Oslo PAX 2020 at the Nobel Peace Center

SHE attended the Oslo Pax 2020, so you didn’t have to! 

Oslo PAX 2020 was planned in conjunction with the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize this year and was held at the Nobel Peace Center, streaming live around the world. The reason for such an event? In their own words, “collectively, we shall aim to make inclusion and diversity the social norm.” 

Beginning virtually at 12:30 was a pre-show of sorts, offering us insights and opinions from attendees and several speakers. One person who stood out during the pre-show was the well-prepared Heidi Robertson. Ms. Robertson is the Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Employer Brand at ABB. She would go on further to describe ABB’s “2030 plan” as we’ve also discussed HERE and she succinctly describes an “all levels and holistic approach” to diversity and inclusion in the private sector. A lofty and valuable goal for us all. 

Kjersti Fløgstad, CEO of the Nobel Peace Center, opened the online event describing Oslo Pax as a safe space where “new ideas can be exchanged” and encouraging all of us who advocate for equality and inclusion to ask ourselves, “what more can I [we] do?”  

Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Norway spoke at length about her own goals to work with parties for inclusion and to provide technical support to ensure the inclusion actually works. She seeks to work with women’s networks to amplify their voices and support women’s political and economical empowerment. She boldly pointed out, “The longer women are oppressed and excluded, the harder it is to help and include them.” 

Alaa Salah, the Sudanese student and activist, famous for a photo of her, fist in the air, wearing white, while standing on top of a car, at a protest in 2019, gave a powerful introductory speech to mark the opening of Oslo Pax 2020. She has since been called the “woman in white” or “lady liberty.” She was a representative of women’s involvement in the Sudanese revolution and described their motto, “freedom, peace, and equality.” She provided a clear message to us today. Find the positive, promote peace, and engage with equality. 

Some highlights from session one, “Why is diversity and gender equality good for business and for peace?”

  • If we don’t include the women or the people that these policies are meant to work for, it will fall apart. 
  • Get out of your “echo chamber” – challenge yourself to “think differently.”  
  • “What does it mean for you when someone is properly listening to you? That is inclusion.” 
  • “Being nice is not the same as being anti-racist, being nice is not the same as being anti-sexist.”
  • Exclusion has not happened by accident, which is why our response should not be accidental. 
  • Diversity pays off because people come together and challenge each other.  
  • PLEASE, remember that women are not a monolithic group. There is diversity within women and womanhood. 

A true highlight remains Fawzia Koofi, one of four women who are currently participating in negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Fawzia is a self-identified, “Mother, Politician, Campaigner, Muslim.” Below are some quick notes from her speech.

  • Women have been multitasking since the beginning of time. Skillfully navigating between work and life. Why is it then, that women are ignored or overlooked? 
  • Women have taken a more proactive role in peacebuilding and overcoming human-made boundaries.  
  • Fawzia took us through a short history of violence against women in Afghanistan, including her own assassination attempt last August, where she was shot as she said, for “her voice, her power, her ideas… ” 
  • “The louder we shout, the more they try to silence us. If I die, which I accept, there are so many more women behind us to take up the fight after us.” 
  • “Why do we have to wait for the big decisions to be made? Include us now, do not wait…” 

Session two, “How can the private sector and civil society work together to make diversity & inclusion the social norm?” started with Torin Perez, a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consultant providing a powerful and motivating call to arms. Don’t stand for inequality, fight the stereotypes in your own belief system, recognize gender inequality, and racism in your everyday private and professional lives. Then, act to change these habits, rituals, and systems.

Deputy Director of UN Women, Åsa Regnér, worked throughout the live-technical difficulties reminding the audience that women have been affected disproportionately throughout this pandemic because women are overwhelmingly involved with “care work.” Another way women are impacted by COVID-19 remains violence levels in the household. Violence from male partners towards women and girls has spiked from 20-30% since the pandemic. Those of us in the business world should use this knowledge to create safe spaces at workplaces. 

Michele King, Gender Equality Expert, reminds us of the evolution in diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough to focus on representation. Creating a workplace that truly values women, where employees can be themselves, will of course keep employees happy, but also make our workplaces more profitable and productive. This creates a culture of equality. This starts with leaders. Leaders drive cultures through their own example and cultures they create. Culture is made up of lived experiences, day-to-day moments, repeated practices. A culture of equality means managing those day to day moments- it is your job to make people feel safe, who contributes, and how much! 

So, while we haven’t touched on all the speakers and all the topics, we hope this remains a thought-provoking call to solidarity in the workplace. To wrap up, here are some takeaways from the conference:

What may our future inclusive practices include, both in the workplace and at home? 
-Make it Participatory 
-Make it Diverse 
-Make it Inclusive 

Some questions to ask ourselves? “Diversity in the workplaces means ______” “Our biggest barriers are ______” “We will know we’ve made an impact when ______” 

Click for more about the Oslo Pax 2020 event and its speakers and program.