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Navigating the Professional World as a Woman - An Insightful Panel Discussion with Industry Leaders

Navigating the Professional World as a Woman - An Insightful Panel Discussion with Industry Leaders


Mar 28, 2023 Shruti Shah

Commemorating Women’s History Month, Eventcombo recently organized an inspiring event to honor women who have or strive to carve a path in this male-dominated professional world (as cliché as it may sound, it is the truth). With a strong belief that the right network and guidance could help women reach their full potential and achieve much-deserved success, the panel discussion aimed at providing a platform to discuss common challenges and share success stories on overcoming them.  

Women professionals, on average, make less than 50% of senior leadership positions in various industries. And, many of those who earned the position have reportedly faced gender bias, swam against stereotypical currents, and passed tremendous tests of times to reach there.   

The event, Women Inspiring Women, had a star-studded panel of women who are leading top brands in diverse industry verticals like tech, finance, and more, sharing insights on mentorship, building and expanding networks, creating a culture of support and inclusivity, leadership, and many more important topics to help women navigate the professional world better. 

Here is a summary of all the key takeaways and experiences shared by the distinguished guests.  

Antonia Bowring, our first speaker began with a very simple yet significant guidance. She is an executive coach who specializes in working with neurodiverse leaders and helping them leverage their gifts while maintaining their focus. She is also a regular speaker on topics related to leadership, ADHD in the workplace, and communication best practices. Very interestingly she highlighted how every aspiring professional needs to create a scaffolding or support system for themselves comprised of  

  • Advisors: Be it family, a friend, or a colleague, one needs to build a kitchen cabinet of advisors, who nurture and have faith in them.
  • Coach: One needs to have a coach, who is a specialist in helping navigate different professional landscapes, a cheerleader, and a person strong enough to call out when required.
  • Sponsor: For professionals, it’s also important to have a person who speaks for them when they are not in the room, because most of the time when people are discussed for their work or performance, they are not in the room. The sponsor makes sure the management sees the true potential and value of the person. 

While answering the audience’s questions, Antonia also put emphasis on the need to constantly educate oneself in their professional field, and at the same time work on enhancing soft skills like people management, tech innovations, and leadership. 

Kimberly King, our second panelist took the mic to focus on another important chapter from the professional growth books. Kimberly is a CEO, an international speaker, media producer, a co-author, a global impact entrepreneur, and a thought-leader on the future of work, collaborative innovation ecosystems, and tech-for-good. Her passion lies at the intersection of business and social impacts to create groundbreaking marketing and financial models, which has generated more than $4B dollars in revenue to date.


Kimberly reflected on developing collaboration as a skillset and that it should be cultivated across business, profession, education, and personal life. Collaboration is essential everywhere, from networking to brainstorming to innovating. Professionals should not underestimate the power of working together. She quotes a famous proverb ‘You want to walk fast you walk alone; you want to walk far, you walk together.’
Finally, because collaboration means interactions, one should have an appetite for feedback and must not remain married to their own thoughts! 


Continuing the inspiring conversation, our third speaker Emmy Sobieski shared some insightful tips for women entrepreneurs. Emmy is a CFA, CBP, Bestselling Author of $100M Careers, and the COO of Competitive Storytelling, helping world-class founders share their ideas to change the world. She has over 25 years of experience investing in public and private companies and has co-run the Nicholas | Applegate Global Technology Fund, which was ranked the #1 fund globally in 1999 and was responsible for $6 billion in tech assets at Oppenheimer Funds. 


Having had experiences on both sides of the table, Emmy underlined how startup founders can use competitive storytelling to pitch their business, following these easy steps 

  • Create your founder story with an explanation on how the world looks like with your startup in it. 
  • Deliver vetted facts confidently and explain your goals like you mean them. 
  • Refining the general notion for those beginning from scratch, Emmy explained that investors don’t want to invest because someone is from Silicon Valley, or has graduated from a top college. They want to know the intent and how strong it is.  
    Your startup story should come from situations like a less fortunate childhood or family, or struggles encountered to complete your education. These stories show your strength and determination that you wouldn’t give up as soon as your startup begins facing challenges.

The conversation flowed with more practical and motivational anecdotes from the guest speakers who demonstrated impeccable knowledge and comprehension about what it takes to be a leader in the business landscape. 


