Women’s Entrepreneurship Day 2015: What’s stopping us?

In the plethora of days dedicated to various causes, one might ask – Why does the world need a Women’s Entrepreneurship Day? Consider then, that women perform 66% of the world’s work, yet earn 10% of the world’s income. At the same time, they account for 85% of consumer purchases and control $20 trillion in worldwide spending. Surely, we cannot continue living in an era of ‘firsts’ where women still need to be recognized as potent players on the global business stage. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is a global movement started in 2014 which aims to celebrate and empower female entrepreneurs while also supporting their businesses. Earlier this month, on 19th November, I had the opportunity to attend the 2015 Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event at the United Nations headquarters which was simultaneously also celebrated in 144 countries. My participation was made possible by a CBEY/Innovate Health Yale grant seeking young female entrepreneurs on campus who could share their experience spearheading initiatives and translating women’s empowerment into action oriented organisations.

As a young student working at the intersection of policy and sustainable development, women’s entrepreneurship is a cause I hold dear to myself. Having started an environmental organization in India when I was thirteen, I was in a position that gave me much to mull over, be it the skepticism at my age or the unsolicited advice that I must do better with my life. Attending the WED event made me realize that irrespective of which part of the world we come from, women entrepreneurs face much the same challenges – discouragement, household duties, financial dependence and maternal responsibilities. On the morning of 19th November, hundreds of women, old and young, students and mothers, trickled into the UN headquarters. Their chatter and enthusiasm livening up the otherwise quiet UN halls and corridors. The day was kick started on a memorable note, with news coming in from Syria that 40 young women held their own roundtable in solidarity with our celebrations in New York. Indeed, there is so much we all can do if those young women can!

The day was divided into panels around particular themes like Women in Media, Female Philanthropists Leading the Way, Importance of Women on Corporate Boards, Women as Investors and so on. Each panel saw leaders in that field talk passionately about their work and their hopes to see the growth of women led organizations. Some speakers included Erika Karp, CEO of Cornerstone Capital Inc. who unforgettably said, “Being an entrepreneur is like jumping out of a plane and building the parachute on the way down” and Atti Riazi Chief IT Officer at the UN who spoke about financial independence by noting how she continues to wear her grandmother’s bracelet – the only possession her grandmother had because it came as part of her dowry. Other speakers were Adena Friedman, President of NASDAQ, Andrea Jung, CEO of Grameen America, Jen Welter – first female coach in the NFL and Mamie Gummer, actress amongst many more. The event also saw the presentation of Pioneer Awards given to women who are shaping paradigms in their respective fields as pioneers of Beauty, Technology, Music, Sports and Education. Honoraries included singer Leona Lewis, Cargill board member Martha Macmillan and creator of BareMinerals Leslie Boldgett. The event culminated with an interesting panel of WED Fellows who are young women chosen to be part of a Global Acelerator program that provides mentorship and a network to nurture female entreprenuers.

And so, the afternoon flew by over inspiring conversations, finding a fellow Yalie in Tanya Rivero from the Wall Street Journal, applauding young women from all over the world, some fan moments but most importantly sharing the wonderful energy in the room. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm of these leading women to listen to young students like myself share our stories and equally heart warming to hear them recount their trials and tribulations on their journey of growth. The opportunity to chat and bond with some of the speakers over the course of that day meant that I came back with so much more than just notes and pictures. I would say it was a sense of gratification and strength and perhaps the excitement that I had managed to extract some promises of a visit to Yale!!

To follow the movement and get involved, visit www.womenseday.org

More information – Women’s Entrepreneurship Day was founded by Wendy Diamond and is celebrated on 19th November every year to discuss and celebrate the work of women. The global event is held at the UN in New York with several regional events being held all over the world. The movement also has a fellowship and ambassador program.

This article was submitted by Denise Meyer on December 7, 2015.