WHN 2021 speakers


AS/COA’s 10th Annual WHN Conference Addresses Workplace Gender Gap and the Next 10 Years

Women leaders and male allies from across the Western Hemisphere discussed gender parity in the Americas.

New York, NY, October 21, 2021 — It’s been ten years since the Americas Society/Council of the Americas launched the Women’s Hemispheric Network to encourage professional women to stay in the workforce and reach leadership positions. “After 58 events, over 6,000 participants, these conversations lead to inspire and inspire to lead,” said AS/COA’s Vice President of Public Policy Programs and Corporate Relations Ragnhild Melzi in her opening remarks.

“Don’t let fear hold you back,” was Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan’s advice for other women in the workplace and younger women wanting to go into tech. In a keynote interview with AS/COA’s President and CEO Susan Segal, Egan said that women shouldn’t undervalue soft skills like empathy and intuition. “If those are your strengths, people with those skills are the ones I think are going to succeed,” she said.

The conference continued with the panel “Building Better Tables,” focused on strategies to encourage and support women working in fields and roles traditionally dominated by men. The three panelists expounded on the value of diversity in the workplace. Medtronic’s Vice President for Southern Latin America Maria Moret said that more diversity tangibly improves the business results, citing a statistic that companies that have more diversity are 20 percent more innovative. She mentioned that in Medtronic they invest in women, who represent fully half of their workforce. Goldman Sachs’s Co-Head of Latin America and Head of Americas Global Currencies and Emerging Markets Sales Ricardo Mora values the diversity of opinions in an organization. “When you’re pushing something forward and it’s just one opinion, you can get the group thinking in the wrong way,” he said. Microsoft Latin America’s General Manager Public Sector Gaby Gallardo said that diversity was critical because “every company designs products for everyone, and everyone is unique.”

While discussing strategies to retain top female talent, Mora said that it’s important that women feel empowered and that they have a visible path to leadership, through sponsorship, mentorship, and flexibility. “I used to think you treated everyone equal, but you have to make a special effort in order to retain a certain population,” he said. “I ask them to be vocal about what they want and what they need,” said Gallardo. She said that at Microsoft, they are making a space for people to feel comfortable with a career so that people choose to stay.

The second panel, “The Next Ten Years,” was moderated by MSNBC/NBC News anchor and journalist Richard Lui and looked at the work yet to be done in the next decade to achieve greater female leadership in the region. Globant’s Chief Brand Officer Wanda Weigert said that society is pushing for changes. “If we commit ourselves to focusing on the next generations…the gender gap will continue to shrink,” she said. For her, education is key. “It’s providing scholarships for women to enter STEM and opening the funnel of talent.” EY’s Americas Vice Chair and Regional Managing Partner Latam South Ted Acosta foresees a significant advancement in the playing field for women. “By having more and more women in leadership roles, we can begin to create an environment for those who are seeing women and for the women themselves, so they don’t feel they’re the odd duck in the room.”