The BPCC’s first Female Leadership Forum took place on 28 October 2021, live from the Warsaw headquarters of Standard Chartered Global Business Services Poland, and streamed to a nationwide audience. The aim of the event was to spotlight the experience of women leaders in business, to appreciate their input into the economy, and to see what more can be done to raise female participation in management structures.

The event was opened by Elżbieta Pełka, CEO of PNSA and Pełka & Partners, and a member of the BPCC’s board, who mentioned the importance of female entrepreneurs, as well as the need to benchmark progress in terms of female members on the boards of Polish listed companies.

Olga Grygier-Siddons, former PwC partner Central Europe and master mentor for women leaders, gave a foreword to the ensuing panel discussion, in which she spoke of the challenges facing business today, and how women leaders had the potential to cope with these. Ms Grygier-Siddons mentioned getting the balance right between profit and growth on the one hand and sustainability on the other, and the risks that IT is bringing to society, along with its benefits. She introduced the five panellists, Magdalena Blechoska, talent director, Europe Region, UPS; Joanna Romańczuk, regional director, Poland & Ukraine, for TMF Group; Barbara Sissons, CFO at Kinnarps Polska, and Women’s Leaders Foundation (Fundacja Liderek Biznesu); Anna Urbańska, CEO and Conduct & Financial Crime Compliance Site lead at Standard Chartered Global Business Services Poland – and representing the male point of view, Marc Burrage, managing director of Hays Poland.

The panel discussion raised many relevant issues – the reality or otherwise of gender stereotypes (are women better communicators and team-players than men, for example), work-life balance, dealing cultural challenges within large organisations and planning career paths, with many positive stories showing what is possible. Issues of confidence and self-esteem were mentioned several times, and the need to find the right balance between being perceived as ‘bossy’ and ‘soft’ by male colleagues.

Questions came from the live audience, wrapping up an insight-laden two-hour session rich in practical advice and nuanced observations from the panel of experienced managers.

One sentiment which was broadly accepted – the hope that such events won’t take place in the future, as full equality in management teams and company boards will make them unnecessary. In the meantime, a second Female Leadership Forum is being planned!