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Global Conversation 2023

“Less than 3% of women-owned VCs received funding in the UK,
VCs are boys’ clubs and women need access to networks.”

Concluded the 5th Global Conversation hosted by London-based initiative Athena40
In 5 countries on International Women’s Day 2023

On International Women’s Day 2023, Athena40 brought together for a fifth year leading thinkers from across five countries, who participated in a synchronised global conversation about women’s challenges and opportunities in the digital age. The event was in partnership with Brunswick, The Conduit Club and the Evening Standard. It connected live from London’s Conduit Club to Athena40 panels in Malmö, Karachi, Beirut and Amman. Key findings include that among the hurdles is the lack of female role models and mentors for women in STEM. We must address negative stereotypes that portray STEM as “being for boys”. This work must start with girls, the role of parents and schoolteachers is critical. The panels agreed that even when women enter STEM roles, there are many barriers preventing them from staying, including lack of equal pay, opportunities for career ascent and misogyny. Although 80% of women in science and tech-related roles say they love their job, 56% leave their organisations 20 years later at mid-career level – and only 5% make it to leadership positions.

We must always take a critical approach towards data and pay attention to the nuanced social narratives. We need stories that will fascinate the younger generation, highlighted Elizabeth Filippouli, Founder of Global Thinkers Forum and Athena40.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it and the VCs are boys’ clubs. But gender-diverse businesses are more profitable”, said Sonal R. Patel, Partner and Executive Producer of the Brunswick Group.

“The higher you get on the ladder, the fewer women you find. We must fight the imposter syndrome and believe that we can achieve anything, urged Dr Chen Mao Davies, Founder and CEO of Anya.

“Let’s celebrate women. Never forget your power. We are all super women, but we don’t realise that”, prompted Paola Diana, Founder and CEO of Artemide Recruitment and Author.

“We need to change the narrative. Women must dream big because they have that ability,” concluded Liz Perkins, Night News Editor of the Daily Express.

The parallel Athena40 events were attended by entrepreneurs, policy makers, investors, ambassadors, media, activists and academics in all five countries.

Speakers 2023

HE Bridget Brind OBE, Ambassador of the UK to Jordan, joining from Amman said: “It’s a cause for celebration when girls are able to realise their value and achieve their potential.”

Ros Russell, Evening Standard editor of Let Girls Learn global reporting series said: “The divide in the digital age is no longer gender-based but generational as women are now taking up technical roles.”

Amber Rahim Shamsi, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at the IBA University said: "Journalism is a critical pillar of democracy, and women's voices and perspectives are essential for a truly representative media landscape. We need to work towards creating a more inclusive newsroom culture that encourages and supports women journalists.”

Maria Tibblin, Social Entrepreneur and Global Thinkers Forum Advisory Board said: “Sweden is a pioneer in implementing sexual education worldwide to promote inclusivity and address structural views on sexuality through norms and behaviour.”


Ziana Sakhia, CEO and Co-founder of said: “Women through their mobile phones can access education, healthcare and e-commerce from wherever they are, giving them the opportunity to be educated, upskilled leading to financial independence and upward social mobility.”

Defined by UN Women and CSW67 as a priority theme: Innovation, Technological Change, and Education in the Digital Age generated the main questions for our 5th Athena40 Global Conversation. Innovation, tech and education are significant factors for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Athena40 connected live again leading thinkers and influencers from the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Asia to discuss how we can promote and enable women’s inclusion in the digital era, and how across the different countries we can capitalize on the development of new technologies and the opportunities these offer to achieve full and equal access for women, putting an end to the gender digital divide.

The multi-city event was organized together with partners hosting individual panels discussing at an angle that raised also local issues and challenges for women.

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