Female empowerment - an elusive and sometimes difficult concept, is Julia Pimsleur's life's work.
Having penned her award-winning business book Million Dollar Women last year, she now hopes to take the success and message of the powerful book further by holding a Million Dollar Women Summit in two weeks. Because the book's focus was to encourage and school women on how to take their businesses to the million dollar mark. Pimsleur is keenly aware of the lack of female representation in the upper echelons of business. To wit, she is laser-focused on helping to close the gap in this sense by coaching the aspirational entrepreneurs of today.
Pimsleur's summit marks a departure from typical conferences where attendees are preached to rather than engaged with. Keynotes from peers, mentoring sessions and face time with a plethora of executive talent will allow an opportunity not only for networking, but for brand enhancement, quality advice and a level of establishment one can only derive from being immersed in an exclusive event such as this.
What drove you to put the summit together?
You know that quote, "Do the one thing that scares you?"
I wrote Million Dollar Women because as an entrepreneur I was mad about two statistics: only 3 percent of all women entrepreneurs get to one million in revenues (meanwhile, it's 6 percent of men) and only 4 percent of venture capital is invested in female-led companies.
Now I am on a mission to help one million women get to one million in revenues by 2020.
After my book Million Dollar Women was published I started coaching women from all over the country on how to scale up their businesses in my Million Dollar Women Masterclass. They loved being in this online community but then they started asking "when are we going to meet in person?" I really had no plans for a summit at the time but it felt like these were signs that it needed to happen and was the next important step in the Million Dollar Women movement. But I was also terrified! I had never raised corporate sponsorship dollars, I have never organized an event for 150 people and I knew I'd need to call in pretty much every favor-which I have. The summit is going to be a game changer for the women who attend, as it includes coaching, interactive workshops, and a pitch competition.
What can budding female entrepreneurs expect to gain from the summit?
The summit is designed to help women fill in their knowledge gaps so they can accelerate their businesses more quickly. We survey all of our attendees and ask them what they need to learn. Then, we put them in interactive workshops on those topics with top-rated teachers.
We also match each attendee with a female founder coach in their same industry who has "been there, done that" and can provide lessons learned and contacts.
We end the day with a pitch competition, in which five attendees will present their companies to five judges (who would typically take months to get in front of), and one will walk away with a $50,000 investment and additional prizes.
Tell us a little about some of the event speakers.
The Muse's CEO Kathryn Minshew, who has spoken at MIT and Harvard, will serve as a keynote speaker, and will deliver a talk called "Breaking Down Barriers And Scaling Up". Alpana Singh, a restaurateur and Grand Master Sommelier, will join her as a keynote speaker delivering a talk on "Big Wine, Big Business". Other event speakers and panelists include Kim Kaupe and Brittany Hodak, co-founders of ZinePak; Chole + Isabel's CEO Chantel Waterbury, and Desert Jet founder Denise Wilson. Additionally, there will be a mentor from across a variety of industries to cater to all attendee questions.
What will the Pitch element add to the summit?
I go to a lot of women's festivals and conferences where people tell their success stories of fundraising or bemoan the lack of funding.
We decided to do neither and instead use that time to create an opportunity for five women to pitch in a relatively friendly and supportive environment and walk away funded.
I am passionate about seeing more women raise capital and scale up their businesses, so I am especially excited about this part of the summit.
Why, in your opinion are women so far behind in terms of becoming large-scale entrepreneurial success stories?
We have been starting companies at nearly twice the rate that men have over the last two decades but we are not yet "going big" in large numbers. This needs to change. Women really just need three things to get to the million dollar mark and beyond: the right mindset, skill set and network.
Why did you choose Microsoft as the summit HQ?
We are thrilled to be holding the summit at Microsoft, as they are such a friend to small businesses and to women entrepreneurs specifically. We have a deep partnership with them as they are true champions of female founders.
Will this become an annual event, and will there be summits in other cities?
The Million Dollar Women summit will be an annual event and we are in conversations with partners in other cities. For this, stay tuned!
What are you looking forward to most about the summit?
I am most looking forward to seeing the faces of the 150 women, knowing this will be a game changer for so many of their businesses. I wish I could have attended something like this when I was scaling up my business, Little Pim. I am also excited to celebrate the summit with the Justice League, my incredible advisory council, who conceived and executed the event with me and are a class A group of Superheroes!
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.