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Thoughts on Attending My First Women in Compliance Conference

Last month I attended my first Women in Compliance Conference and Awards in London. It was such a great experience that I wanted to share who I met with, what I learned and why I recommend connecting with other global compliance leaders.

Around 80 people attended the Conference, coming from many countries like Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the USA, Finland, Belgium, China, Brazil, India, Russia and the UK, among others. Most women were working as compliance officers in big multinationals such as Boeing, Cargotec, General Electric, Pepsico, AB inBev, Tenneco, Whirlpool, Volkswagen or Bloomberg. But there were also some women working for SMEs and service providers like The Red Flag Group, Skadden, Mishcon de Reya or Affiliated Monitors.

As Anna Romberg and Carol Fuchs said in the opening remarks and welcome to the conference, “Ethics means transparency and dialog”, and that was what we did in the conference.

Some of the sessions were of interest for the ethics and compliance profession in general. Camilla de Silva shared some clues about three priority areas for the UK Serious Fraud Office and the DPA regime. We also received some interesting updates in relation to trade control regulation and enforcement by Debbi Smith, and we learned from Jamie l. Boucher, Anna Romberg and Monique Elgin about best practices in dealing with internal cross-border investigations. Moreover, we enjoyed an inspiring session to instill and maintain an effective speak up culture that has been in successfully developed in Whirlpool. We also gleaned some useful ideas from Beth Ann Johnson to promote interdepartmental communication, and Julia Romashkina shared with us a week in a life of a compliance officer.

On the other hand, there were sessions in which we discussed and learned how to deal with women related issues in compliance. Ellen Hunt and Lynn Haaland shared industry lessons learned post-#MeToo movement to set clear expectations of what is acceptable, to conduct proper investigations, to avoid retaliation and to plan suitable training. Carmen Di Marino talked about the economics of returning to work after maternity leave, while Sarah Keeble gave us figures and potential measures in relation to the gender pay gap. Elizabeth Wilks-Wood and Laurence Houlbert made us think about the faces of unconscious gender bias and how organizations are addressing and controlling the risks posed by discrimination in the work place.

Finally, we enjoyed some sessions that were designed to increase self-belief, confidence and networking. Carol Fuchs reflected on her career as a woman in compliance and gave us some recommendations to ask for what we want, to make a change when necessary and to give back to the community. Stephanie Davis and Shara Galvin talked about leadership styles and how to make it work for the compliance team and the organization, with some important features like “active listening”, “being human,” and “how can I help” orientation. And Ellen Hunt gave us useful recommendations on how to get ethics & compliance in the boardroom, and how to be ready to serve as a Director through sweat, determination and lots of hard work to build our brand, select options, acquire the required knowledge, reach out to our network, and make an action plan to direct our search.

During lunchtime, we benefitted from a Mentor-Mentee Circles Luncheon. In my case, I would like to thank Sarah Keeble, Debbi Smith and Carol Fuchs for listening to me, sharing their personal experiences and giving me some recommendations for my personal and professional development.
After the conference, I attended to the Women in Compliance Awards dinner. It was very nice and emotional to see so many women that were nominated in different categories like the Chief Compliance Officer of the Year, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Contribution to the Compliance Community or the Compliance Innovator of the Year, among others. It was a great party to congratulate the winners’ achievements and to join with colleagues from many different countries and sectors.

My best wishes to all women I met. I hope we can keep in contact!