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It’s been over four years since the last Forbes Women’s Summit happened in Vienna. On November 23th, the initiative celebrated its comeback at the Park Hyatt Vienna. Due to outstanding speakers, strong partners and an engaged audience, the day was a huge success, with most attendees describing it as “inspiring, powerful, and creative.”
Right from the start, Dorothy Khadem-Missagh set the tone for the Forbes Women’s Summit 2023. Starting the Summit off with a musical exercise and singing session, Khadem-Missagh made sure that the audience was engaged in the event from the first minute. First, the attendees were asked to echo simple tones, but the chorus grew, under Khadem-Missagh’s lead, into a full-blown melody.
It was then that Heidi Aichinger, publisher of Forbes DA, took the stage. She shared her story, which started with her appearance at the last physical Women’s Summit in 2019 – and ended with her in the hospital a few weeks later due to a stroke she had suffered. “I’m happy to be back here, as the Women’s Summit is my happy place.” She closed her opening speech with a note on entrepreneurship: “It is challenging. Listen to your body and your colleagues. If you need support, ask for it. And enjoy the day, as you will leave with a changed perspective.”
These words transitioned into a day of exploring entrepreneurship and diversity and examining challenges and opportunities. The diversity of perspectives, topics and backgrounds made sure that the day went flying by. Discussions included titles such as “Tasting Success” with chef and entrepreneur Haya Molcho, who has built her company Neni with three of her four sons; “Facing Crises” with legendary journalist and war reporter Antonia Rados who sat across from figures like Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Muammar al-Gaddafi; or “Defending Democracy” with Ukrainian human rights activist Oleksandra Matviichuk, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her tireless work against war crimes and oppression. In her closing speech, Matviichuk said that “these dramatic times give us the opportunity to present the best in us.”
But the summit was also about personal growth. Katarina Stanisavljevic, President of WU Executive Academy Female Leaders Network, spoke about “Lifelong Learning.” Mathea Höller, Austria’s most-streamed female artist, told the story of how she worked as a shoe saleswoman because she wasn’t sure she could make a living with her music; and Carina Roth, investor at Calm/Storm Ventures, described how failing a startup helped her grow as a person.
Furthermore, Francine Brogyányi, Managing Partner at DORDA Attorneys, shared the stage with Lisa-Marie Fassl, Managing Partner at Fund F, to speak about “Investing in Women.” The two said that any investments – be it time, energy or money – in women is worth it. And they spoke about how to keep a positive energy even if change isn’t happening as fast as it should. Fassl: “VCs are predominantly old white guys and younger white guys. And we tend to invest in people who look like us and think like us.”
Investing was also the topic of Sarah Schlagenhauf’s keynote. Schlagenhauf, the founder of Zurich-based tech startup Vivents, spoke of Web3, NFTs – and how to bring the physical and the digital world together.
Featuring as part of the startup/VC block, Alisa Jahnke, founder of German jewelry brand Purelei, recounted her journey of growing from a modest € 500 investment to an impressive € 60 million in annual revenue, saying: “I am still the same person.” This was followed by a panel on “Building A B2C Brand” featuring Alisa Jahnke, Claudia Neuwirth, co-founder of Novritsch, and Lisa Krapinger-Rüther, Head of Digital at Neoh. They discussed engaging with the consumer market. One of the closing speakers, Ulla Wannemacher of Ringana, stepped up to discuss “Sustainable Business” adding another dimension to the day’s tapestry.
Our guests got it right: Our lineup mirrored the diverse mix of inspiration, power, and creativity that our attendees brought to the summit. We featured C-level executives and entrepreneurs, embodying the facets of power; activists and journalists, who infused the event with inspiration; and artists, who added a distinctive touch of creativity.
Elisa Vendramin, the creative force behind this year’s Summit artwork, shared her insights in “A Work of Art.” Additionally, we explored the dynamic fields of content creation and the influencer landscape. Lena Lucki, Head of Influencer Strategy & Operations at Influence Vision, shared her insights into the space of influencers and content creators, their commonalities and differences in her session titled “The Future of Content.” She broke down what it means to be a successful influencer and the evolving nature of digital content creation.
Kurdwin Ayub, a Kurdish-Austrian director and screenwriter, captivated the audience in her session titled “Sun, Moon, and Stars” with her honesty and courage in defying expectations about who she is and who she should be. She delved into her filmmaking journey, exploring themes of identity and cross-cultural communication. “I realized I am making my movies for those who have no idea that people like me exist” she shared, a statement that resonated with the audience.
IT’S A WRAP
Like that, it was the end of this year’s Women’s Summit. It goes without saying that this Summit would never have come to life without strong partners. The support of Porsche, DORDA, the WU Executive Academy, Neoh, Vitra, Target Gender Equality and of course the Park Hyatt Vienna made sure that the return of the Forbes Women’s Summit to Vienna turned out incredible. Stay tuned for next year!