Women Economic Forum 2020

Petra Stipanic reports from the Women Economic Forum in Ljubljana (Slovenia)

What if I told you, even guides and scouts attend fancy events and while everyone else is in their high heels, we are rocking in our uniform and scarf?

That’s exactly what happened to me from 6-8 February 2020 when I represented WAGGGS at the Women Economic Forum in Ljubljana (Slovenia) surrounded by many successful business women. They are all very good leaders in their field/teams/companies. And what does WAGGGS do? Support women to become leaders! So it was obvious that we have to be there and share experiences on empowering women, share what WAGGGS does on the topic of leadership development and make friends with awesome ladies with super powers and present them as role models to our young women and girls.
WAGGGS is aimed at developing girls into active citizens and to provide opportunities for such development in a safe community. Developing girls as future leaders forms a strategic priority for WAGGGS. Not many women in the business world had this chance, they had to learn the hard way and with a lot a lot of work to be the best of the best. I was at the event to network and mostly talk about alternative ways to leadership and what do we do for our members. I shared with others about my experience in WAGGGS and why is it so different from maybe how they have learned about leadership. I want to share some of my presentation points with you.

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WAGGGS is all about learning by doing in a non-formal educational setting, and in this setting we provide a safe space of learning and failing and trying again. WAGGGS is proving a positive context for developing leadership in girls, in terms of opportunities and role models. Leadership is taking a stand for something you believe in and that is the space and the voice we give to our girls and women. I represented WAGGGS at many events and spoke out on issues I’m passionate about on several occasions. Some of the examples are UN General Assembly, Commission on the Status of Women in New York and co-operating with the Slovenian government at this event. I attended a youth conference in Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan and I spoke in the name of 10 million members. This is powerful and it gives you a sense of responsibility.

Even if I'm in a leadership position now, being a leader also means that I acknowledge other people being more expert then me and you give them a chance to shine. That is sometimes the hardest but can be learned with inclusive leadership - I gained this because of my experiences with working groups in Europe region and being in contact with many incredible volunteers that support the regional work. They know so much more than me for example on the topics of Gender and Diversity and I’m learning from them constantly. It's all about trusting the young women and girls that they can do it if you give them a chance and confidence. By enabling girls and women to take the lead in their Guiding/Scouting journey from a very young age and to develop as role models for future generations, we give them tools to become bold and confident women in every aspect of their lives.

WAGGGS recently developed a new leadership model that is based on leadership practice. Leadership practice is the daily behaviour you choose to engage in to put your values into action and create positive change. Leadership practice regards your “ways of being and thinking about the world” as the foundation to who you are as a leader. The best way to work on this foundation is by consciously and actively practising leadership.

We believe that:

  • Leadership practice is a whole person process.
  • Everyone can develop their leadership practice in everyday life.
  • Anyone, whatever their age, position, or situation, can be more conscious about how they practice leadership.
  • We should give everyone tools to see themselves as leaders, and reflect on their leadership practice.
  • We need to make time and space to practise leadership if we want to be better leaders: holding a position of power doesn’t automatically make us leaders.
  • Girls can develop their leadership at all ages - and it is part of the responsibility of the adults who support them to create spaces for them to practise.
  • Our values and behaviours affect who we are as a leader more than the skills we learn.

For WAGGGS, leadership is a shared journey that empowers us to work together and bring positive change to our lives, the lives of others, and our wider society. A good leader is a lifelong learner who consciously deepens their understanding of different contexts, draws on different wisdoms, and uses that learning to collaborate with others to make a difference. But most of all WAGGGS give girls opportunities to shine and be themselves.

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Due to my opportunities with WAGGGS, I’m happy to share the experiences with the world and all leaders that are now in power to make a difference. In addition, it's important that even guides and scouts attend event such as the Women Economic Forum, so people can see we are not just about playing in the woods, but we really offer a unique way of life to our members and as well many competences that is hard to gain just at school.

Written by Petra Stipanic
WAGGGS Europe Committee Member

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