“In America, you have to be dead to have a stamp,” said Yue-Sai Kan, an Emmy-winning television host, producer and founder of Yue-Sai Cosmetics, “But that’s not the case in China. [When I found out I was going to be on one] I couldn’t decide which photo to give the Chinese government! I said to myself—so many people are going to lick me!”
Kan’s insight was just one of the many shared at the third annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event, held on November 18th at the United Nations in New York City.
WED was founded in 2014 by the effervescent Wendy Diamond, who also founded Animal Fair Media, after she realized there was a day for nearly everything, from turtles to bubbles—so why not a designated day to celebrate women entrepreneurs?
Two hundred and fifty million girls continue to live in poverty, and while women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, they only reap 10 percent of the world’s income. This fact, coupled with Diamond’s philanthropic work at the Adelante Foundation in Honduras, propelled her to seek a broader platform to empower women entrepreneurs. Celebrated in 144 countries, this year’s WED featured honorees ranging from the fashion icon Iris Apfel, to the Guinness World Record’s oldest living yoga instructor, 98-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch.
Throughout the WED conference, several of the speakers championed the idea of women’s empowerment. HSN CEO Mindy Grossman pointed out that companies whose boards are at least 30 percent women are more profitable. Grossman adds that there has to be less passive-aggressive behavior, citing that the worst thing she hears is when people say that they couldn’t find enough qualified women for their board.
Tina McKenzie, managing director for Ireland at the Staffline Group and European Ambassador to WED, doesn’t believe in the “glass cliff,” or the idea that women are brought in to lead just as a crisis or downturn is occurring when they have the greatest odds of failing. The glass cliff, McKenzie says, is simply “a victim attitude to have” and is a disservice to women.
Grossman said that the best medicine sometimes is simply humor. Once, at a global meeting on basketball at Nike, Grossman looked around the room and noticed that she was the only woman among a group of about 50 fairly diverse men. “So I said, look, I’m a 48-year-old Jewish woman from New York who isn’t from the sports industry. You might need more than one of me!”
Antonio Lucio, global chief marketing and communication officer at HP, admitted that his belief in empowering women didn’t truly start until he had his daughters. While speaking on a panel about why diversity matters, Lucio said, “It’s not about representation. It is about bringing the right people in, who happen to be women, who have the right set of skills for the job.”
“Self advocacy is so important! Guys do it a lot and most of the time they don’t even know what they’re talking about,” said Lucio. “Please self-advocate for what you believe in, [and as you do] people are going to begin to turn… One champion will make all the difference.”
In that spirit, WED is launching #ChooseWOMEN Wednesday on November 30th. Women make 85 percent of consumer purchases and control $20 trillion in spending. Through ChooseWomen.org, consumers can shop with over 70 retailers such as Spanx, Coach, and Lilly Pulitzer, who have partnered with WED. A portion of their sales will go to fund microloans for impoverished women around the world who are aspiring entrepreneurs.