A note from Klaus Fiala, Editor-in-Chief Forbes DACH.

“Don’t make decisions hoping to be liked. Make decisions to be respected.” Janina Kugel had just answered a question on decision-making in a leadership position – and her answer was a huge surprise. Because we all want to be liked, right? No (apparently). Because if you want to make it, if you want to create change, if you want to write future codes, respect is what you should aim for, not likability.

It was one of many surprises during last week’s Forbes Women’s Summit at the Park Hyatt Zurich on the topic of “Writing Future Codes”. Its origin of is easily explained – and it’s a question that loomed above the day like a threat: How is it possible that only 3% of CEOs of the world’s largest companies are women? There’s a bug in the system. We made an error while writing the codes that we currently operate under. And, if we’re not careful, we will perpetuate these bugs from the analogue into the digital world. So, we decided to write our own future codes – not alone, but together with 250 attendees, amazing speakers and strong partners. The event series had started in March 2019 in Vienna, and expectations were high. Thankfully, Zurich delivered.

It was not just Janina Kugel that surprised and inspired our guests. Amongst others it was also Pamela Reif, Germany’s most successful fitness influencer and Forbes DACH’s next coverstar, EY’s Chief Risk Officer Robin Errico, Forbes 30 Under 30 list-maker and rapper Kelvyn Colt and his manager Line Rindvig or Angela Matthes and her incredible journey of going from male to female CEO that made a lasting impression. And just like our speakers, our audience was highly diverse and extremely outspoken. Within breakout sessions, attendees got to work interactively on getting the tools to rewrite their personal codes, be it Negotiating, Networking, Leading, Coding, Making Money or Being Your Own Rockstar.

None of this would have been possible without strong partners. Swiss label Akris, fellow American media brand CNN Money Switzerland, consulting giant EY, the Park Hyatt Zurich, luxury carmaker Porsche, and Switzerland’s leading business school University of St. Gallen all helped us in our aim to empower, motivate and change.

But it was also a day that showed how much still needs to be done. While we had amazing attendees, we were far away from our goal of reaching 25% male guests. And we saw that even a brand like Forbes, that has been featuring a section called “Women In Business” and has had female writers since its first publication in 1917, is not immune to errors. Because how ironic is it that we would host a Women’s Summit in Zurich, just a week after Forbes publishes a list of the World’s Most Innovative Leaders – featuring only one woman?

Our speakers gave us hope that change is happening, even though it might not be as fast as we hope. This feeds into our belief that we at Forbes have: strong individuals drive change. So, maybe, possibly, instead of despairing at how much is still to be done or how persistent some obstacles might seem, we should simply start with ourselves. And take the opportunities that present themselves. Just like Forbes’ very own Andrea Gläsemann said during her opening speech: “If you get offered a seat at the table, you take it. And you figure out afterwards how exactly you’ll do it.”

Klaus Fiala on the Women’s Summit 2019 in Zurich 3
Klaus Fiala on the Women’s Summit 2019 in Zurich 2
Klaus Fiala on the Women’s Summit 2019 in Zurich 4
Klaus Fiala on the Women’s Summit 2019 in Zurich 5

Photos: Matthias Heschel