Our next guest
Christina Qi, CEO of Databento, a financial market data API company, has had an extraordinary career in finance, starting with a hedge fund she founded and led for 10 years. Christina serves on the boards of her alma mater, MIT, as well as Invest in Girls, Forbes 30 Under 30, and the Financial Executives Alliance.  Christina’s opening note began with why everyone must use technology to their advantage. She mentioned how over the years they’ve never met an investor face to face, yet are running a successful fund and a profitable business. She also shared interesting tips on making business pitches more effective. PDFs are an old story and her team uses technology to send over documents or pitch decks which record the time spent by investors on each page. This helps them figure out which investor took time to read their deck and which didn’t, which ultimately saves a lot of time and effort. 

She also highlighted how her humble background fetched her a lot of rejections and biases, owing to the community she belongs to. Shockingly, once at a conference she was asked by someone to clean the dishes from the table while she was walking towards the stage for a keynote. Today she looks back thinking, she could have lost her cool but she didn’t and dealt with the situation intelligently. Consequently, after a decade of this episode, she is great friends with that person. The lesson - it is all about how you turn any situation into an opportunity. 


Our next guest was
Shelley Kuipers who is a successful entrepreneur, investor, and activist dedicated to transforming businesses and investments with an aim to create more equitable, feminist, corporately sound, and ecologically sustainable businesses. She is also the co-founder of The51 and Adventure Capital. 

Shelley started with some amazing facts on how women are taking the lead and it is anticipated by 2030, 1 in 3 Canadian and US wealth and assets will be in hands of women. Over the years, she’s noticed that women are more likely to invest in women, something women professionals must leverage. Given her expertise in wealth management, she also highlighted how important it is to perform a thorough due diligence on investors to find out every detail about them before the pitch. Half-baked information can make you look weak and unprepared. 
She also drew the spotlight on the issue of gender bias quoting how during an investor meeting she was asked if she was doing this on behalf of her husband’s company, when she was clearly pitching for her own. 

 

Our next guest was Vanessa Karel, founder of Greether - Travel and Safety app for women, and MD of Girls in Tech San Francisco. Vanessa is an entrepreneur, story seeker, traveler, visual producer, and public speaker. She is great at making things go from idea to reality and was recently named one of the 100 Rising Latinx Founders to watch.  


As a founder of a startup, Vanessa had a lot of quickies to enlighten professionals about funding. She has had her share of struggles and with her experience she can vouch that to find the right resources you need to be ready with well-thought answers to WHY, HOW, and WHO. You must know yourself and what you are trying to build. She also highlighted the importance of having a mentor or guide who can present the truth. 
She had one great tip up her sleeves - not all investors you reach out are interested. She suggests one must start practicing their pitch with the least interested investors, and this way they’d know and be prepared for all kinds of questions that may come from the interested ones. 

 

Networking Tricks from the Horses’ Mouth 
Each panelist had striking inputs and suggestions for building valuable networks, that included what works and what doesn’t. 

Antonia suggests being generous to everyone as networking is always a two-way street. What is most important is to change your perspective and connect with people and groups even outside of work, like associations related to your current industry, groups that affiliate with your passion, or something you like apart from work. 

According to Kimberly one has to be proactive while developing connections and start by sharing knowledge. That’s how you attract valuable connections.  

Emmy added another POV about a common mistake founders make - they reach out directly to VCs. Instead, establishing connections with founders, building a rapport over months, being a genuine help to them, and then using their references to pitch to VCs can be way more effective. 

To be a part of a community and network, one has to prove themselves valuable, as insisted by Christina. To begin with, volunteer or answer questions on community, help someone with your opinion, and see the right people gravitating towards you. 

Shelly strongly recommends one does not need to be from Silicon Valley to guide or mentor you. More actions happen outside which can be used to fuel your journey. 

Sharing her experience, Vanessa stated no one should be scared to reach out. Reaching out on LinkedIn or community groups is important and you might be amazed with the response from people. Go ahead and start conversations. 

 

The event focused on bringing together women in leadership positions, who continue to hustle every day to make their mark in a fiercely competitive professional world, many a time biased against and lesser convenient for women. It aimed at providing a platform to connect with peers and mentors, and exploring ways of gaining access to financial and other resources. This exciting and invigorating event, super interactive at the same time, helped aspiring professionals not only to streamline their methods but also to expand their connections through in-event networking. 

Download our latest Whitepaper Normalizing Professional Networking for Women: How to Break Barriers and Reap Rewards to dive deeper into how to make networking a rewarding experience through proven strategies and smart techniques.   

 


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