As the CEO of JOOR, the leading platform for wholesale business management, I spend my days immersed in the fashion industry. I'm used to weighing in on things like technology decisions, e-commerce trend, and the importance of real-time data.
But I'm also a citizen, a woman, and a mom. As such, I'm affected by what goes on in the world around me.
In December, I watched grisly reports about Jersey City with despair, as gun violence is something I've been profoundly concerned about since the devastating events at Sandy Hook. This year marks the seventh anniversary of Sandy Hook, and heart-wrenchingly, these poor children have now been gone longer than they were alive.
Sadly, these events are far too common in the United States. Every year nearly 1,300 children are killed and 5,800 injured by guns in this country, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017.
Translation? About 19 American children are shot on average every single day. As a mother and as a professional, I am absolutely appalled that nothing is being done to stop this terrifying trend.
I think about this when I sit down with my family for dinner each night. Frankly, the idea of my kids facing an armed shooter at school or in any public place is terrifying to me. And it's terrifying to them.
It may not be in my job description, but as a business leader, I have a responsibility to speak out on what is clearly a humanitarian issue. My feelings on this issue have nothing to do with politics. I'm disturbed that this has become such a partisan issue. I simply don't want to live in a country where 19 children are gunned down every day of the year, and I can't believe anyone else does either.
We're now seeing a trend of corporate leaders owning their power and responsibility by becoming social leaders as well. Peter Horst, consultant and founder of CMO Network, recently said that "in a world where they no longer expect the government to fix things, people are turning to Corporate America to step in and do some good."
Business Roundtable even supported this trend by expanding their "statement on the purpose of the corporation." The document now says that along with shareholders, companies should also consider employees, customers and the community as stakeholders whose interests should be included in decision-making. These are the people who are sending their children to school all over the country today. Just as I send my kids off each morning. It is refreshing that businesses are getting involved to advocate on their employees' behalf.
Along the same lines, I'm especially heartened to see private sector leaders taking action on the issue of gun control. In September 2018, Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Straus & Co., pledged more than $1 million to American nonprofit organizations dedicated to ending gun violence. Bergh made this decision in spite of the risk that it could alienate consumers; the moral stakes were too high.
I applauded Walmart's decision to end the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition as well as their request to stop open carry in their stores. And I was moved by Dick's Sporting Goods' destruction of over $5 million in military-style, semi-automatic rifles. Both actions came after the horrific shootings last August in El Paso and Southaven.
Despite all these signs of hope and progress, we are not moving forward nearly fast enough on the issue of gun control. Other than a few states passing red flag laws, little to nothing has really been accomplished, and now Jersey City is just another gruesome reminder.
If we, as a country, are serious about stopping mass shootings, we have to disengage from partisan politics and commit to truly protecting our families and communities from gun violence. With so much media coverage and debate, it's shameful we've made so little progress in solving the problem.
We know that gun deaths and injuries can be reduced, because we've seen it happen in other places. Yes, cultures vary, and each country must develop solutions that are unique to its own specific cultural context. But we can learn from nations like Australia, Britain, Norway, and Japan.
Research institutions can provide unbiased help moving forward. For example, the Rockefeller Institute conducted an in-depth study on mass shootings and developed a list of 19 strategies for intervention based on its findings. Each and every one of us must learn about gun laws in our states and advocate for strong research-based legislation that will make the changes we so desperately need.
It's time to set aside partisan fighting, roll up our sleeves, and craft solutions that allow our families to feel safe going to school, church, the market, or any other public place. It's time to take the Sandy Hook Promise, something I did after marching with the organization, and help them fulfill their mission:
"I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools, and communities." - Sandy Hook Promise
There are several different ways to approach mentorship, whether you're an entrepreneur seeking advice, an experienced person looking to share, or an employee looking to deepen your relationship to your work and your professional community. Whatever way you approach it, however, there's no denying its importance. Among entrepreneurs and professionals, mentorship is consistently touted as a crucial piece to the success story.
Zeina Muna is the director of business development at iFundWomen, an organization that works to facilitate funding and investment for women-owned startups. In her role, she mentors women on how to obtain the dollars that primarily — and consistently — tend to favor white male-owned businesses. For Zeina, the relationship between obtaining funding to get a business off the ground and mentorship is inextricably linked.
Zeina says that a whopping 48 percent — almost half — of the women she works with say that a lack of available mentors and advisors hold them back. Companies like iFundWomen are one approach to the solution. Others are more individually-based.
"Co-working spaces, communities, and organizations specifically for women, like Quilt, all help to break down those barriers that leave female entrepreneurs feeling isolated and disconnected from their resources," she says.
Finding a Mentor
Zeina believes that most women are naturally social creatures — and it's likely that that percentage increases when considering success-driven or professional women specifically.
Seeking out a mentor isn't just about the benefits; she says—"it's absolutely critical that you don't attempt any growth journey alone."
A mentor doesn't have to be a completely formal arrangement. Zeina likens a mentor to a professional "bestie," who hones in on the professional aspects of your life. This ranges from conversations about your career or business path to advice on what to invest in.
"Really," says Zeina, "you are looking for peers, people who have done what you are about to do, as well as people who have not yet started the journey." That's right — Zeina recommends having both mentors who are more experienced AND less experienced than you. "You can absolutely learn from both," she says.
In no way is this limited to fellow women. "Rather than considering the gender of the mentor," says Zeina, "it's more important to have a mentor that's in your industry or knows very well the particular challenges you are currently facing."
Still, there's something to say about seeking out advice and professional community from and with other women. Most women, Zeina says, are good connectors. "There are lots of opportunities now to get advice from other women through a community — whether it's IRL or virtual," she says.
A Personal Mentorship Journey
Zeina has several people in her life that she considers to be mentors. "I have a couple of go-to people that I talk to about my trajectory on a periodical basis, and I have people that I look up to and follow without them even knowing it," she says. It's important to remember — especially when considering online interactions — that you can absolutely learn from others without them knowing your story.
Group conversations — like Quilt chats and gatherings — are a great way to find mentors, and to flex the muscle of being a mentor to someone else, says Zeina. She considers this to be a major secret in the mentorship process. "Sometimes listening is the best way to learn," she says. "If someone is asking for help, absolutely give it — but sometimes we can help each other in ways that are more subtle and invisible."
Mentorship Bonus: Tips for Women Seeking Funding from Zeina Muna
- Don't go looking for VC or angel investment until you have solid proof of concept, proof of demand, and a successful working MVP (minimum viable product).
- Crowdfunding can be a low-risk, highly-efficient path to getting your startup, small business, nonprofit, or side hustle off the ground without going into debt, and without giving up equity.
- Practice a confident and results-based pitch before having a conversation with an investor.
- Get advice from other women who have been through the process — utilize all the coaching and mentorship you can get from others!
Quilt is a mobile app that offers a deeper sense of connection in the modern world by making it easier for women to come together for real conversations online and offline. Download the app and join us for a chat, gathering, or house party!