‘If I put my NGO hat on, It has been proven time and time again, that if you invest in a woman or a girl in the global south she will not only use the opportunity for growth for herself, she will also elevate the rest of the village.’
I spoke at Women Entrepreneurship Day 2019 conducted by Female Founders of the Future at Klub in Copenhagen back in November.
I didn’t memorize my full speech as I wrote it (you really never do). But here it is:
Hi there. My name is Henriette. I am an entrepreneur, a seeker, a climate activist, a feminist. I am a mother to a teenage girl, a leader, and currently the head of brand and engagement at the Climate NGO CARE, as well as being Denmarks first + Social Good Connector under the UN foundation.
I was invited here to talk to you about ‘Investing in Gender Equality’. This is something I feel very strongly about probably because it’s something I have been working on as an entrepreneur. First trying to get a maternity fund for entrepreneurs implemented in Denmark, and later as the CEO and founder of Geek Girl Denmark and Geek Girl Magazine.
Geek Girl magazine I almost won an Ivækst award for, in the female entrepreneur category. Teaching tech to other women – doing stuff differently. As a ‘Female found media icon’ I got fed up with being a role model – because I really am not. I am chaotic and imperfect and I didn’t feel I could live up to everything they wanted me to
So, after Geek Girl Magazine, I decided to change lanes and head towards climate action. Something that has always been close to my heart ever since I was a young teen being told by my teacher that the ozone layer was going to kill the planet. I did a lot of research on sustainability and climate action at the biggest Nordic sustainable think tank where I was employed as a brand director. And I found my bridge between sustainability and gender equality:
Do you know what, according to Paul Hawken and his Project Drawdown, is the number 1 thing we can do to conduct climate action?
Invest in Women and Girls.
If I put my NGO hat on, It has been proven time and time again, that if you invest in a woman or a girl in the global south she will not only use the opportunity for growth for herself, she will also elevate the rest of the village. The return on investment in investing in women and girls is so much higher than if you invest traditionally.
The same goes for teams with a female co-founder in startups: Startups perform differently.
As the old saying goes, we can’t keep doing the same thing, expecting a different outcome. Right now, not one single country in the world is on track to meet SDG no 5- Gender equality. Even though gender equality has been agreed upon as a human right.
Denmark is leading on a number of factors under SDG 5, but we can ALL do something to save the world, and yes. I do mean save the world. When you help a girl, you help a village. When you help a woman you are constructively doing climate action.
If you as a dane, as an entrepreneur want to do social good, you can start by helping another woman – look at the person next to you and SMILE =) You can do something life altering for this woman, you can believe in her strength, connect her to other people. Help her see her own badassness. Help her see her ‘Mad Skills’. Give her chances she normally wouldn’t be getting.
We need to make different choices. The world calls for our responsibility, our personal responsibility and the responsibility as humanity. As Jonathan Safran Foer wrote in his latest book ‘we are all the weather’ – we all need a personal climate plan, a family climate plan. We also need a personal gender equality plan. We need to find out HOW we will act around climate and gender and every other of the SDGs– how are we going to make ourselves accordable?
How are we going to make the global goals our personal goals? by making different choices. It seems super obvious but for every different choice we make for sustainability we are tipping the boat towards a healthier planet.
For a long time – first in tech and women and then in sustainability I’ve heard people saying ‘ enough talking, it’s time for action’ And we’re fucking still talking about how much time for action it is – but we are doing the safe things – men in suits are becoming ‘chief innovation officers’ all around the world and I can’t stand it. Where are the wildcards?– where’s the misfits? Where are the women? The ones needed to make a powerful change?
If you decide to make a woman a partner of your VC firm – you are doing social good. If you’re making a woman the co-founder of your startup. Social good. You are showing the world that you are innovative, that you are choosing differently, even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s EXACTLY these choices we need. As is eating less meat. Driving electric cars. And you know what Probably your whole team spirit will be elevated because of something new happening.
Better yet – see if you can make half the partners or founders of your company female – be the difference you want to see in the world.
And those women will be the role models for other women who want to work in a startup – who wants to vet and invest in startups as VC’s. Those women will be visible beacons in a field where women are normally invisible. They don’t exist. This is especially if you ask the business conference organizers who are (still) creating all-male panels.
Look at us, as a group. Take me as an example: When I started in the tech industry back in 2001 – we were 3 women out of a team of 100 men. A secretary, me as a developer, and an HR person.
Now we’re at a sold-out event celebrating female founders. At my first web conference (reboot 2005) we weren’t that many women either. But it made us talk and network and think about that more women should be at these tech conferences – and some of us decided to do something about it.
We can all make a difference – we can all be social good activists – we can all work to change this fucked up world -and we need to.
What I came here to say Is not just ‘invest in gender equality’ – it’s more to ‘invest in different’ choices. Invest in your own actions making these badass women visible.