This week SWAAY brought its digital female-celebrating pages to life with its first offline event, "The Future is Now." The invite-only dinner, held at Manhattan’s view-filled Glasshouses in partnership with EvolveMKD, celebrated the inaugural Wall Street Journal “Future of Everything” Festival and brought together female changemakers like Dow Jones’s Johanna Mayer-Jones, former Miss America Nina Davuluri, bestselling author Lauren Maillian, Thomson Reuters SVP of Innovation, Katherine Manuel; former CTO of Estee Lauder President of nThrive, Rhonda Vetere; media mogul (and SWAAY’s unofficial fairy godmother), Fran Hauser, and celebrated entrepreneurs Coco and Breezy Dotson.
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri and Swaay founder Iman OUbou are seen at the SWAAY x WSJ x EvolveMKD: The Future Is Now event at Glass Houses on May 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for EvolveMKD)
"Now more than ever, women need to support each other and this sort of opportunity is invaluable. The women that attended were so accomplished, elegant and open to meeting and collaborating."
-Karen Giberson, President, Accessories Council
As the sun went down over the West Side of the island, the glass room was filled with a golden light that echoed the uplifting, almost magical feeling of girl power within the walls. Guests snacked on canapés like tuna tartare and steak frites and sipped champagne while chatting, sharing experiences and advice with each other for navigating a world where women are emerging as the leaders of tomorrow.
“Ever since I had the idea for SWAAY I knew I wanted it to include offline events,” says SWAAY Founder, Iman Oubou. “I’m not normally a conference or convention person, but I love connecting with our tribe in the real world. When we come together, and compare notes about our business pursuits, there's so much richness there. In my own career, which included navigating male-dominated fields, I have often wished I had more of a connection to powerful female mentors who could share their experiences, including the difficulties rising through the ranks in industries where many deals are often made by men behind closed doors.”
The intimate dinner, which included about three dozen female entrepreneurs, activists and executives was purposefully left with no official run of show, no name tags and no panel discussions. The goal, according to Oubou, was to foster support and real connection amongst women on the cutting edge of their fields. Rather than focusing on the traditional female “themes” utilized in many events today, "The Future of Now" dinner was meant to look at professional women holistically, as their full self, and give these hard working leaders a much needed reprieve from the work day.
“Many women are constantly being asked how they ‘balance it all,’ motherhood and careers, being a wife and a businesswoman, and the list just goes on,” continues Oubou. “We see women as the whole of themselves, and rather than giving them lip service, we aim to create and foster true connections and friendships among them. SWAAY’s digital platform is part one of our vision, but there’s so much more to be done; from bringing together younger women entering the workforce with women who’ve been there, done that, and thrived in the face of challenges and adversity, to empowering like-minded activists to enact social change.”
“It was an evening filled with grace and beauty. I was honored to be in a room with so many intelligent and extraordinary women.”
-Evy Pompouras, former secret service agent
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Amy Corcoran, SWAAY Head of Content, Katherine Manuel, SVP of Innovation at Thomson Reuters, and Belisa Silva, SWAAY Editor-in-Chief are seen at the SWAAY x WSJ x EvolveMKD: The Future Is Now event at Glass Houses
According to Oubou, the event marks the evolution of the SWAAY platform, which will begin to include more in-person programming to bring to life various issues that affect women in their everyday lives. Because of alarming real-life facts (like that dastardly statistic that only 2 percent of female founders received any VC funding in 2017), an integral part of the SWAAY world is providing authentic mentors and fostering honest dialogue amongst women. Oubou is passionate about the belief that without a strong female community that is authentically engaged in your success, female entrepreneurs will face many more challenges than their male counterparts.
“The SWAAY dinner was an incredible way to bring together women of power and influence to discuss the future of business and opportunities!”
- Lauren Maillian, author
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Rhonda Vetere, Swaay founder Iman Oubou, and Kaitlin Kapur are seen at the SWAAY x WSJ x EvolveMKD: The Future Is Now event at Glass Houses on May 8, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for EvolveMKD)
"Having worked in a situation where I had a woman trying to hold me down, you can’t imagine how amazing it was for me to be surrounded by women trying to lift me up,” says entrepreneur and author, Heather Monahan. “SWAAY’s event truly connected me to the most generous, supportive women and I am now a part of something so welcoming and real. Within 24 hours of the dinner, I have had three different people help me to promote my book and come through for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. SWAAY is not only changing the narrative but they’re creating an unbreakable community.”
Women supporting women was clearly the theme of the night, as much chatter revolved around the fact that it’s so important to be genuine when it comes to female mentorship. Much like hiring a “Chief Diversity Officer” is not enough to increase representation within a particular firm, it’s not enough to create programming that touches on the issues women face in their careers. Instead businesses must begin to take accountability, giving women the opportunities to raise their voices and talk frankly about the issues that plague them. If this event was any indication, it’s clear that women are just getting started.
"It was a wonderful night of entertainment with women supporting women, all in one room!"
-Rhonda Vetere, President, nThrive
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.