20-first CEO, Chautauqua favorite, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox to discuss career cycles in a changed world


Challenges. Problems. Crises. From Avivah Wittenberg-Cox’s viewing point, all represent opportunities.

She is the founder and CEO of 20-first, a rapidly growing U.K.-based, global consulting firm that focuses on “capturing the competitive advantage” — the business opportunities of “21st century forms of leadership, customer connections and talent management” –— by building gender-, nationality- and generationally-balanced businesses.

20-first has chosen doing good, having fun, sharing love, and staying foolish as its core values. Wittenberg-Cox espouses all four with keen perceptiveness, kind optimism and panache.   

At 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 14, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, she will present a talk titled, “Four Phases of Women’s (and a Growing Number of Men’s) Career Cycles.” It is the second presentation in the 2020 Contemporary Issues Forum sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club, and will be followed by a Q-and-A session.

“Part of the answer to adjusting to a changed world requires understanding where you are in your life and your career,” Wittenberg-Cox said. “People don’t often think of their careers or their lives in phases. … ‘What should I do next?’ dominates the discussion. ‘Where am I headed?’ is a rarer question. But it’s precisely when crisis hits that an opportunity opens to revisit the path as well as the program.”

A regular contributor to The New York Times and Forbes, her April 13, 2020, article, “What Do Countries With the Best Coronavirus Responses Have in Common? Women Leaders,” was a Forbes “Editors Pick” and has had over 8 million views. Wittenberg-Cox’s work has also been featured in Le Monde, FT, and Der Spiegel, as well as on BBC and TEDx, for which she has given several talks. 

A graduate of the University of Toronto, INSEAD (where she earned her MBA), and the Women’s Leadership Program at Harvard, she is Canadian, French and Swiss by nationality.

Wittenberg-Cox is also the Chautauquan who established the CWC’s Professional Women’s Network, having previously launched the European Professional Women’s Network. PWN Global recently honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Gender Balanced Leadership. ELLE Magazine has recognized her as one of the Top 40 Women Leading Change.

During Chautauqua Institution’s 2018 season, Wittenberg-Cox was an Amphitheater speaker during Week Six, the theme for which was “The Changing Nature of Work.” Summer after summer she has spoken or led networking sessions as part of the CWC’s annual program of lecture series. Always, she has shared new research and insights.

Scholarly research forms the basis for Wittenberg-Cox’s gender balance and bilingualism consulting and advocacy. Her 2009 book, Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution, was awarded the MANPOWER Best Book of the Year Prize. Her sequel, How Women Mean Business, came out a year later. 

Clever graphics shape her short books, including Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business (2019), Three Ways of Engaging Men and Leaders in Gender Balance, and Four Phases of Women’s Careers: Becoming Gender Bilingual.  

“After more than a decade facilitating debates around gender issues with hundreds of leadership teams of large multinationals around the globe, I have not found men at all reticent about engaging with these issues, and their own accountability for it,” Wittenberg-Cox wrote in her 2018 guest column for The Chautauquan Daily.

“On the contrary, in the right context, with the right leadership, the words pour out,” she continued. “The most common feedback is gratitude, not grouchiness. The reality is that most executives have never had the time or the space to have a substantive dialogue with their peers about gender issues.” 

As she identifies and maps a career arc and planning horizon for women (as well as an increasing number of men), Wittenberg-Cox will also talk on Tuesday afternoon about how they can be more strategic and tactical in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s-plus, and  manage things more stably — even in a changed world.

Tags : 20-firstAvivah Wittenberg-CoxChautauqua Professional Women’s Networkchautauqua women's clubCommunityContemporary Issues ForumDeborah TreftsForbes contributorFour Phases of Women’s Careers: Becoming Gender BilingualMANPOWER Best Book of the Year PrizeSeven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced BusinessTEDx TalksThe New York Times contributorThree Ways of Engaging Men and Leaders in Gender BalanceWhy Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution

The author Deborah Trefts

Deborah Trefts is a policy scientist with extensive United States, Canadian and additional international experience in conservation. She focuses on the resolution of ocean and freshwater-related challenges and the art and science of deciphering and developing public policy at all levels from global to local.