Lucienne Gigante. Photo Courtesy of Jose R. Madera
Culture 26 December 2017
We've heard it many times. Investing in women is good business.
I've worked and developed economic development programs for women for more than ten years and I've witnessed how capital, resources and mentoring are significant drivers of growth. These ingredients can boost growth to any business, but if taken seriously by the government and private sector, investing in women's economic development has the power to transform family units, communities, towns and countries.
Last year, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund talked about this in a speech in Los Angeles.
“We know—based on a wealth of research and experience—that empowering women can be an economic game changer for any country. For instance, if women were to participate in the labor force to the same extent as men, national income could increase by 5 percent in the U.S., 9 percent in Japan, and 27 percent in India. Equal pay and better economic opportunities for women boost economic growth—creating a bigger pie for everyone to share, women and men alike. Better opportunities for women also promote diversity and reduce economic inequality around the world. It is an economic no-brainer."
We've read the studies and seen the data. Companies with women as part of the leadership team, perform better. As a business case, it should be a no brainer.
As business leaders, aren't we leaving money on the table by not including 50 percent of the population in key decisions that impact our bottom lines?
As citizens, aren't we shutting down opportunities by not involving 50 percent of the population in matters that impact our daily life, health and education? Let's work together—men and women—to advance the 50 percent and bring them to the table. Betting on women's economic development is a key solution to our economic transformation. Which brings me to my beloved Puerto Rico, where I was born and live today.
I bet you've heard about Puerto Rico and seen how nature's wrath has taken away so much.
These voices vary. Some hopeful, some in dismay, and some distraught. But the reality is even before the hit of two hurricanes, we were entering the 11th year of a deep recession.
In Puerto Rico, 60 percent of women in the labor force heads of households and live below poverty levels. At the same time, women are also opening up businesses at a fast rate and there are double the number of college-educated women as there are men.
As it is, Latina-owned businesses created 550,400 jobs and contributed over $97 B in revenues to the U.S. economy in 2015 – and they are projected to be nearly a third of the total U.S. population by 2060. Minorities and women represent the fastest growing segment of consumers and entrepreneurs in the United States. Latina-owned firms comprise 46 percent of all Latino-owned firms, according to The 2016 State Of Women-Owned Business Report.
That is why we founded Animus Summit: A Women's Innovation Platform. Animus opens doors, connects and provides the opportunity to listen to great stories — of both failure and success — to guide people of all ages and career stages to their next stage of growth.
Animus is the largest female innovation summit of the Americas designed to inspire women to take action to reach their highest level of personal and professional development. It's an innovation platform designed to maximize women's economic and personal development around business, mindfulness, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. It offers introductions to capital opportunities, a marketplace for local brands to showcase their products and workshops for personal development in San Juan. We also offer a pitch competition where women-owned companies can get access and FaceTime to investors.
Hailing over 1,000 women in attendance, up from 600 women in 2015, we've seen tremendous growth in such little time. Animus will provide insights, ideas, perspective and strategies to develop or hone an entrepreneurial mindset.
Women are paving their own way to success. But we need 100 percent of the population, to realize, act upon and understand that our success translates into growth for all.
5 min read
Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.
I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.
I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.
Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.
My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.
I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.
When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.
So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.
Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.
And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.
This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.
I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.
I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.