A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the Circular Summit in Houston, Texas - an invite-only, female entrepreneur focused conference that brought together some of the world's most accomplished female entrepreneurs and investors to talk about ways to elevate and amplify our potential for success. The conference highlighted some really harsh realities facing female founders or female-led companies. Together, attendees and speakers united to make a change.
Some of the harsh realities include, per Circular Board co-founder Liz Gore's powerful letter to us female entrepreneurs in INC Magazine:
- Half of the world's potential is being held back because women-led companies are not scaling, $10 trillion in opportunity costs to be exact.
- Women are starting businesses at almost twice the rate of men but failing at a disproportionally faster rate.
- Only 3 percent of venture-backed companies are female-founded or led
- Only 5 percent of stories told in the media are about female founders
- Only 4 percent of CEOs in the S&P 500 are women.
I was invited to attend the event by Liz, and I was so nervous at first. I mean, a room of over 200 high powered female founders, investors, entrepreneurs, executives - and Liz deemed ME worthy of being in this room! I was stoked and scared all at the same time.
But I realized her invitation, and my attendance, proves the exact point she is trying to make. So many women don't rise up because there isn't enough support, or advocates who encourage us to rise.
This is NOT because women are weak. We've had to fight for our ability to represent - anywhere! This applies to everything in our lives as women in pursuit of something great, in business, life or sport. In the case of Society Nine, think about how many times as athletes, whether you're a serious athlete or an every day one, we don't have the right coaches believing in us to throw that damn barbell over our heads or to get in the ring and go toe-to-toe in a sparring match. It is that same lack of belief that has encouraged the pink boxing glove's existence for as long as it has. That's what the pink glove represents: lack of belief in us as athletes, and an unwillingness to take us seriously.
I decided that Liz's invitation to the Circular Summit was my time to rise. She's a coach that believes in me.
On the very first day of the summit, the first panel discussion held the first audience Q&A of the conference. Liz was holding the mic on the side of the room, asking for volunteers, and I blasted my hand up. She gave me the mic, and up I went, giving the elevator pitch for Society Nine and sharing some anecdotes of the challenges I was going through.
Choosing to make myself vulnerable, real and sharing my struggles was probably the most powerful thing I could've done for myself at the summit. From that point on, every single person I introduced myself to remembered me as "the woman who asked the first question" - some even said "thank you" for making them feel like they "weren't the only one struggling."
It opened up doors for me, too - there were individuals with an abundance of knowledge and personal resources who were excited and eager to help me and Society Nine grow into the phoenix it has the potential to be. I still am actively in contact with those same individuals who offered to help to this day.
As women, we have historically been encouraged to be conservative, in a multitude of ways. In business, we're encouraged to tone ourselves down, or else we're "too aggressive," "bossy," or even as far as "too bitchy."
I'm encouraging all of you to be the first, wherever you are, and be proud of it.
We're in this circle together - and for every person that tells you "no" or encourages you to sit on the side lines or take a back seat, remember the circle that is here for you. That's me; that's Liz Gore. It's time to rise like phoenixes.