On November 17th, the brightest female entrepreneurs from around the world gathered at the United Nations for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, an initiative and organization founded by activist and advocate Wendy Diamond. We spoke with Wendy herself about standout moments from the event, her work’s mission, and what to expect from her in 2018.
What were some highlights of the 2017 Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) at the United Nations?
The entire Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (#WEDO2017) summit is to convene business leaders, change makers, women entrepreneurs, government officials, high-level United Nations officials and civil society to collaborate and find solutions in critical areas of entrepreneurship eco-systems, education and policy creation to empower women in business and alleviate poverty. Our movement is celebrated in 144 countries and in 110 universities and colleges. Highlights this year included 100-year-old Lucy Jarvis, the very first female TV network producer who gave the sage advice, “you have to have that feeling inside that nothing can stop you…never say no to a challenge,” six-time Grammy nominee and Broadway superstar Sara Bareilles who accepted our Music Pioneer Award with wowing guests by performing her spirited call to action song, “Brave!” and New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul who proclaimed our new social portal and initiative ChooseWOMEN.org!
We 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, and Northeastern University. Their presence represents WED’s commitment to inspiring and uplifting the next generation of young women to become strong global leaders. Lydia Fenet from Christies Auction House hosted a live auction, which generated funds to provide 521 microloans to benefit impoverished women to start their own businesses, which will support and sustain the community wellbeing of women entrepreneurs around the world. Women entrepreneurs [ranging] from Mikaela Ulmer, 13-year-old founder of Me And The Bees Lemonade to Bobbi Brown participated and many partnerships have begun. Exciting announcements will be happening soon!
What inspired you to launch Women’s Entrepreneurship Day?
I launched Animal Fair Media to save, rescue, and uplift disenfranchised animals worldwide. I widened my focus from the four-legged to the two-legged after volunteering with the Adelante Foundation in Honduras. I witnessed firsthand how microloans for startups empowered impoverished women in Honduras, benefited their families, provided the opportunity for children to attend school, and strengthened the entire local community. I was moved to create Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization and #ChooseWOMEN with the heartfelt goal that every woman and girl across globe should be given the chance to follow their dreams through empowerment and ultimately uplift the world through one singular unified voice. I believe the time is perfectly right worldwide for women to support women in business to help uplift the each other, the next generation of aspiring girls, and alleviate poverty!
What advice can you give to young women looking to start their own businesses?
You must have my 5 P’s to survive in the business world as a woman: Passion, Preparedness, Perseverance, Purpose and Peppiness!
Today, it’s more important than ever that women stand up for themselves in the face of misogyny and mistreatment. How can women advocate for themselves in the workplace?
Women cannot take the misogyny and mistreatment too personally (unless verbally and physically aggressive and abusive); this will block their energy that would be better placed focusing on their work and entrepreneurial dreams. Ignore, ignore, ignore…unfortunately, some men have been preconditioned through society and family that women should always take a secondary stance in business and home. This is why Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization’s global movement and message is so important: celebrate, empower and support women in business worldwide. When women are empowered in business, they will not allow human rights violations!
How do you juggle your women’s empowerment work and animal advocacy?
In starting WED, I embraced what I learned from my many years as an advocate and philanthropist in animal welfare. In 1999, after rescuing my first shelter animals (a purebred Russian blue named Pasha, and then a Maltese named Lucky), I became ardently motivated to help save the 12 million animals euthanized in shelters every year. I founded the premiere animal lifestyle media company, Animal Fair, to save disenfranchised, helpless animals in shelters as well as endangered wildlife worldwide by promoting animal welfare and rescue, healthy pet lifestyles, and responsible breeding. I knew by bringing celebrities and pop culture to the animal rescue movement we could simplify the message that people can adopt any breed, any age, any size, any color – people would choose to “Adopt Not Shop”. We rallied the support of Charlize Theron, Beyoncé Knowles, Serena Williams, Hayden Panettierre and many others who helped us catapult the animal rescue movement to a extensive public awareness outreach effort locally and globally!
I knew if I could emulate what I learned in the animal world to the women’s world, we could create the greatest movement to empower women in business in history—or should I say “herstory”—to make a positive impact in the world. I believe that everyone in the world wants to be of help—and my job as a social entrepreneur is to simplify how people can help and make it easy for anyone to do so! I created Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization to make this happen. Change happens from the ground up not the top down!
What other projects do you have in the works for 2018?
Next year we will be growing our digital platform and portal ChooseWOMEN.org, which will be the largest directory of women-owned businesses in the world—allowing anyone anywhere to easily find and support women-owned businesses. The #ChooseWOMEN global platform will launch on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, engaging consumers to support women-owned businesses in the spirit of American Express’s Small Business Saturday. Consumers worldwide will be able to help create sustainable growth and alleviate global poverty by empowering and supporting women in business. Stay tuned!