On March 28, 2017 100 Business Women of Azerbaijan in cooperation with American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham) organized the SHE Congress in JW Marriott Absheron Hotel. The event was sponsored by PASHA Bank and MasterCard.
The Congress invited both international and local female executives and business owners to share their experience, knowledge and career paths with others. It featured speeches on the role of women in business, as well as on current gender equality issues and possible solutions.
Ms. Tatyana Mikayilova, Chairwoman of 100 Business Women of Azerbaijan, opened the congress by welcoming the guests and speakers.
Then, Ms. Sadagat Gahramanova, Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children’s Affairs, talked about governmental support for women’s development and shared best practices in Azerbaijan towards reducing the economic dependence of female entrepreneurship on gender stereotypes.
Ms. Ganira Pashayeva, Member of Parliament of the Azerbaijan Republic, talked about the importance of educating girls from early years, especially in the regions. “The starting point for gender equality in society is developing our activities in the regions. We can see that in developed countries males and females are treated equally and have equal rights, which proves that gender equality leads to development. To start changes we should first change our mentality and then do our best,” she said.
Ms. Yasemin Bedir, General Manager of MasterCard for Turkey and Azerbaijan, added “Today I feel I can claim a certain level of wisdom only because I continue investing in myself, and I feel a responsibility to empower other women and am focused on investing in them. I believe that investing in women pays back.”
Ms. Khayala Naghiyeva, Member of the Executive Board of PASHA Bank, shared her success story and mentioned that it is important to believe in yourself, in your potential, to overcome fear and achieve your goals.
Afterwards, the panel discussion on “How and why we should decrease all gender prejudices in society and business” was moderated by Ms.Anne Cekuta, spouse of the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan. Female executives from different countries and backgrounds discussed gender stereotypes and the advantages of having women in leading positions.
Ms. Natavan Mammadova, Executive Director of AmCham Azerbaijan together with Ms. Gwen Burchell, Director of United Aid for Azerbaijan made a speech about girls, social entrepreneurship, the Queen’s recognition and ways to break the glass ceiling.
Later, Ms. Arzu Hajiyeva, Tax and Legal Partner at EY Azerbaijan, was a moderator to the panel discussion entitled “Education driving innovation”. Then she asked panel participants whether they believe that education in Azerbaijan leads to innovation. Mr. Shahin Seyidzadeh, Head of SABAH Groups, said “There is an innovation product, innovation technology and innovation approach, and all of them are interrelated. In SABAH Groups we are first trying to create an innovation approach and we believe that in a couple of years we will be able to drive innovation. There is a huge role for women in this challenging path, let me just mention that today all of our 11 Deans are women and the success of our project is their achievement.” Mr. Sarkhan Hashimov, Country Manager of Microsoft Azerbaijan, added “I’m not sure about the exact answer, yes or no, but there is definitely a great opportunity. Education starts at home and continues every day, but innovation helps us to be responsive and better prepared for possible challenges tomorrow.” Ms. Sada Davud, Educational Specialist, answered “I believe that innovation promotes and delivers creative thinking and creativity in the classrooms. Unfortunately, today our education system does not drive innovation, but I’m optimistic and believe that the situation will change in the coming years.” Mr. Samir Mammadov, Director of the High-Tech Park at Baku Engineering University, commented “We have to create room for innovation and the Technopark is the place where innovation is happening. We are not there yet, but we are looking towards turning it into innovative learning premises.”
The Congress then continued with a focus on entrepreneurial secrets from Ms. Dilek Dayinarli, founder and Managing Partner of ScaleX, as well as an inspirational speech about the journey of a female entrepreneur in a challenging region by Ms. Ahu Serter, serial entrepreneur and investor, and founder of Arya Women’s Investment Platform. A panel discussion was then held entitled From Small to Big, with advice provided by local female entrepreneurs. Afterwards, William Beaman, Co-founder of Jephson Beaman, Founder of OnPoint Strategies, had a speech on “How women can recognize and benefit from skills that set them apart from men in business.”
Overall, the congress was full of success stories and interesting career path examples, reflecting the important role of women in business and society. The closure of the SHE Congress was marked by a singing performance of a very young and talented rising star, Amina Hajiyeva.