Brussels Declaration Launch Event

Brussels Declaration October 26th

Event Summary

We have reached a milestone in our journey towards closing the gender gap!

On October 26th we officially launched the “Brussels Declaration” in Brussels, the EU headquarters.
A first, big step to start the communication between us, the ones affected by decisions made in Brussels in regards to gender parity, and the decision makers and interested parties.
We started the evening with a welcome speech from Paola Ligabue and Nadine Nembach, EWMD International Co-Presidents and initiators of the Brussels Declaration, who gave a short overview on the “Brussels Declaration”:

Why did we start this initiative, and how did we get to our current success together with our cooperation partners? 

There is still something to do!

There have been a lot of improvements during the past decade. Still, the COVID-19 situation has shown us how quickly we revert to old role models and habits. We need to find a way to check what is missing through an analysis of cause and effect, to gather existing directives and monitoring systems, to improve them and connect them with a working sanctioning framework to make sure implementation is happening and follow-ups are in place.

The current time necessary to close the global gender gap has gone from 99.5 years to 135.61 in recent years.
In our opinion: Not an option! We need to install a direct communication and thus accelerate change!
This necessity to accelerate change and put the topic of gender equality back in the center of attention was also stressed by Lina Gálvez Muñoz, Member of the European Parliament (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament), in her opening speech.
With recent elections, there is an increasing number of countries where things are developing backwards, and a tendency also in the European Parliament to count on meritocracy which is seen as an easy way out – no necessity to put any efforts towards gender equality any more.
We have all seen that this does not work:
“Meritocracy is a very nice concept, but unless you have equal opportunities, it doesn’t work. Unless you have equal treatment, it doesn’t work. Unless you have real freedom to choose, mediocracy doesn’t work. And we don’t have the same freedom, not only between women and men but many other aspects.”
“52% of the world´s population consists of women, why should we ignore the importance of women and why should women just sit back?”  However, women are still underrepresented in business, in leadership, at board-level and C-level.”
Thank you Lina for giving us this and a lot of other insights. And thank you for backing the “Brussels Declaration” and giving us your commitment to remain available to support this initiative also in the future!
After the welcome speech, we continued the quest to find ways to be faster on our path with the panel discussion “Closing the Gender Gap – Let’s Accelerate”.
The panel was moderated by Nadine Nembach who discussed this question with a fantastic panel:
  • Dr. Audrey-Flore Ngomsik – CEO of Trianon Scientific, Board Member, President of Brussels Binder
  • Susannah Haan – Adviser to the Board, PWN Global
  • Paola Ligabue – EWMD International Co-President
  • Jara Pascual – CEO & Founder Collabwith
  • Grazia Rendo – WEP Vice President, European Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurs
We agreed that representation matters, we need more women as board members, a real commitment to close the gender pay gap and truly work on DI&E with e.g. inclusive leadership, and many more.
Dr. Audrey-Flore Ngomsik underlined that we need women's rights as only these will ascertain a share in economics, where it has been proven that women act in a more sustainable way, economically as well as socially. Audrey-Flore also stressed out the importance of data and data-driven decision, as this is the only measure to check and monitor facts.
Jara Pascual explained the newly emerging trend of “gender washing”: in 2021, 1% of the funds went to pure women led start-ups. 7% went to companies led by men, who took a woman on board just to get the funds meant to promote women. At the same level, data shows that diversity helps in decision-making as it has the potential to deploy fresh ideas and new skills sets in the organization.  As a matter of fact, investors have more confidence in diverse teams because research gives a lot of proof that there will be a higher ROI with women led companies as well as diverse teams. 
The importance of data was also underlined by Susannah Haan and Audrey-Flore. Very often, data would point to different decisions which would put women more in the center. Additionally, the communication of data and other important information in companies and institutions would open many doors, which are now closed as e.g. info about advancement possibilities is shared behind the scenes.
Communication needs to include and be based on data, and at the same time give examples that are easy to understand for the different audiences so the messages are cascaded down and reach those they are meant for.
Grazia Rendo focused on the climate for start-ups. Also here, we find that we have still a long way to go, but compared to other areas we have seen already achievements in “business” and progress compared to other areas such as arts and cultures. Women need probably more support in professions where they are working more alone (gallerists, artists,…) Not only because these are still male dominated areas, but also because they can exchange less often ideas with peers. Women are overrepresented in studies for disciplines such as arts, culture but once entering the professional live, males are overrepresented again.
Not only in this sector we can see that there is a limited access to resources to establish new ventures among women. Indeed, it is important for all governments to reduce gender gaps among men and women when it comes to the promotion of business and entrepreneurship opportunities.
“Meritocracy is a very nice concept, but unless you have equal opportunities, it doesn’t work.” Paola Ligabue gave an example that shows very clearly that we need to have a clear playing field first – and only then give meritocracy its place:
Since orchestras have started to do blind auditions – and thus eliminate or at least diminish the role of bias – the number of female musicians in orchestras has risen dramatically. Once the women got the chance to show their merit simply as musicians, they got the slots that were meant to go to the best musicians – irrespective of gender.

We need this shift also in companies, who, if they continue to ignore the vast potential of women, will not have the best success possible for them, and in addition get bad scores on one of the KPIs of the future: Diversity as an increasingly important criteria to rate businesses.

An underlying point on the way to accelerate change was also discussed:
To drive gender equality, to win more advocates, we need support from the other gender group(s).
We were delighted to welcome several men to the event, as we believe we can only be successful and reach improvements for all of us if we are in this journey together. So far, we from the “Brussels Declaration” have not managed to do this simply as a matter of resources and are happy to change it together with anyone who wants to join our discussions.
After the panel, Paola and Nadine talked about the Brussels Declaration initiative, which started almost 2 years ago.

Together we are representing more than 40.000 of the women who are affected by gender imparity. As a grassroots movement, we can shorten communication paths and save valuable time as sparring partners, directly talking to the decision-makers in politics in Brussels about what reaches us and what doesn’t from the efforts already taken so far, and what we feel every day is still missing.
The initiators would like to encourage more associations, companies and other stakeholders to support this initiative either by joining us to make our working group larger and more diverse, or by their endorsement which you can do here:
All the associations present celebrated the milestone we have reached by formally signing the “Brussels Declaration”: EWMD, WEP, PWN Global and Collabwith.

The remaining associations are now in the process of also signing the document.
Ody Neisingh (EESC Member, Public Affairs Coordinator at WOMEN Inc., former senior expert on women's economic empowerment at UN Women), held the closing speech and underlined the importance of the financial section on the Brussels Declaration, which is tremendously important but often forgot by women’s associations.
Ody highlighted the importance of gender budgeting that is meant to be increased by trainings for European Institutions on how to use gender budgeting tools.

As an integral part of Corporate Social Responsibility Scores, diversity is increasingly used to rate businesses and decide on investments and thus is becoming a success factor of the future.
We need to use the power of networking, representativity, and mentoring way more than in the past, especially when it comes to finances.
Thank you Ody for giving us also your commitment that you are backing the Brussels Declaration and for voicing your sentiment how necessary it is that we are following this path together.

To close the evening, we used the opportunity of having so many brilliant, likeminded professionals, with our fantastic speakers and audience, to network.
We as the “Brussels Declaration” group want to thank all the participants and the speakers for being with us, discussing with us and giving us your views, feedback and support.

We were overwhelmed by your positive reactions. Feedback like yours on the declaration and our work is the fuel that keeps us going!

We will be back soon!

In the meantime keep an eye on the dedicated webpage