Written by Susan Tackenberg, Regular Attendee of the Global Female Leaders Summit

The Global Female Leaders Summit has long been a can’t-miss feature on the calendars of women around the world who are either at the top of their field or whose feet are firmly on the ladder towards making it. We thought about the line-up of extraordinary speakers we have been honoured to welcome on our Summit stage over the years, and wondered how their worlds have changed and where they find themselves in their careers today. So we reached out to some of them and asked them to give us an update on their stories – and we’re delighted to share what they told us with you here.

CEO | CEDEM AG, Switzerland

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When Rasha Oudeh was invited to speak at the GFL Summit in 2018, CEDEM AG, the nutraceutical company she had bought, was still quite small, but the story she told of what brought her to the point where she got to buy and build it up was inspirational. At the end of her talk, she was urged by several people to further her studies, which led to her going on to gain her MBA at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and participate in leadership and entrepreneurial studies programmes at Harvard Business School and IMD in Lausanne. When we spoke to her recently, this is what she had to say:

The speech I delivered at GFL 2018 was a significant turning point in my life. The quality of the audience, their impactful reaction with a standing ovation and tears, made me immensely proud of myself. It was the first time I had actually talked publicly about myself, and I realized I had made it – I had done something! And it inspired me to make the decision to further my studies. I already knew that success is not measured in money – I left a larger company to take over CEDEM because I wanted to run my own business based on my values. And I’ve learned along the way that leadership is all about authenticity, loyalty, fearless determination and giving back to and inspiring others.

I recently decided to expand my horizons: on the local front in Switzerland, we’re now the healthcare partner for the Football Club Basel women’s team.  And internationally, we’ve begun tapping into the vast potential of the US market with the gradual introduction of our products on Amazon USA. These strategic moves not only diversify our business portfolio but also align with our commitment to promoting health and empowerment on a global scale. And I’m still running my own mentoring programme, where I teach young women to speak and express themselves, encouraging them, as I was encouraged at the Global Female Leaders Summit, to discover what kind of leaders they are or want to be. And I’d love to come back to the Summit and share my new insights and experiences with the exceptional audiences that attend GFLS Changemakers Forum. Maybe I will see you there! 

Speaker Phaedra Boinodiris

Consulting Global Leader for Trustworthy AI | IBM, USA

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When Phaedra Boinodiris was invited to speak at the Global Female Leaders Summit in 2023, she’d already spent over 20 years forging a career path within one of the tech industry giants, IBM. Focused on the often contentious issue of inclusion in technology since 1999, Phaedra’s determination to ensure that new technologies were based on ethical, trustworthy data led to her becoming a leading voice for women in tech and the development of responsible AI. The panel discussion on AI in which she took part at the GFL Summit last year was voted by attendees as the most popular session of the programme. When we caught up with her this week, this is what she told us about what’s happened since then and where she finds herself right now. 

One thing that really struck me about the Global Female Leaders Summit is that you were hosting some truly badass, brave women. I talk about inequity and disparate impact in AI models, so in some respects I have to be brave too, but I remember thinking how it’s nothing compared to these women from Afghanistan and Iran. Hearing them speak their truth up on stage really bolstered me and reminded me to stay courageous. When my mom read some of the comments I’ve had on social media, she told me, “What you do is dangerous! Maybe you should get another job!”

Since speaking at last year’s GFLS, a huge high point was the publication of the book I wrote with my former colleague, Beth Rudden*, “AI For the Rest of Us”. It felt like a ten-month pregnancy for us both! The genesis was me doing comic illustrations so I could be a better educator and communicator – and it actually became a kind of art therapy. Inclusion is vital: every single person should have a seat at the table and be a part of the AI conversation, so the first chapter is titled “This Book is For You”. I also co-founded the Future World Alliance last autumn, a non-profit focused on curating curriculum on data and AI for kids in grade school – also outside computer science subjects. It’s so much fun helping create multidisciplinary curricula worldwide. I also work across industries and governments around the world, teaching them how to create AI responsibly. So many people want advice on AI literacy, safeguards etc., I’ve never been busier, and that’s because I can’t say no to something that’s so important, that so many people could benefit from.

My biggest challenge is scaling what I do – there’s only so much energy, yet so much to be done! I’m not fearful as much as hopeful – there is so much to learn and unlearn, and I hope we can do it all in time to ensure that we’re using AI in a responsible way so people won’t get hurt. But I’m encouraged by high school kids coming up with AI ethics clubs and competitions – scoring each other on responsible use – whether the model was fair or not. I find that really heartening.

You ask when I’m coming back to the Global Female Leaders Summit? Well, when’s the next show?!

*Although Beth also took part in the panel discussion together with Phaedra, she could only attend virtually.

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A big Thank you to Rasha and Phaedra for their testimonials. Thank you for your article, dear Susan Tackenberg. We are looking forward to seeing you at the Global Female Leaders Summit 2024!

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