On Friday, November 17th people gathered at the United Nations for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) conference to empower, celebrate and support women and girls globally to help alleviate poverty. The conference was full of riveting panels for attendees to learn more about female entrepreneurship in various fields, a live auction to raise money for the WED cause and an awards ceremony in honor of the 11 distinguished women receiving the Pioneer Award.
The morning began with breakfast and a spiritual mediation session followed by welcoming remarks made by Wendy Diamond, Founder and CEO of WED and Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York. Afterwards the panels began. The first three centered on the topics of business, technology and intrapreneurship. The last panel of the morning filled all those in attendance with excitement due to the line up. The panel ‘Sparking Confidence in the Girls with Stars of Today’ included six-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, 13-year-old business owner Mikaila Ulmer, Reality TV star Angela Simmons and Bollywood star and best selling author Twinkle Khanna. During the panel, moderated by Wall Street Journal reporter Veronica Dagher, the women spoke on their experiences working in male dominated fields, how they gain confidence and staying true to who you are while working hard. Khanna urged everyone to “trust your instinct – your instinct is your experiences, knowledge in your subconscious speaking to you.”
As they served lunch, Wendy Diamond and Chairman of Global Partnership Forum, Amir Dossal presented the Pioneer Awards. This year, WEDO partnered with the Lalela Project, created by honoree Andrea Kerzner, a program that teaches at-risk students in South Africa, Northern Uganda and the Bronx, New York how to map and manifest their dreams and goals. Each Pioneer Award Winner was given a beautiful piece of customized art created by a students involved in the Lalela Project with their award. This year’s list of women recognized included: Andrea Kerzner (Arts Pioneer Award 2017), Angie Bastian (Culinary Pioneer Award 2017), Bobbi Brown (Beauty Pioneer Award 2017), Dottie Herman (Business Pioneer Award 2017), Judith Ripka (Accessories Pioneer 2017), Lucy Jarvis (Media Pioneer Award 2017), Muna Rihani Al-Nasser (Philanthropy Pioneer Award 2017), Sara Bareilles (Music Pioneer Award 2017), Sonia Gardner (Financial Pioneer Award 2017), and Suzanne Lerner (Fashion Pioneer Award 2017). Speaker Twinkle Khanna was surprised with the Celebrity Pioneer Award as well.
Each woman gave a riveting speech as they accepted their award, imparting knowledge and inspiration for all those present. Dottie Herman, CEO of Douglas Elliman, reminded everyone that “success is a journey, not a final destination” and 100 year old Lucy Jarvis, the very first female TV network producer told everyone “you have to have that feeling inside that nothing can stop you… never say no to a challenge.” As Sara Bareilles accepted her award she wowed the crowd with a brief performance of her song Brave saying the chorus of the song is her “thesis of life.”
The day also included a live auction, hosted by Lydia Fenet from Christies Auction House, to generate funding for microloans that benefit impoverished women. These loans support and sustain the community wellbeing of women entrepreneurs around the world and the auction raised enough money to provide 521 microloans. Afterwards there were more panels centered around finance and health as well as an introduction of the WEDO2017 fellows, each speaking about the work they do all over the world. This year WED sponsored 75 students from Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, Lalela, Rethink Academy, The Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria, Yale, George Washington University, Northeastern and Stony Brook University to attend the conference. Their presence represents WED’s commitment to inspiring and uplifting the next generation of young women to become strong global leaders.
It was a day of inspiration and empowerment as women came together to support one another and share their experiences. As Women’s Entrepreneurship Day continues to grows internationally, hopefully we’ll see more people #ChooseWOMEN and support women in business.
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