We had planned to talk about weakness and vulnerability at the Forbes Women’s Summit in March. Then came Covid-19 – and showed us just how vulnerable and fragile our lives truly are. We used the time to reflect on our work and the Women’s Summit – and realized not just how strong our community is, but how much more relevant our message of vulnerability has become.

It was a wild ride to say the least. Within days, we were confined to our homes, scared of a virus that was harming and killing people around the world, scared for our jobs, our companies. And then, while the chaos was still going on, something happened: Things that seemed impossible before suddenly became second nature. We worked from home, coordinated family and job, ran companies from our bedrooms and showed a degree of solidarity rarely seen in our increasingly in­dividualistic society.

We all considered our priorities, spent more time than ever with our loved ones at home, adjusted our time management, and vowed to keep the good habits we’ve picked up. It’s clear that something has changed. The World Economic Forum (WEF) calls it “The Great Reset,” others have spoken of a “New Normal.” The Coronavirus has turned the world upside down – but some things have stayed the same.

We ourselves had to readjust our road map as well. Our Women’s Summits in March 2020 in Vienna and September 2020 in Zurich were pushed back to October and November 2020, respectively. We immediately reached out to partners and our community to update them on the newest developments. And we realized that this platform really has grown into something outstanding. Without a second thought, all our partners agreed to stay onboard and go through these tough times together. Thank you to Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), Philip Morris, the WU Executive Academy, Porr, IP, Kitzbühel Tourism and the Park Hyatt Vienna for their continued support. But we haven’t just been preserving the status quo. We’ve launched a digital TV channel called F15’ | by Forbes DACH, which helped smooth the transition and bring even more outstanding individuals on our screens and into the public. And we’ve set new dates for our Summits, the first of which will happen on October 22nd, 2020 at the Park Hyatt Vienna.

Our motto “Superwoman” will obviously stay, as we believe that the term has become more relevant than ever before. We want to share vulnerabilities and moments of despair from the last few weeks – and find out what we can learn from them to become better leaders, entrepreneurs and people.

For me personally, this crisis concluded the most challenging year of my life. Everything started at a party at the Cannes Film Festival 2019, two months after the last Women’s Summit in Vienna in March 2019. Basically, I saw Colin Firth – and fainted. It felt natural at the moment, as I’m a huge fan. But at the hospital, the doctors explained that I didn’t just faint, but had actually suffered a stroke. It took me a long time to realize the implications this would have on my family and our company. A few weeks later, when I dared to leave “survival mode” at rehab, I realized that all my tasks had quietly been taken over by our team from Forbes DACH. I realized that they had realized long before me that we’re all in this together.
I owe them more than I am able to put into words.

Right after the lockdown was eased, in May 2020, I celebrated a “stroke anniversary.” This brings me back to vulnerability as the best weapon to become a Superwoman: I was never able to accept that I depended on people around me. As a woman, being independent – especially financially – was and is an aim to strive for. But I had to accept that I cannot be independent on my own. Instead I was taught by my family and my team to take responsibility in our togetherness. In accepting my handicaps, I feel relief, joy and independence at the same time.

I’m thankful for a one-year recovery break – an enormously ge­nerous gift from our team. I can’t wait to hear about your lessons learned on October 22nd in Vienna.

Text: Heidi Aichinger


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