13 Amazing Women Thought Leaders To Watch At Paris Talks In 2019

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The 2019 edition of the Paris Talks conference will feature more than 15 innovative and influential speakers and entertainers.

This year’s Paris Talks female speakers are amazing thought-leaders that have been recognized as authorities and innovators in their respective fields and are highly sought after for their expertise.

In this piece, we’ll introduce our women thought-leaders, and what you can expect from them at our conference in March at UNESCO.

1. Anna Khuade, Founder and CEO at Affordable Yoga & Fitness

Anna Martin is the founder of Affordable Yoga & Fitness – a Paris based yoga school offering high-quality classes in multiple locations, with a key mission to make yoga financially accessible to as many people as possible.

Born in Russia, Anna moved to the UK at the age of 17 where she built up her career in Management Consultancy. In 2011 she left the corporate world to pursue her passion for health and fitness. After qualifying with the Yoga Alliance, Anna arrived in Paris in 2011, where she saw an opportunity to open a yoga studio with a difference.

Health and fitness are expensive in Paris, which keeps many away from classes. Affordable Yoga opened in 2013 to create an affordable fitness experience, with a focus on a collaborative community with a caring soul. 

Anna will lead Paris Talks attendees through mindfulness session at the beginning of the conference.

2. ELIZABETH MILOVIDOV, Lawyer, law professor and eSafety consultant


Elizabeth is a member of the Working Group of experts on Digital Citizenship Education and an independent expert on Digital Parenting and Children and Internet for the Children's Rights Division of Council of Europe.

She is an advisor on European Cooperation and International Projects for e-Enfance, a French online child protection association providing support to parents and children in the digital age.

Her core work involves researching solutions for parenting in the digital age and she has authored several guides and workbooks for parents, moderates a Facebook community for parents and is the founder of DigitalParentingCoach.com. a website and community with resources for parents.

Elizabeth will lead a working group session of two hours on everything related to Cyber Security, Risks and Opportunities for 21st Century Families.

3. MARVI MEMON, Political Leader & Social Innovator

Marvi is a humanitarian, former parliamentarian, cabinet member, and former CEO. Born in Karachi Pakistan in July 1972. After schooling from Karachi, Paris and Kuwait, she graduated from the London School of Economics with B.Sc (Econ.) Honors in International Relations in 1993. She has since worked for Citibank, been CEO of Pakistan's first satellite tracking company, advised the President of Pakistan on Media Management, the Ministry of Investments, been a parliamentarian for two consecutive terms, an Information Committee Chairperson in parliament, Chaired as Minister the largest social safety net of Pakistan BISP. Ms. Memon has the distinction of being awarded the UK House of Commons Speaker Inaugural Democracy Award 2017, the French Officier de Merite award 2017 and Membership of the World Bank Advisory Gender Council 2017.

Marvi’s talk will challenges Paris Talks participants to look into the diverse impact of conflicts on people living under poverty.

4. NICOLA AYOUB, Franco-American Dancer & Choreographer

Nicola Ayoub is a Paris-based Franco-American dancer and choreographer who trained and performed at the Atlanta Ballet. At age 17, completely frustrated with the world of classical ballet, Nicola swore she would never dance again. She plunged madly into her studies and obtained two B.A.s in History and Art History at the University of Georgia. But in the end her passion for dance won over. At age 23, she started her career as a professional dancer, first working in Atlanta and then in Paris.

She became a choreographer with her bilingual one-woman show The Language, which was awarded Paris Jeunes Talents in 2008 and first place at the Parisian choreography contest Tobina in 2009. 

In 2010 and 2011, she performed and taught regularly at La Sorbonne University in Paris. Nicola represented the USA in UNESCO’s 2011 original production, Astro-Ballet, choreographed by Natalia Guslistaya from the Bolshoi Ballet. Between 2012 and 2018, she danced for Gigi Caciuleanu, Alexandra Bansch, Christopher Williams, and the companies Karma Dance Project, GDS Prod, and ACM Ballet.

Nicola is also a member of UNESCO's International Dance Council.

Nicola will open the Paris Talks conference with a performance dance and later on, in the day, conduct a working group session on the power of Arts & Culture as powerful tools for peace

5. MIREN BENGOA, Executive Director Fondation CHANEL

A Sciences Po Paris graduate with a Masters in Public Health from LSTHM, Miren Bengoa has worked for over 20 years in the realm of international development, philanthropy and gender equality. She collaborated at organizations such as MSF, Terre Des Hommes, UNFPA and UNICEF. A strong advocate for women's empowerment and maternal health, she has been instrumental in establishing the French National Committee for UN Women, which she presided from 2013 to 2018 gaining visibility and recognition for the development of a 100+ member association of gender experts and supporters in France. An active public speaker, she has taken part in numerous conferences at the OECD, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other international encounters.

Under her leadership as the Executive Director of Fondation CHANEL since 2011, the organization has become an established institution dedicated to funding women's groups, NGOs and social businesses striving to improve the condition of women and girls internationally. She facilitated the creation of a wide network of partner institutions and non-profit organizations in 30 countries, and strengthened the links between Chanel employees and organizations serving women around the world. As Vice-President of the Board at the French Foundation Center (CFF), Miren has promoted grantmaking with a gender lens in large philanthropy platforms and encouraged best practice sharing and partnership building. A Swiss and Greek national, Miren Bengoa has a lived and worked in 8 countries, including the USA, France, Egypt, Ecuador, Cameroon and Senegal.

