Blog: Butterflies, Charlie Chaplin and rose petals - it must be the CIES World Food Business Summit!

Catherine Sleep | 21 June 2006

Bonjour from beautiful Paris, where I’m attending the CIES World Food Business Summit. Proceedings have got off to a, well, rather bizarre start. It’s the 50th anniversary of these annual summits, so CIES decided to strike a celebratory note in its opening ceremony. First we were treated to a quaint slide show of ‘retail through the ages’, i.e. lots of sepia shots of fat-bellied shopkeepers standing proudly behind the teak counters of their olde shoppes. The other half of the screen, randomly, displayed footage from Charlie Chaplin films. No, I’ve no idea either.

This montage then segued inexplicably into footage of goldfish and, ahem, butterflies swimming/fluttering about the place, presumably to calm us all down after the excitement provoked by the fat shopkeepers and Chaplin. The pièce de résistance was provided by a shower of real live rose petals which were released over us all, each one presumably representing a fallen shopkeeper of yore. Or something. It was all très français, and somehow girly…

…which is certainly more than can be said for the Summit itself. Of 24 speakers who will mount the podium, just one is female, a ratio reflected in the attendee base too. Such a situation is hardly particular to the food industry but it is depressing, especially given the general perception of retail as a sector in which strides have been made to create a level playing field for both genders.


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