Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at the Women Economic Forum and I-Inspire events in India, Techonomy NYC and my alma matters Binghamton University and Cornell’s Johnson School of Management. All of these events were unique but shared a common goal: advancing gender diversity and opportunities for women in business. It has been an incredible journey and I’m still processing all of the stories heard and lessons learned, but here are a few of my takeaways:
Women and men in all corners of the globe are joining forces to achieve gender equality.
While at the I inspire event in Gurgaon, India, I spoke on a panel with three incredible tech founders in India. According to a report by Pitchbook, female founders in the U.S. received only 2% of Venture Capital funding in 2017. Funding is even harder to come by for India’s female founders, but they haven’t let that hold them back.
The vision of WEF is to inspire every woman to become a business woman. The conference is held annually to “foster empowering conversations and connection amongst women committed to constructive change across all walks of life.”
With over 2,000 delegates from 120+ countries, there truly were representatives from all walks of life. Despite our geographical and cultural differences, our experiences and vision for diversity and inclusion initiatives were the same. I heard story after story of women who believed in their vision and found success by combining passion, perseverance, tuning out the negative noise, and sheer hard work. Where there is a will, there is away.
My favorite moment in India was when I was asked to be in a photo with a group of young girls from a local orphanage who were invited to attend the WEF conference. Their smiles and endless hope were inspiring, and it was apparent that the speakers had made them believe that anything is possible.
The pipeline of rising talent has a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
The events at Binghamton and Cornell celebrated rising entrepreneurs, visionaries and business leaders. I was so impressed by the members of the Southern Tier Startup Incubator in Binghamton and the amazing progress made in the startup community in just one year. My opening keynote was aimed at helping them to reach their career north stars, but I’m not sure they needed my advice…their engagement, curiosity and dedication to their visions is inspiring.
In partnership with WearingIrish, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business event was a unique blend of academia and fashion that celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of today’s women in business and inspiring stories from corporate executives. Dean Lynn Perry Wooten gave a powerful speech, urging the women in the audience to be fearless and not let fear of failure hold you back. The speakers and designers at this event had no fear and were some of the strongest, most creative minds I’ve met.
Culture is critical for creating an equitable workplace.
The diverse group of speakers and some powerful influencers at Techonomy NYC took on some of today’s biggest issues at the intersection of technology, business, and society.
I spoke on a panel with Sarah Gerber, co-founder of Zero Gap, and Gina Hadley, co-founder of The Second Shift, on how women are creating a more equitable workplace. Along with the disparity between VC funding for male vs. Female founded startups, we discussed how the workplace is evolving, and the work that still needs to be done. Gina called out the antiquated “face time” myth, citing the example that her leaving work to pick up a sick kid at school has no reflection on the quality of her work or dedication to her company.
The bottom line here is it all comes down to culture. As a startup founder, I’m fortunate enough that I can cultivate my own culture at Tenshey. For others in established corporate organizations, it takes finessing through a large community. Simple steps, like allowing employees to work from home as appropriate, providing mentorship and sponsorship programs and opportunities for growth are small steps that will make a big difference in a woman’s ability to thrive in our current corporate culture.
Take a trip with your mentee.
One of the new habits is to ask a mentee to join me to each event I participate in, including international ones. Seeing the experience through their eyes, giving them the chance to network and being able to break down and discuss each event was a gift – for both of us.