with our marketing and logistics chairs and recruited a fantastic team to help us turn that initial vision into a reality. We have dedicated months to make sure that we plan, market and execute a fantastic event. From finding sponsorship and managing budgets and venue logistics, to using our networks to design each session and find some incredible speakers, the whole process has been an amazing learning experience for all of us.

To build on some of the incredible work from previous years we also worked very closely with the school’s internal teams, who have been absolutely fantastic in their support throughout the year. On the day itself, we will be joined by an army of student volunteers to ensure that all of the hard work pays off!

'Working Together: From Awareness to Results' is an intriguing concept – how did you think of it?

This concept has resonated so well with people that we haven’t changed a word since our first brainstorm! As we all shared our early thoughts on the messages we wanted to explore, two themes came out really strongly for us:

  1. Among many elements of society, the awareness battle is starting to be won. At a minimum, every company now proclaims to value diversity, and the #metoo campaign is demonstrating how openly unacceptable gender discrimination is in all forms. However, whether it’s board seats, pay gaps or attitudes to maternity leave, there is the risk of a growing gap between acknowledging these issues and tangible change on the ground. This is why we wanted our event to focus on how to capitalise on this momentum in practical, concrete ways. Hence – From awareness to results.
  2. As we spoke about this with our core team of two female and two male leads, we all passionately felt that this was something society as a whole should come together to solve. Given the starting point of the gender split on boards and with executives today, without the active support of both women and men, achieving these results is going to be an uphill battle. Recent movements such as UN Women’s HeForShe campaign highlight the need to bring people together to make sure we aren’t excluding the voice of half of the world from these conversations. This was something we wanted to reflect in our conference, to stay at the forefront of change and build on our own ‘Manbassador’ movement at LBS. Hence – Working together.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve had to overcome so far?

One of the most exciting experiences of working on the WiB conference has been the array of exceptional people we’ve been lucky enough to work with. From world-leading C-level speakers, our amazing sponsors, and the wider WiB and LBS teams, the range of inputs and support we have had access to has been brilliant. However, managing that complexity and getting the most out of all these great people has definitely been a learning curve. For example, working with 25+ high-profile, inspiring speakers at the same time, so that every single one feels valued, in control and properly prepared has definitely been both one of the most rewarding and challenging elements for the team!

Which parts of the conference programme are you personally looking forward to?

We’re very excited to see how our audience responds to this year’s skills workshops. We took a huge risk in dedicating almost two hours of the day to six practical sessions and these are integral to our plan to break through and have an impact beyond the day itself. These are integral to our plan to break through and have an impact beyond the day itself. This is a new format that has not been tried in past conferences, so we’re very keen to see how it works out. We hope to hear some stories of attendees applying these tangible lessons back in their working environments.

Find out more about the WiB conference at: https://www.lbswibconference.com/