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The 2019 International Women’s Day Forum Focuses On Equality Opportunities

WASHINGTON D.C. — The 2019 International Women’s Day Forum hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues brought two days of education and inspiration to women as a segway into International Women’s Day on March 8. On Wednesday and Thursday, the ninth annual event’s theme, The Equality Opportunity, highlighted the economic inequalities women face and encouraged innovations and cross-sector collaborations that will enhance opportunities for equality in workplaces and communities around the world.

“We know companies perform better when women are involved,” said Heather Kipnis, Entrepreneurship Lead at the IFC Gender Secretariat, when discussing stimulating women’s entrepreneurship.

USSCF believes gender equality is a global imperative that can advance economic growth, reduce poverty and promote stability. More than 61 speakers, including Dr. Patricia Greene, director, Women’s Bureau, Department of Labor; actress Keke Palmer; Elizabeth Vazquez, president, WEConnect International; and Sarah Chen, cofounder of The Billion Dollar Fund for Women gathered to give talks on inclusive entrepreneurship, diversity, politics and STEM. The forum, held March 6-7 at the Chamber’s headquarters, also had offsite breakout sessions at the Inclusive Innovation Center, Best Buy Teen Tech Center, Lee Anderson Veterans Center, WeWork White House and the United Nations Foundation.

When addressing some of the challenges women in face in business, such as access to capital, Julia Westfall, CEO of Hera Hub D.C., said organizations who want to serve female founders first need to start with listening to the women before diving into solutions. “It’s really hard to build a support system if you don’t understand what people need,” Westfall explained.

Kristi Whitfield, director of Department of Small and Local Business Development, Government of the District of Columbia, acknowledged that a number of women entrepreneurs hesitate to even identify themselves as entrepreneurs. She understands this firsthand as the cofounder of Curbside Cupcakes. Whitfield had to learn to own the title entrepreneur like so many other women who initially refer to their startups as something they do on the side or a hobby.

March 7, 2019 – Washington, DC, USA: U.S. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center hosts the 2019 International Women’s Day Forum. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce
March 6, 2019 – Washington, DC, USA: U.S. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center hosts the 2019 International Women’s Day Forum. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

When asked about equal pay, actress Keke Palmer, who started acting as a child, said pay equity wasn’t on her radar as a youngster. “I’m sure I faced it but I’m not sure I’ve always been aware of it. I think I’ve always been the kind of person when it came to money, I think money is important and you always want to get respectfully paid what you deserve. I honestly didn’t focus on it a lot earlier on in my career because I was a just kid,” Palmer said, adding that she was more psyched about her movie roles than anything else. “As I got older, I realized I want to make sure my pay is comparable to what I feel my workload is. But I’ve never been necessarily aware of what other people were being paid. I never knew that there was such a big discrepancy until it started being talked about. It’s very odd to me because we’re all working the same amount or given the same workload.

“It’s not as if you’re a lead character and I’m not. We’re both lead characters and we’re both putting in the same. Of course, we should be paid the same. That’s only fair. And that goes for every field. If you’re doing the same work and your putting the same work in, it’s only fair that you guys get that same. There are many things that have been going on for a long time that need to stop and thats one of them.”

Without giving too much away, U.S. Small Business Association Administrator Linda McMahon teased that later this year the SBA will be launching a platform to assist female entrepreneurs. The online platform will guide women through the site to assist them in accessing resources and needs based on their current stage of business development.

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the go-to news source for everything female entrepreneur. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs and moderated panels at a number of national accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences such as The Lean Startup Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Women Empower Expo and Smart Cities Connect. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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