Celebrating International Women’s Day
We believe impact is everything. This year we’re celebrating 8 March, International Women’s Day, by shining a light on 8 women (including female partnerships, so strictly speaking it’s 10!) who we think are the embodiment of this belief. Brilliant, resilient leaders owning their roles with empathy, power and respect. Happy IWD19!
1. Melanie Perkins, CEO, Canva
Defying the conventions of Silicon Valley, Perkins is one of the youngest female CEOs leading a $1bn start-up. Co-founding the company in 2012, Perkins is democratising design, putting new web-based design tools in the hands of people who aren’t graphic designers, and going head to head with incumbents like Adobe. Having scaled at breakneck speed and boasting 10m users across 190 countries worldwide, the company is proud to support over 17,000 non-profits who are using Canva to fundraise.
Indeed, unicorns are rare beasts; even rarer are unicorns with women leading them. In 2018, a paltry 2.7% of venture-backed start-ups have female CEOs, according to studies by Babson College and Columbia University. Luckily, Perkins is one of a growing number of promising female founders showing what good investment looks like for venture investors.
“One of our values at Canva is to ‘set crazy big goals and make them happen’. This has been essential to getting Canva off the ground, but even more so to take Canva to the next level. Having crazy big ideas and chasing after them can be intimidating but it pushes you to try harder and dream even bigger.” (Entrepreneur)
2. Joyce Adeluwoye-Adams MBE, Global Director of Diversity & Inclusion, King
Spearheading greater diversity and inclusion in the gaming and tech sector and officially named one of the most influential BAME leaders in tech by the FT, it’s a no-brainer why Adeluwoye-Adams made the cut. Fearless in pursuing the team’s goal to drive industry change, she and her colleagues at King believe diverse talent, results in an increase in productivity, innovation and even revenue. We couldn’t agree more.
On joining King, she emphasised her continued enthusiasm and future ambition to make impact; “It’s a real honour to join a company with such a strong desire to improve diversity and inclusion across its workforce – and I’m excited to drive this agenda forward in my new position at King.” (Game Industry)
3. Gina Miller, Business Owner and Activist
Some people call her ‘feisty’ (-don’t you just hate that word!), but the truth is, Miller is a woman on a mission and she loves what she does.
Over the course of her career, as well as founding SCM Direct, Miller has used a ‘profit for purpose’ model where a significant percentage of profits and resources are given to charities or community projects.
A firm believer that generosity can heal communities and that we can all make a difference, Miller also co-founded the True and Fair Foundation and MoneyShe.com, a female-focussed investment brand.
Empowering others to stand up to oppression and have a voice, she made the headlines in 2016 with a court case in which she challenged the British government’s right to implement Brexit without approval from parliament. She won and has made a remarkable impact on British politics today.
“There’s no way out other than to give it back to the people,” Miller said. “It is only morally and democratically right to give people a say.” (Reuters)
4. Emma Hill & Georgia Fendley, Co Founders, Hill & Friends
The power duo behind the luxury handbags that carry values, Hill and Fendley are on a true mission to share the friendly face of fashion. These women have launched a brand that’s inclusive not exclusive, combining warmth and wit with genuine quality. This infectious passion – and that ‘subversive wink’ of theirs – is why we’re loving their work. It’s also helping to redefine luxury accessories for positive impact in the British fashion ecosystem. This is what we call A Good Thing.
“It’s both joyful and terrifying. But it’s made me remember why I love what I do” (Emma Hill, Business of Fashion)
5. Jordana Kier and Alexandra Friedman, Co Founders of LOLA
Building a $35 million brand in only four years is no mean feat. Co founders Kier and Friedman are certainly making an impact in an otherwise under-researched and elusive product category.
Their company, LOLA, is here to revolutionize the feminine care category by providing transparency into what goes into their products with the convenience of a subscription service business model. These smart and intuitive women saw a problem, put their heads together, and created a powerhouse brand that is disrupting their industry and putting women’s health and wellness in women’s hands.
“We want to feel like our values are aligned with something that’s greater than just having a successful business. We donate product to women who don’t have access to tampons, pads, and liners throughout the U.S. There’s no perfect playbook for having a positive impact on your community, but as humans, it has to be part of what we do.” (Refinery 29)
6. Ankiti Bose, CEO, Zilingo
All the best ideas come after a tipple or two, don’t they? Well this is definitely true for the concept for fashion e-commerce platform Zilingo, born at a house party in India’s tech capital Bengaluru. After being inspired by a visit to Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak market, Bose realized that the sellers didn’t have sufficient opportunities to expand. Realising the start-up potential of the idea, the two friends founded a company to help small merchants across Southeast Asia to sell to consumers and scale. They provide sellers access to much-needed technology, capital and support systems – everything from cross-border shipping and inventory management to a new fintech partnership that provides working capital to small sellers, so they can buy the raw materials to produce goods. At just 27 years old, Bose’s achievements rather than her youth make her exceptional, with Zilingo now having over 400 employees, operating in eight countries. She’s focussed on managing the company’s hyper-growth by building the right leadership team and culture.
“Personally, a lot of men have been very helpful to me in my journey. But of course, if you have more women in venture capital and more female entrepreneurs, then things will get a lot better.” (The Times of India)
7. Tina Sharkey, CEO, Brandless
What a revolution! Tina Sharkey is here to “democratise access to goodness”. Using purpose to disrupt the $600 billion consumer goods industry, she removed traditional branding from her products. Every item in her range costs $3 or less. Entrepreneur and investor par excellence, Sharkey is passionate about building movements with soul and social-minded businesses at scale. Founding a new kind of company, she is living proof that profit and purpose can go hand-in-hand, with Brandless now valued at over $500 million. And it’s about so much more than giving Amazon a run for its money. The people-first concept behind the company is to build community not just sales. For a generation defining sustainable value, this really is something to get behind.
Tina stresses the importance of women preventing failure from slowing them down:
“If you try one strategy that doesn’t work, try another one. Test, and test, and test. Try, and try, and try. And then when you see something that actually has a positive experience, drive a truck through it.” (Forbes)
8. Tory Burch, Founder, Designer & Executive Chairman of Tory Burch & Tory Burch Foundation
Tory Burch build her namesake business out of her kitchen in 2004, growing it into a successful multinational fashion brand in only a few years. She set up the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to support the empowerment of women entrepreneurs.
Drawing on her experience developing a brand, as well as conversations with businesswomen from around the world, the Foundation has developed programmes and initiatives that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses. The foundation provides ‘think access’ to capital through affordable lending programmes with Bank of America, entrepreneurial education in partnership with Goldman Sachs and mentoring as well as networking opportunities.
Last year the Foundation hosted the first-ever Embrace Ambition Summit in New York City, powered by Bank of America. The 1,000+ attendees and 400,000+ livestream viewers were joined by 46 incredible leaders, performers and activists to address the event’s theme: Confronting Stereotypes and Creating New Norms.
With actions like these, Burch demonstrates the power of using your own brand and influence to make a positive and meaningful impact in the world.
“In my first interview with The New York Times in 2004, the reporter mentioned the word “ambitious,” and I said it annoyed me. A friend of mine called me after the story published and told me never to shy away from that word. She was right. I realized that I had bought into the stigma that women shouldn’t be ambitious — that it was unattractive. That experience inspired our foundation’s global campaign to #EmbraceAmbition, which aims to help erase the stigma associated with ambition in women.” (entrepreneur.com)