The Oxford dictionary defines confident as, “feeling or showing certainty about something." What it doesn't tell us, is that a confident mindset is one that takes years to develop, and is only as strong as the foundation that supports it.
In the midst of the #MeToo movement and long-fought war on pay gap, confidence emerges as a less distinct, yet just as significant, gap between women and men.
“As women, we tend to be more focused on competence than confidence. And it's holding us back," says Carrie Kerpen, CEO of social media agency and digital content studio, Likeable. Kerpen is one of the keynote speakers at this year's Million Dollar Women Summit, where she hopes to convey the importance of confidence as a tool of empowerment.
As a part of the Million Dollar Women movement, founded by Julia Pimsleur, this year's second annual Summit is a two-day event of coaching, interactive workshops and keynotes by successful female founders. The theme is Women Who Dare, “in honor of all the women who dared before us, not just entrepreneurs but inventors, activists and trailblazers of all kinds, who defied societal expectations and took risks in order to live their boldest lives," explains Pimsleur.
A two-time founder, author and influential speaker, Pimsleur understands confidence. This is why she set out to share her hard-earned wisdom as one of the few VC-backed, women-run businesses in the country. It all began as a controlled workshop to coach 75 women through their early rounds of funding.
Founder MDW, Julia Pimsleur
Three years later, and a collective $15 million in capital raised, Pimsleur decided to share the lessons in her book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big, before ultimately establishing the company, Million Dollar Women.“Knowing that they [women] have a tribe of other high growth women should make it a bit easier to access the three things you need to 'go big:' the right mindset, skillset and network," shares Pimsleur. “The Summit helps with all three. We are demystifying what it takes to be the CEO of a multi-million dollar company and breaking it down for women so we can make that three percent a thing of the past."
The three percent that Pimsleur addresses is the sobering statistic she discovered six years ago while raising capital for her company, Little Pim. “Fewer than three percent of women entrepreneurs get to $1 million in revenues and just four percent of venture capital is invested in women-run businesses," she explains.
With a mission to help one million women reach $1M in revenues by 2020, Million Dollar Women channels Pimsleur's confidence into a community for women navigating one of the most isolating periods of entrepreneurship. “At the beginning of my business I had so much passion and enthusiasm and drive, but a few years into it, I was burnt out, and needed new skills and networks to get to the next level," admits Pimsleur on the self-motivated mission to learn from fellow entrepreneurs.
“We are helping women go beyond their comfort zones and build big, successful businesses. Now they can scale up faster, and in great company," she states.
Although the entire Million Dollar Women company is steeped in the underlying theme of confidence, as women gain a community of like-minded motivation, this year's conference is a distinct opportunity to recognize the significance of what happens when you “dare" to think bigger--whether that's leaving your comfort zone or fostering belief in yourself.
“I think that male founders are generally more assertive, while female founders are generally more modest, myself included," says Shan-Lyn Ma, founder of Zola.com. As the co-keynote speaker at the Million Dollar Women summit this year, Ma reflects on the early days of her entrepreneurial venture, where confidence was her most important aspect but one she hadn't quite grasped yet.
“Venture Capitalists are attracted to founders who are confident in their ability to build the next billion-dollar business, which men time and time again promise they'll do, regardless if they have a solid idea or not," she says. “Women have a tendency to come in with a conservative five-year plan, which while practical, isn't as inspiring to VCs."
It took years of realizing her visions and community support for Ma to exude the confidence that reflected the investment she made in herself, to attract an investment from others. For this reason, Ma looks forward to encouraging this level of confidence for women in their early seeds of funding alongside fellow keynote speaker, Carrie Kerpen, and of course, the summit's founder, Julia Pimsleur at the Summit.
“I hope my story helps light a fire in people's hearts to go after something they've always wanted to do, whether that's starting a company, taking on a project at work, trying a new skill, or something else entirely," says Ma.
As the confidence gap presents itself as a non quantitative fix, Pimsleur has undoubtedly created a platform where women can leverage their network to inspire the qualitative change--one which confidence's “feelings of certainty" are rooted in. “While #MeToo is fixing the egregious harassment issues, we are fixing the more subtle mindset, skillset and network issues," concludes Pimsleur.
In using these as key touch points, Million Dollar Women reflects how as confidence becomes more accessible and understood, women will no longer have to look at it as a daunting gap, but rather as another tool they can master along their entrepreneurial journey.
The Million Dollar Women Summit will take place April 5-6 at the Microsoft Conference Center in New York City. For more information on scheduling, coaches and registration, click here.
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.