Miren’s session will cover issues related to gender Equality & Women Empowerment.

6. KERI CHRYST, International Performer & Educator

Keri Chryst currently lives and works in Paris, France – by way of Chicago, IL where she earned her Master’s in Jazz Pedagogy from Northwestern University in 1998. Her spunky in-the-pocket swing, together with an instrumental approach to singing and improvisation, have charmed audiences around the world and fast earned her a reputation as a “musician’s singer.”

Keri’s current projects include regular appearances with the vocal jazz trio par excellence Sweet System ( Festival d'Avignon, Théâtre le Ranelagh, Jazz Club Lionel Hampton - Le Méridien...) the Dany Doriz Orchestra of Caveaux de la Huchette fame (Festivals Corbeil-Essonne, Sable d'Olonnes, Lunel...) as well as numerous trips as Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department across Africa and Europe.

7. SONIA BEN ALI, Social Innovator, Co-Founder and CEO at URBAN REFUGEES

Sonia Ben Ali is the Founding Director of the non-profit URBAN REFUGEES (www.urban-refugees.org). Sonia started working with refugees and IDPs in 2007 in Bogota (Colombia) with a local NGO. She then worked on refugee protection programs in Casamance (Senegal), in a refugee camp of the Palestinian Territories and in Beirut (Lebanon) with both NGOs and UN agencies. Sonia holds a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Affairs from the French Institute of Political Sciences of Bordeaux. She is an Ashoka Fellow and a TedX speaker. She was a finalist of the Echoing Green Fellowship in 2016 and was awarded the prize of social innovator by Deloitte Australia and social entrepreneur of the year 2014 by ShoeString.

Sonia’s talk will tap into some interesting data to lead into the future of Human Migrations. 

8. STEFANIA GIANNINI, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO

Ms Stefania Giannini was appointed Assistant Director-General for Education in May 2018, becoming the top United Nations official in the field of education. In this position, she provides strategic vision and leadership for UNESCO’s Education Sector in coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda, encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4.

She has devoted her career to promoting education as a fundamental human right, through the importance of language, lifelong learning, culture, freedom of expression and identity, in an effort to ensure more inclusive and equal societies.

Ms Giannini is a former Professor of Linguistics and served as Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia (2004 – 2012), being one of the first female Rectors and the youngest at that time in Italy.

During these years, she coordinated a number of relevant international projects in the field of higher education and research, contributing to the improvement of university cooperation between Europe and several other countries, from the United States to countries in Asia as well as the Middle East and North Africa region.  

At the same time, she was member of the Selection Committee of the Erasmus Mundus programme in Brussels (2005 – 2009), the person responsible for international relations in the Committee of The Conference of Italian University Rectors (2006 – 2010) and a member of the National Commission for the Promotion of Italian Culture Abroad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006 – 2011).

Later on, in her role as Senator of the Republic of Italy (2013 – 2018) and Minister of Education, Universities and Research (2014 – 2016), she developed and implemented a structural reform of the Italian education system, centred on social inclusion and targeting cultural awareness.

Ms Giannini also chaired the Education and Competitiveness Council of the European Union during the Italian Presidency (July – December 2014), working to promote the importance of creativity, cultural heritage and innovation as tools for dialogue between diverse populations, with a view to preventing radicalization and extremism.

Since conflict starts in the mind of men and women, we need to use education as a tool to building peaceful minds. That’s what Stefania’s talk, in the first session of the conference, will be about.

9. ANNIE BLACK, Scientist, STEM Innovator & Women In Science Advocate

Former Deputy Executive Director at L'Oréal Corporate Foundation, Annie BLACK; molecular & cellular biologist has worked on many scientific research projects that have helped reshape her career and that of thousands of women scientists across the world. 

Prior to joining the L’Oréal group in 2004 and before getting fully engaged in L’Oreal Foundation as the deputy director with different missions - including the curation, promotion and management of the annual L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science awards and fellowship, Annie co-founded a successful business but also got involved in many scientific, engineering and innovative projects that encouraged thousands of girls from diverse backgrounds get access to better educational tools for their scientific works.

Annie will gather a group of 12 Paris Talks participants in a closed room to lead them through critical thinking and collaborative process around STEM. After this two hours session, these participants will come up with innovative ideas on how to use STEM to build a peaceful future for all.

10. Anne-Claire Pache, Writer, Social Innovator and Chaired Professor in Philanthropy at ESSEC Business School, France

Anne-Claire Pache is Chaired Professor in Philanthropy and Social Innovation at ESSEC Business School. She teaches and conducts research on social innovation, social entrepreneurship, and philanthropy, and more broadly, hybrid organizations. She published several books and articles on social innovation and philanthropy. Before joining the academic world, she participated in the co-founding of Unis-Cité, France's pioneer youth service non-profit. She sits today on the board of Unis-Cité, of various non-profit organizations and of an impact investing fund.


Please note that this list is incomplete as it doesn’t include all the Paris Talks amazing women team members and volunteers. 

A few remaining tickets for the conference can be found here.