2020 IWF UK Annual Lecture in memory of Jean Denton

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There was a definite buzz of excitement as we adjusted our seats and tuned in for the Jean Denton Lecture. The celebratory energy was strikingly equal in admiring the past, rejoicing in the present and anticipating the future. There was a real sense of collectiveness here. Together we can and do make things happen.

Jean Denton’s professional and car racing achievements exemplified a woman who perfected working hard and playing hard. Her life was testament to teamwork, leadership and positivity. There was tangible respect and warmth in Mary Baker’s voice as she described how they came together with others to be the Founders of IWF-UK. What started out as empowering conversations among a small group of friends ended up empowering whole generations of women leaders. Mary’s own story of teacher, business leader and poet is one of energy and drive. Their stories were the best introduction to the theme of this year’s lecture on the deep changes needed in policy to make the global economy more egalitarian and therefore more productive. There is no better speaker to this than Baroness Minouche Shafik, DBE.

At 36 years of age Minouche rose to fame becoming the youngest Vice President of the World Bank. She continued her career straddling influential public policy and academic roles. She is now a Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science while sitting on a number of the top Boards in the country.

Minouche began her lecture on “An Economy of All the Talents: Why women need a new social contract” with a clear definition of terms. A social contract is “the contract that determines what we provide collectively in society, beyond the individual”. This can be provided by families and the community as unpaid labour and extended support, while employers and the state contribute with schemes and benefits. With a neutral tone she recounted the conditions under which this social contract was first written, effectively drawing our attention to how incredibly outdated these conditions are in today’s society and why we are in desperate need of a new social contract. Minouche flawlessly developed the argument that in order to achieve our human potential we need a paradigm shift in how we harness female talent.

When she posited “we cannot afford not to undertake this huge task” the Zoom chat went wild with agreements and accolades. Participants cited examples from France, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere and added how crucial these conversations are as the COVID-19 pandemic plays havoc with a system that already needed repair. Guests were as active as members with questions and comments, emphasising the need for the new social contract to be a shared responsibility between public and private sectors, and how it will benefit women of all ages and career stages through to retirement.

Thank you IWF for another insightful, solution-oriented and inspiring evening!

Sawsan Khuri PhD

You can read poems from Mary Baker’s book EX SITU here

You can pre-order Minouche’s book, What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract here.

To watch a recording of this event click here to be directed to the Members only section of the website and find it within the event write up in Members News (Right hand side menu bar).

Susan Young introducing the lecture
Susan Young introducing the lecture
Baroness Minouche Shafik speaking
Baroness Minouche Shafik speaking

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