Women Today: What Women Say They Need to Help Them Achieve Their Goals


Being in the tech sector, I’ve seen the conscious and unconscious biases that stop women and girls from living up to their full potential. I want sentences along the lines of “Well, actually, there are biological differences between men and women”— weak “justifications” for problems ranging from the wage gap to downright harassment — to stay out of discussions that otherwise have nothing to do with biology. I want to help build a world where a woman’s perceived capacity to lead isn’t connected to her desire or ability to raise children. These are only a few examples that are near to my heart based on personal experience.


Nang Lang Kham

29, Yangon, Myanmar

Deputy chief executive, KBZ Bank

As a woman with a voice in the public space, I would like to speak out for more official recognition and support for victims of rape, abuse and human trafficking. These are very relevant, pressing issues in the global arena and Myanmar. These issues are not going away. Our women and children should not have to fear for their safety and security.

Over the next year, and in the future, I would like to see increased awareness and public acceptance of gender equality, and the cultural norms that are hindering our women from reaching their true potential. I would also like to see equal opportunity and access to education, health care and job opportunities for women; with these tools, our women can empower themselves, rise above their circumstances and contribute to our people alongside our men.


Khululiwe Mabaso

39, Johannesburg

Communications associate director for P&G Sub Saharan Africa

I would like to meet more like-minded women to create programs that work universally on minimum resources delivering value for business while growing with the communities. I would like to share and learn from other women and men who are supporting and will be at the conference. Continuing to be part of the Rising Talents will help me to realize the passion I have toward rewriting the African women’s narrative — the courage, skills and vigor she has to make Africa a better inclusive place for girls and women now and for generations.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”


Adriana Marais

34, Johannesburg

Head of innovation at SAP Africa

I believe in a future where we view each individual in our society independently of what gender, race or class they may have been born into. I try to live according to this mind-set. The global challenges are of an unprecedented scale, and we have a long way to go in terms of raising the living standards of all of our people to a satisfactory level. We will need a contribution from each and every human toward achieving a tomorrow we can be proud of, and I believe collectively we do have the diversity of talent to achieve this.


Demet Mutlu

36, Istanbul

Chief executive, Trendyol

There is a lack of “successful scale” and leadership examples of women, particularly in the tech industry. In the next 10 to 15 years, I will work on this and make sure that I am not the exception, but that I am the norm, and that women can have impact. I do believe that the number of women in the tech start-up ecosystem should increase, and the way should be cleared for women who face career obstacles that men don’t.

I will continue my work of building the entrepreneurial environment, particularly female tech entrepreneurship, by sharing my experiences, serving as a role model, mentoring individuals and investing in companies.

The women’s movement should raise awareness about women’s effectiveness in e-commerce and tech sectors, and share the results of its activities with the community. It should provide support to increase the number of women executives and entrepreneurs in tech.


Zimbini Peffer

35, Cape Town, South Africa

Marketing director, Jewelry, TFG (The Foschini Group)

Successful leaders have an ability to create context and help teams orientate and collaborate effectively. Exposure creates capacity to lead. The women’s movement should prepare even more women to become leaders across industries.


Gisela Pinheiro

38, São Paulo, Brazil

Vice president for BASF in South America

I began in finance where I was constantly the only woman in the room. On top of that, I was “in the closet.” I was fortunate enough to be exposed to several gender discussions that triggered my true interest — a more broad and serious inclusion dialogue. This gave me the strength to get out of the closet, continue to outperform myself as a professional and become a mother. I want to continue to drive the conversation and the real acts on accelerating diversity, lead by example and use every opportunity I have to advocate toward an open and inclusive world.

I wish that women around the world could have the same opportunities that others like me are having.


Samar Samir Mezghanni

29, Toronto and Cambridge, England

Writer and Ph.D. student

I want the movement to lead the way in promoting an inclusive society, not one where some women are more equal to men than others, but a society where every woman, no matter where she is from, what her skin color is, or what her background is, have equal rights and opportunities. Being a young woman, I face oppressive economic, social and political realities daily. An inclusive women’s movement can support me in reclaiming my rights as an equal valuable human.

We need to redefine the public perception of feminism. Feminism shouldn’t mean different things according to which women we are talking about or where they are located. It should break elitism and be as egalitarian in its approach as it is in its purpose.


Katharina Schmitt

32, San Francisco

General manager, Ampush Media

I’d love to see the women’s movement make progress on creating the right environment for women to flourish in. For me that is supportive, open-minded, welcomes diversity in every form and rewards ideas and performance over gender. I’d also love for the women’s movement to fuel greater access to high-quality child care, enable back-to-work support systems and improve parental leave policies, so that family and a successful and meaningful career are not an “either or,” but rather a question of balance and timing.

The women’s movement provides a supportive voice and diverse community to surface ideas, organize thoughts and prioritize topics on a global level. One of my favorite proverbs says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Role models and female peers inspire, support and challenge me. Having diversity in my life – diversity of any kind – makes me smarter, kinder and a better person.


Tara Shirvani

Tara Shirvani

30, Washington

Climate change and infrastructure specialist at the World Bank

Having the right mentors or sponsors has proved to make a dramatic impact in my career advancement. In fact, I would even refer to it as my Get Out of Jail Free card. Just as this card can provide you with a lifeline when you are in tough job situations, it can also propel you forward and help you with your next strategic move. Mentors and sponsors can act as important advisers, allies and fast-track partners to getting ahead.

The women’s movement has already demonstrated their exemplary track record in becoming the go-to international women’s movement for career advancement and development. For the coming year it would be great to see it grow further in membership numbers and become a household name on the international level.


Kelly Vorves

Lea von Bidder

27, San Francisco

Chief executive, Ava Science

We’ve all become accustomed to slow but steady progress when it comes to women’s issues. But today, for the first time, that continuous progress is at risk because of unforeseen political changes, especially here in the United States. It is important that the women’s movement speak with one voice and isn’t weakened by inconsistencies from within. We need to stop questioning and policing the women’s movement and its members. Everyone who supports equality between women and men should be part of it. What I want the women’s movement to accomplish next year is to find unity and a strong, common voice.

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