March 8th marks International Women’s Day (IWD), a day set aside to celebrate the incredible accomplishments and milestones women have achieved, acknowledge the barriers that still exist in the pursuit of gender equality and, perhaps most importantly, push for solutions. The hashtags (#IWD2018, #internationalwomensday, #PressForProgress and more) are already trending across the globe.
But IWD is about more than a buzz of social media activity. It’s meant as a catalyst for change in the real world, bringing important women’s issues to the surface in a way that pushes us, as a society, to go further. Stop the talk. Start the action. It’s not about asking or praying. It’s about pressing forward.
This year, Ada Support got to experience the #PressForProgress spirit of IWD a little early. As an official partner of the SheEO Radical Generosity Summit in Toronto, Ada sent the talented women on our team to attend the March 5th event as first-time “Activators” within the SheEO model.
Photo by Dahlia Katz, courtesy of SheEO
Did you know that, on average, less than 4% of venture capital goes to women? In 2017, it was 2%. SheEO is founder Vicki Saunders’ answer to a system that clearly doesn’t work for female entrepreneurs. It’s a global community that helps women-led ventures succeed through radically different approaches to financing, promotion and support.
Every year, they bring together at least 500 women (Activators) who each contribute $1100. The money is pooled together and loaned out to five women-led Ventures, as voted on by Activators. More than just funds, Ventures also get assistance from the community based on what they need—advice, ideas, connections, promotion, buying power and more. The Summit was Toronto’s official kick-off, announcing the winning Ventures for 2017 and getting them connected to the community.
By attending, we got to see first-hand how this group is pressing forward, creating real change and pulling down barriers for women in business. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was in attendance, as well as Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Growth Steven Del Duca who announced the province would commit their own act of radical generosity by investing $500,000 in SheEO to help female entrepreneurs.
Photo by Dahlia Katz, courtesy ofSheEO
The Ventures got on stage to detail their individual origin stories, explaining not just what they do but why they started their business and how they envision the future. From agriculture to education to bio-tech, each Venture had a unique narrative that led them to their current opportunities and challenges. Joined by Ventures from the two previous years of the SheEO program, they moved on to make specific “asks” to the community. Inspired Activators raised their hands (via live polling) to offer help with networking, ideas and general interest in becoming customers.
The day was also filled with facilitated networking, brainstorming and a self-care keynote by New York Times best-selling author and executive coach MJ Ryan, plus a cocktail celebration in the evening. But, to me, the most inspiring moment of the Summit was listening to the Venture stories and then watching the numbers roll in on the screen as women volunteered to help other women—without knowing them, without personal gain, without hesitation.
Though the event was not directly connected to International Women’s Day, it captured the feeling of it perfectly: applauding the accomplishments of female visionaries, identifying next-step hurdles, working together to overcome them and showing the next generation what’s really possible. That’s how #PressForProgress goes from trending topic to real world action.