I've always loved celebrating holidays that honor women, whether it is International Women's Day or International Day of The Girl, I'm here for all of it because I love the energy that unites us around the world to take action and proudly proclaim what we believe in. This year's International Women's Day was especially important to me because it reminded me of the video I created honoring my Nana last year for YouTube's #HerVoiceIsMyVoice IWD campaign. When I made it, my Nana was fine and in good health, then she suddenly passed away 42 days later. So the video and holiday hold a special place in my heart.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the U.S. Department of State recently hosted their 8th annual International Women’s Day Forum, Partner With Purpose: Business for Gender Equality. It was an honor to celebrate IWD by attending this event thanks to one of the awesome sponsors, AT&T. The sessions collectively focused on building a foundation and nourishing a culture shift that fosters a thriving legacy. Businesses provide legacies- whether it's a mom & pop's shop that's passed to the next generation, or a technology start-up that instills entrepreneurship skills in the employees, or a corporation that includes gender equality in their values and ensures the future leadership adheres.
This year's theme, #PressForProgress was interwoven throughout the forum, highlighting the importance of motivating friends, colleagues and communities to think, act, and be gender inclusive. This is especially integral in business because the balance of both men and women in leadership helps bring innovation and a different perspective to the decision making table.
Check out my Instagram highlight story titled, "#IWD2018" to see live footage from the event!
The forum reignited my passion for mentoring and entrepreneurship. I walked away feeling blessed to be a woman. Although it comes with its own set of challenges, I sat in a room full of women who continue to fight the good fight. Here are some ways you can make a difference.
1. Mentor- a common theme during the forum was the importance of representation in leadership and STEM. Seeing others succeed is helpful because it allows youth to realize it's possible for them to do the same. Would you like to mentor but don't know where to start? Check out these awesome organizations below that have volunteer and mentor opportunities!
- Black Girls Code
- Girls Who Code
- EMPOwERgirlz by YWCA
- Sasha Bruce Youthwork
- Latino Student Fund
- Asian American LEAD
- Generation Hope
- Project Girl Mentoring Program
- Access Youth
- Girl Talk Mentoring Program by My Girlfriend's House
- SisterMentors by EduSEED
- Girls Prep Inc.
2. Social Responsibility- the forum highlighted major companies including Intel Corporation, AT&T, Microsoft, and Lockheed Martin that realize the importance of becoming involved in their community. You can become an asset to your company by encouraging them to use their influence to create women and girls empowerment initiatives their employees can participate in. Below are some examples of organizations that are social responsibility trailblazers.
AT&T Aspire- My love for AT&T started as a child because they were my telephone provider. I remember seeing their blue logo every month as I watched my Nana pay the bills. As an adult, I was elated to hear about their expansion as a leader not only technology, but within the community as well. It was an honor to work with them for their Inspired Mobility and 28 Days: Black History Month campaigns. Knowing their philanthropic spirit, I wasn't surprised when I learned about their partnerships with Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code. AT&T Aspire focuses on creating connections that drive innovation in education. AT&T is dedicated to causes that matter. They even have a 10 year roadmap for their Connect to Good campaign showing how they will use the power of their network to build a better tomorrow.
Intel® She Will Connect- Intel works to close gender gaps in technology and promotes gender equality by empowering girls and women. She Will Connect's innovative model includes teaching digital literacy skills, building infrastructure, supplying income generation opportunities, and cultivating a social network. Intel has a goal of reaching 5 million women in Africa by the end of 2020.
Microsoft DigiGirlz- Microsoft is another love of mine because I received a full scholarship from The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most people think Bill Gates = Microsoft = Technology which results in them failing to realize that their mission is about more than technology, they impact the world through Microsoft Philanthropies. DigiGirlz hosts events and camps for middle and high school girls to connect with employees, explore hands-on computer workshops, and learn about the endless possibilities of careers in technology.
Lockheed Martin & Girls Inc.- Lockheed Martin & Girls Inc. built a thriving partnership because they realized the importance of connecting employees with girls to help build their interest and confidence in pursuing STEM education and careers. Lockheed Martin has a diverse group of partners who are all united for the common mission of pioneering STEM education outreach initiatives for K-12 students. By serving as mentors and being present in classrooms, they hope to create pipelines for our next generation of technology leaders.
3. Stay Informed & Share the Knowledge- if you are reading this and thinking, "Obviously Ashley, this is a given- I share information all the time," then send this post to three people and share it on social media so I know it's real! If you're reading this and thinking, "Thanks Ashley for the reminder, I need to do better," then subscribe to at least two organizations below so you can stay updated on the impact they are having in the lives of women and girls globally.