To kick off the third and final day of the Women & Worth Virtual Summit, the first panel was on why democracy is the next hottest investment space with Lisa Witter, cofounder and executive chair of Apolitical. In this highly interactive panel, she discussed politicians and government. She began by talking about how most politicians growing up for her were white men, and how often it wasn’t the smartest but the most well-liked who won. She then began to talk about how often politicians are uninformed when making policies and that she formed Apolitical to counter that. She talked about how important government is. There are 200 million public servants that spend 40 cents to every dollar, but they they lack the skills and knowledge to solve the complex political problems of our era. If governments just adopted existing solutions used in other countries, they would save $3.5 trillion annually. She stated that the knowledge gap is key to the problem—40 percent of public servants say they don’t have sufficient learning resources. Apolitical helps give these resources to civil servants. Throughout the talk, we were encouraged to put our answers in the chat box and answer certain questions though various polls. We were able to reflect on our own opinions and see how others answered the question. It was so interesting to see what other people thought about the different questions and compare that to our own perspectives.
The second part of the summit was on accelerating change from within your firm. This event featured Elaine Schwartz, a digital strategy and transformation leader, and Caitlin Taylor, a global event manager, who both work at IBM. They spoke about their mission to make IBM the best place for women to work. Their talk centered around practical tips and how they applied these tips to their experience at IBM. Their mission started when they attended sessions at IBM that they described as being very open and honest. However, they realized that the dialogue they heard at these sessions did not continue after the sessions. Their first tip was to listen for change and lead with curiosity. They did this when they approached a leader at IBM. Instead of solely expressing their feelings, they focused on being inquisitive. They asked, ‘Why don’t these sessions continue digitally?’ and ‘Are you planning on continuing this dialogue?’ Asking these questions gave them room to create a proposal to grow upon the issues they brought up. The next tip and step for them was to define their mission and set their focus. They started with their idea of space for women to connect and inspire each other, either physically or digitally. To achieve this focus, they created a large event for International Women’s Day with the understanding that they wanted to continue this dialogue after the event. And the last tip was to build a “small but mighty” community of dedicated people. Since their event, Schwartz and Taylor have fostered a community at IBM and are always looking to further their mission. As a teenager who is not yet in the workforce, what I took away most was that anyone can effect change, no matter their level of seniority. When we all are asking questions and engaged and looking to make our environments a better place, we can make a positive impact in our community.
The fireside chat on building a profitable and purpose-led business talked about finding your purpose in building a visionary business. The three speakers: Kara Goldin of Hint, Vanessa Barboni Hallik of Another Tomorrow, Alexia Hefti of eGovern, are CEOs and founder/cofounders of their visionary businesses, who shared their thoughts on what helped them grow in their respective businesses. All the speakers agreed that finding purpose allows for female professionals to maintain and excel in their positions. A part of having purpose is also creating a vision for oneself that is based on self-discipline, and as Goldin put it, “touch [on] parts of [self] resilience.” It’s important to stay focused on one’s vision and look for mental health outlets, such as meditation, to move forward in one’s vision. In creating your visions,“aim for perfection,” Goldin said, because even if you don’t achieve perfection, you’ll have most certainly achieved learning something new along the way.
The next panel on how to use tech and AI to progress equality talked about using the technology and data a company has to create equality within. The three panelists, Katica Roy, CEO of Pipeline Equity, Vanessa Liu, VP of SAP.iO Foundries North America, and Fumbi Chima, CIO, shed a light on equality in industries today, as well as the effect the current pandemic has had on equality in the workplace. One of the points mentioned was that the technology exists and now it is about working on the data that we receive from that technology to change gender equality and other challenges in industries. The panel discussed how we can use AI to hardwire equality into the future of work performance, potential and pay. For example, data shows that the emotional state of women is commented on more than men, and women need to show certain cultural values within their industry that men do not. These next 12 months will be critical on how near in the future this problem will be addressed. The panel concluded with some inspiration and advice for those watching, such as (1) principles of not giving up help you get through fear, and (2) know who you are.
The final panel of day 3 explored fueling entrepreneurship by spotlighting female founders Nisa Amoils, managing partner and venture capitalist at Grasshopper Capital, Fernanda Carapinha, founder and CEO of Women Entrepreneurs Global (WE Global), Nell Diamond, founder & CEO of Hill House Home, and Valarie J. McCall, chief of communications, government and international affairs for the City of Cleveland. The panelists unanimously agreed that female entrepreneurs are underfunded and under-appreciated. Caraphina stated, “As an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced the pain points directly. Forty percent of founders are female, but only  percent get funded by VCs. We are a good investment, but we just aren’t getting what we need.” Amoils added, “It wasn’t until 2010, when I started a company with a female coworker, that I really became aware of the discrepancies in the workplace, by being in venture capital.” The pandemic has only worsened this gap. “A lot of women are now home, managing their businesses, taking care of their children, feeding their families, all while they’re on Zoom. It’s the perfect storm—it’s really awful.” When Amoils wrote her book, she highlighted women CEOs to make the business case for investing in women as an asset class. Women founders are undervalued, but data shows they often overdeliver. On the importance of marketing female founders, McCall said, “If we are not talking about what women are doing, and making it the forefront of the conversation and not the footnote, then we are doing them a disservice. ” In creating your business, Carapinha advises to “start first with your team, and you need to build an army of women. Female founders really need to drive wealth creation because with wealth creation comes power, with power comes leadership.” Diamond added to this, stating that for her brand she focused on profitability and having a financially sustainable business. This mindset has helped her company stay strong throughout this pandemic. On steps we can all take to fuel entrepreneurship, everyone agreed that female founders need more female investors, and for women in business to make collective alliances to join forces and help rise above institutional investor issues.