Personal experiences in the workplace inspired me to start this company. It was not until I left the routine 9am to 5pm job that I realized the importance of mentoring to my personal and professional development. Looking back now, I wish that I had mentors to advice, guide, challenge, and support me. I encountered lots of issues, everything from learning the basics of how to play workplace politics to knowing which projects would give me the most visibility. This is what led me to start WIE.
WIE stands for Women, Inspiration, and Enterprise; I founded the company in 2010. WIE is an innovative global platform connecting well-established trailblazers to emerging leaders. WIE’s dynamic symposiums and salons provide a toolkit for success for tomorrow’s CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and potential collaborators. The network aims to empower a new generation of women leaders. Over the years, WIE symposiums has attracted an incredible lineup of speakers to include Donna Karan, Arianna Huffington, Queen Rania, Ted Turner, Melinda Gates, Diane von Furstenberg, Nancy Pelosi, Jill Biden, Aerin Lauder, Jennifer Buffett, Lauren Bush, Christy Turlington, Iman, Rosario Dawson, and Nora Ephron.
I felt the need to provide a platform for women to gain access to resources that will allow them to support one another. We recently launched a kickstarter campaign because we want to rebuild and reinvent ourselves in the marketplace. The new website will feature powerful short inspirational videos from exceptional achievers. Women interviewed in these videos will share useful career insights about what they do, and how they do it – life, career, and the key to success. It is my intention that the WIE Network will continue to empower women and girls all over the world to reach their full potential. Support WIE
How did you come up with the name WIE?
I wanted a name that was inclusive and WIE came to mind. Women, Inspiration, Enterprise best describes what we do.
Who is your target audience?
Women looking to establish themselves in the workplace. These women are somewhere in the middle and they feel stuck. They need the push and inspiration to move forward. Our target audience are women who want to grow and move on to the level. They want a breakthrough in their careers and need the support.
How have you financed the idea thus far?
We have received sponsorships from various companies and folks pay to attend our events.
What business challenges do you face?
Fundraising, access to capital, and manpower. We recently launched our kickstarter campaign; we plan to take the business to the next level.
What have you learned since founding WIE?
- Don’t take No for an answer. Many people will tell you No, but keep going because the No can later turn into a Yes.
- Turn the No you get into a positive experience by honing in on your pitch, properly communicating your vision, and expanding your network.
- Develop your networking skills. This is important for your personal, business, and professional growth.
- Be Visible. Regardless of where you are or what you are doing, ensure that you are visible. Many people work hard but no one knows what they are doing. Work hard, be visible, and make sure that the right people notice your efforts.
How can women support other women?
(1) Be less secretive,
(2) Know what you want and go for it,
(3) Set goals and work hard to accomplish them,
(4) Establish a supportive network (learn to share your ideas with others and more importantly, ask for feedback.)
(5) Serve as a mentor. Pay it forward by serving as a mentor to other women and girls,
(6) Hire women. When hiring, try as much as possible to hire a woman. Let us learn to give each other opportunities.
How do you balance work and family life?
Women have to learn to forgive themselves because we cannot be perfect. Many times, we expect perfection when it comes to balancing work and family life. I would like to be a great family person and a results-driven executive and entrepreneur all at the same time. However, I do not think that we can do it all. Be smart with your time and develop excellent time management skills. There were times in my career when I got so busy that I did not get to see my children as often as I liked, I always felt guilty.
In addition, it is important to have a supportive spouse or partner who understands and who wants to see you achieve your goals. This person will serve as your support structure. Also, extended family members are a useful network; don’t be afraid, always ask for help when you need it. My husband and I are entrepreneurs, it is not always easy but we plan our time and schedules accordingly.
What is your vision for African women?
My vision is to see more African women supporting each other. There are not enough supportive networks and spaces on the continent, we need to work on building this. We are usually competing with each other and not collaborating; this needs to change.
The last time we had the WIE conference on the continent, I observed that when it comes to family life, African women practice a more pragmatic form of feminism. Of course I won’t say that African women are not feminists, they are but they practice a more pragmatic form. Many African women are guided by culture, hence why they think differently. The focus on marriage and family comes from our mothers. Mothers understand that there has to be more to life than money and career – so they start grooming women for marriage. I find this interesting.
African women have somehow learned to put their needs on hold. They usually don’t put themselves first. During the conference, these women spoke extensively about the importance of living for, taking care of, and looking after their husbands and family. There is an extreme focus on family life and husbands. There is nothing wrong with this but I find that for African women, the focus is to do everything they can to keep their marriages, homes, family life and make their husbands happy so he won’t leave.
More African women need to ask, what are my priorities? It is good to put family life first but it is also important to accomplish your purpose and to have a supportive partner who helps you through.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
We need to highlight the kind of innovation that is happening on the continent, quality is still an issue. We need to do more to change the perception of Africa and made in Africa products. We can use the media to change this.
How many jobs have you created?
We work with many consultants and vendors. We do not have full-time staff members per se, but I will say that WIE conferences have helped many women get to the next level. Some women quit their jobs after attending a WIE conference, I think that’s a good thing because it shows that they are determined to take charge.
What advice do you have for women entrepreneurs?
Bring the right set of investors to the table. We need to connect more African women entrepreneurs to the global stage – more visibility on the global stage helps our voice.
At WIE, we are focused on providing women with a place to learn from experts. We aim to offer a fresh, modern, and unique perspective on issues women may face in their careers. The innovative global platform that we are building will be solutions-driven to allow women share stories, collaborate, connect, and learn from each other. Support WIE.
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