Athena40 Global Conversation

New York - London - Athens - Amman - Istanbul - Lahore

Athena40 Global Conversation: “The Way to the Top”

International Women’s Day 2019
For the first time in 
history Athena40 connects fearless, innovative and diverse women across 4 continents in 6 country conversations

    In Partnership with:    

An audience of 500 influencers across six countries and four continents participated in a synchronised global conversation March 6th that had 45 speakers debating live just ahead of International Women’s’ Day, March 8th.

The conversation  in London was hosted by the Evening Standard and saw BBC World’s Tim Willcox as global moderator, connecting live to the 5 other panels to get a sense of what progress has been made regarding women’s empowerment,

where the major challenges and opportunities for women lie, who are the real change makers globally, and what can be done to promote diversity and inclusivity – collaboratively and internationally.

“As a CEO, I never felt I had reached the top… I just got on with the job. I could just do more, make changes. Trust yourself, use your intuition because your intuition will serve you well”, commented  Bridget McIntryreone of the youngest female CEOs at a FTSE100 firm.

"Congratulations, what a triumph! I arrived full of doom and gloom about Brexit, environment etc and came away feeling uplifted knowing about the positive work being done by GTF. It’s impressive to see how much you have achieved in a relatively short time"

Rita Payne - London, UK President, Emeritus

Doing stand-up is scary… when they announce me, I have an out-of-body experience… and then you just have to do it, and it’s fine! Don’t let ‘the best’ be the enemy of ‘the good”, said Ayesha Hazarika, writer, broadcaster and stand-up comedian.

Elizabeth Filippouli, Founder & CEO of Athena40 said: “They say that it has never been a better time to be a woman. I agree…but then that is not the case for every woman, this is why we started the Athena40 movement to understand and engage women across all cultures, into empowering conversations”.

“If you’re not failing, you’re playing it too safe. To overcome failure. you probably learn more than when you’re successful”, said Annabel Karmel MBE, UK’s No 1 author of children’s recipes. 

"Congratulations! We wish this will be the first of many to come. Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to be a part of this international success and meet so many successful women from all around the world"

Asli Kurklu - Istanbul, Turkey Director, Assembly/Ferco Signature

"What a wonderful event! You should be very proud. There was a real sense of common purpose and drive. A fantastic panel in London and great participation around the world. Congratulations!"

Conor de Lion - Amman, Jordan Advisor on External Relations, The Royal Scientific Society

Doug Wills, Managing Editor of the Evening Standard opened the London event talking about the importance of having such conversations about gender equality.

Among the audience worldwide was HRH Princess Eugenie of York; British artist and song writer Ellie Goulding; The Rt. Hon. Lord John Alderdice; Sangita Kanoria, Founder of Advinia Health Care; Geraldine Sharpe Newton, GTF Advisory Board Member and Athena40 Founder Member; Dr. Fawaz Zubi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Silicon Badia; Ciara Hurley-Stewart, Head of Retail Marketing and Partnerships, Asprey; Shada El Sharif, Director Jordan Investment Fund; Rebecca Thomley, CEO Orion Associates and Athena40 Founding Member; Sheila Gulati, MD Global Capital; Julie Goran, Partner,  McKinsey (NYC); Alexandra King, CNN (NYC); Katherine Berjoan, Liberty Mutual (NYC); Ruba Borno, Cisco Systems (NYC); Irina Sacha, Founder, Verizon Media (Athens); Dana Rawashdah, Metlife (Amman).

Launched by the Global Thinkers Forum, a London-based social purpose organization with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah as its Founding Patron, Athena40 is the first ever global list of the 40 top forward-thinking, innovative women from across all industries. It was officially announced at UNESCO on International Women’s Day 2018.


"We really need to keep these dialogues, and with bigger groups."

Deema Bibi - Amman, Jordan CEO, Injaz

Nominations through
For more information, please visit and
Findings across panels included:

London, UK: “Women have smashed the glass ceiling in the corporate world, but more progress is required. There is still not enough appreciation of diversity. The biggest barrier is the fear from within and by creating mechanisms for recognition, such as Athena40, women will be acknowledged and encouraged to continue doing great things.

Athens, Greece: “There is no glass ceiling, but a glass feeling. We create our glass ceilings. So we need mentors.  Women need more mentoring than men, so as to enable networking, break down gender obstacles to networking. We need to give back, on a one-to-one basis.”

"It was amazing! I was overcome with emotion when all cities started populating the screen. We all stopped and listened and I can't remember having an experience like that. It was bigger than all of us."

Lili Hall - New York, USA CEO, Knock Inc

Amman, Jordan: “Panelists stressed the importance of change starting in the education system to prompt positive change toward empowering women in Jordan, to disrupt the stereotypes and stop the perpetuation of gender disparity and decrease the masculinization of language in text books.

New York, USA: “While conversations around women in leadership are happening, and there is a will to make them happen more, we need to focus on the steps that are taken after the conversation. Confidence starts at the age of 5. It’s important to start these conversations with younger generations and get young girls excited about being leaders”.

Istanbul, Turkey: “We are in need of more initiatives to encourage women to enter the business world, more opportunities for easy access to education, mentorship programs, scholarships, grants and obviously government support to scale impact. Solidarity and unity between women has a huge importance. Role models have great influence on the women especially suffering from lack of self-confidence”.
Lahore, Pakistan: “Technology is our partner and is helping women to be more successful. Civil societies need to work to raise awareness on women issues along with media. Data tells us women who are running businesses are twice as likely to send their children to school than women who don’t have their own businesses”.

"What an amazing event! Thank you GTF, we really enjoyed the project."

Julia de Boinville - London, UK VP Business Development, Afiniti

Questions explored by all panels:
1.  What progress has been achieved in the past years with regards to the women's empowerment agenda in your country?
2.  Where are the major challenges and opportunities?
3.  Who are the real change-makers, the ones who can actively promote women's empowerment?
4.  What can be done to promote the diversity, inclusivity and women's empowerment agenda?
5. What does the ‘’Way To The Top” mean to you? What is the 'top' and how does it feel to be at the top – to be an ‘Athena’?
6.  How are you different to your younger self, and what would you advise your younger self today?
7.  Do you find that you stop yourself from doing things because of fear, insecurity or social prejudice?
8. Can you make a pledge that you will support a woman as mentor or sponsor or that you will promote a cause or a project that supports women? Please name it if so.
9. Can you think of women - and men - from your country/region who have created - or are involved in - great projects, but have not receive the credit they deserve?


                                                  Global Conversation Speakers


Strategic Partners and Supporters
The ‘Athena40 Global Conversation’ was in partnership with Afiniti; the Evening Standard; the British Chamber of Commerce Turkey; INJAZ Jordan; Vodafone Greece; House of Gharats; Knowl Social Enterprise Greece and Assembly Turkey.