International Women's Day in Tel Aviv - impressions

Apparently, this is the 5th Women in Business conference I would have ignored, had I not been specifically invited to attend this year by my entrepreneur daughter. Daria was invited to take part in a four-women panel about – fancy that – women entrepreneurs. I don't get to see Daria give a talk about her enterprise very often, and thought this would be a wonderful opportunity to combine business with pleasure: see Daria do her thing; take a day off routine work; mingle, network, see other women.

Since I don't usually go to conferences other than the ITA's (as I've mentioned in a previous post), I studied the program/agenda carefully to see which lectures I'd like to attend. As far as I could see, the program was available only in Hebrew. No English, no Arabic, no Russian. Hmm. I wonder what that means. I guess it means that if you're a woman doing business in Israel, you had better know Hebrew. Or else.

Let's look at some of the program highlights and see which sessions are worth going to…

09:30- 10 a.m. – Opening, Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv. Nah, can't be bothered. Too early in the morning. Besides, since when do mayors say anything really interesting in such speeches. I've had the opportunity to edit or translate various mayors' addresses. I could probably write such a speech with one hand tied behind my back. Though that would slow me down, seeing as I'm used to touch-typing.

10 – 10:20 – Prof Gabriela Shalev, From Israel to the UN and Back. Yes, she's good. But I just heard her at the ITA conference, and assume she'll say more or less the same things.

10:20 - 11:05 – Where Are They All? A panel with half a dozen women in high places – a CEO, a judge, and other execs. I have no idea what this panel is supposed to discuss. What's the key issue? Too vague. Not attractive. Skip it. Plan to pick Daria up from Tel Aviv.

Okay, we found parking and went in. As soon as I got my name tag, attached it to my shirt and started "mingling", I realized my mistake: my name tag was useless. I failed to fill in the registration form correctly and, as a result, my name tag carried my name, in Hebrew, twice, and that's all: no hint of my profession, my occupation, or any such info that would be useful to other participants whose path I may cross. Most other women had their company name under their own name. Since I don't have a company, I just entered my name again in that field in the form. I did see one woman who had apparently written "atzma'it" (self-employed) in that field. Daria said I should have written "Take Nina's word for it", since that's my slogan. Even if it didn't ring a bell among that crowd, it might at least evoke some curiosity or interest. So I took my mini Sharpiewhich I always carry with me for just this type of emergency, and added that to my name tag.

This mingling business did not work very well. Women mostly stuck to their own kind. Small groups bearing the same company name (e.g. Sleepless City, eSelling-Stuff, Freshly-Recycled-Ideas-Inc., and so on) clustered closely around the food stalls, queued for quiche, yakking to each other. As far as I could see, my daughter was among the few who actually moved between groups and introduced people to one another. Only later, after her panel appearance, did total strangers come up to her to introduce themselves and establish a new contact.

Elevnish: A Moment after the Oscars – Against All Odds. Ah, at last an experienced speaker who knows exactly the point she wishes to make. Karen Tal, principal of the Bialik-Rogozin school for foreign workers' kids, spoke about her unique venture and about the documentary film Strangers No More, recent Academy Award winner in the "best documentary short subject" category. Very moving subject, well presented.

[Note: There was a bit of a mix-up with the order of the sessions around lunchtime, so I can't vouch for the order of the events, but that's immaterial.]

Next: The Secret World of WomenJulie Shlez, (or Shles, she should make up her mind about it) a film director and producer, creator of a certain Israeli TV docu-drama series that I'm not familiar with. See write-up in Hebrew. Let me know if you think I missed something really good. Maybe I'll watch the sequel.

Brunch: Lots of green leafy things which I ignored. Some greasy, yummy, cheese/pasta dishes; mini desserts. Huge queue for coffee. I drank water.

Now, from 12:45 to 1:50 pm there should have been, according to the program, a talk that sounded very interesting:

I Too Am in it for the Money! Women and negotiations – M. Cristal [sic], CEO and founder of Nest Consulting. Now, this is what I call important! We all know that most women are timid when it comes to asking for money, negotiating salary, demanding to be paid well. So all those leaf-eating ladies would be doing themselves a huge favor to pick up some tips from Motti, or however he spells his name, assuming he has good stuff to offer. But I'll never know :-( The unannounced changes in the schedule meant that I missed it.

Gentle readers – if you attended this session, please report!

Next came the pièce de resistance (for me…) of the conference:
Entrepreneurship, Alive and Kicking: 7 minutes, 4 entrepreneurs (f.), 4 success stories.
Marathon & panel chaired by journalist Tali Heruti-Sover of The Marker.
Gali Ross of Razoss spoke – if I understood correctly – of the importance of having a a support system. I admired her slim figure. (Can't help it. We're brainwashed.)
Makbula Nassar – outspoken, biting radio talk-show host[ess] (in Arabic) on A-Shams radio, was, well, outspoken, energetic and charming.
Yullia Gal, founder of Yullia Spa Express, started her business when she was under twenty and fairly new in the country… But she pulled it off, and her small manicure/pedicure shop blossomed into a chain. She's got a point, you know, with this idea of being able to pop into a place and say, "Hi, I feel like having my nails done; can you fit me in soon?" I only have my nails done about once a year, and I set up that appointment about a month in advance…
Daria Shualy, founder of Sense of Fashion, sporting a 26-week pregnancy, was fourth and last. She seemed the best-prepared for this short talk and presentation. Though she had told me earlier that she's used to giving this presentation in English, it went just as smoothly in Hebrew. (Duh!)

The audience was very attentive, and sent the MC loads of questions. Bet you can't guess what the main thing the audience wanted to know was… (How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? Where do you live?)

I'm glad I stayed for the next talk and interview, with Beth Brooke, who is such an amazing personality with so many achievements, that I wouldn't know where to begin to describe her. I'll copy-paste just one statement: "Beth was named three years in a row by Forbes Magazine as one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” and was named 2009 Woman of the Year by Concern Worldwide." All I can add was that everything she said was eminently sensible and eloquently put. Wish we had more like her.

This is as far as I got. Daria said that the dance/Youtube project YouMake ReMake by dancer-choreographer Renana Raz was beautiful.

If any of you readers stayed on for the last item, the launching of Catalyst, the first [Israeli] project aimed specifically at promoting women in business, please report. I have the glossy, expensive-looking folder and handouts, and glanced at them briefly. Looked like a worthwhile endeavor, meant for you [ladies] and me; and if I'm bored to tears, or trying to procrastinate when I'm supposed to be working, I might even read them more closely.

One last comment: Please look at the homepage for the conference and tell me if the meaningless blurb in its title was really necessary. The Hebrew says:
כנס נשים ועסקים, קנה המידה שלך להצלחה
- Kenes nashim va'assakim, kneh hamida shelach le'hatzlacha
- The women and business conference, your yardstick for success.
Is this how we're supposed to measure our success? By attending the conference, or what?... Did whoever wrote this "slogan" even know what they meant by it?

That's it, folks. Sorry it took so long, both timewise and wordwise. I came away feeling proud of my daughter's accomplishment and pleased with the tiny samples of expensive skincare products of the type I wouldn't buy for myself. Oh, and with one business card of one new contact.

For a different take on this conference or on international women's day, read what my colleagues have to say:

Yael Sela Shapiro [Hebrew]

Neri Livneh, [Hebrew, last year]

Ruth Ludlum [English]: