“It’s amazing isn’t it, how difficult it can be for a woman or a girl to simply be ambitious,” The Walking Dead and Black Panther star Danai Gurira said as she presented designer Tory Burch with her 2019 Glamour Women of the Year award on Monday, November 11. “To have her eye on the prize without apology. How many times do we diminish ourselves, our voices, our abilities, even our opportunities, to stay comfortably within the status quo? To not ruffle any feathers or draw attention unto ourselves? How much greatness has been lost through this pervasive type of oppression?”
She continued, “Tory is unapologetic with her brand. The bold way she adorns women with class, flair, and fun all at once, and with the way she is working to leave no woman or girl behind. To popularize feminine ambition. From the millions of dollars she invests in female entrepreneurs to her awareness campaigns, arming people with education on the grotesque gender gap that still exists in so many ways. Tory is a champion for change, using the fruits of her ambition to nurture and empower the ambition of others.”
And when Burch took the stage, she had a poignant message on how to accept being told “no” in business. (Spoiler: don’t.) After all, anyone who manages to transform a small creative concept—her debut collection was based out of a Manhattan kitchen—into over 250 boutiques worldwide knows a thing or two about ambition. In addition to that, her charitable organization, The Tory Burch Foundation, was built to empower aspiring female entrepreneurs. The designer has clearly gone above and beyond in terms of achieving her dreams—and others’.
“When I was first launching the company, I presented my business plan to a group of men, they were the investors. I told them I was going to build a business that focused on purpose. They very concretely said to never mention the words ‘business’ and ‘social responsibility’ in the same sentence,” Burch said in her speech. “Of course, that only furthered my resolve. What they called ‘charity work,’ I called a business plan.”
She continued, “It was then that I realized that women are criticized for being ambitious, for exhibiting the exact same traits that men are praised for. And that is simply unacceptable. The reason we launched our Embrace Ambition initiative is to create a new paradigm, to change the conversation and to spark real and meaningful change around this topic. I’ve learned a few things since we started. First, women and men need to do this together. Men need to be part of the conversation. Second, women are the best investments. One stat I looked up this evening, is that if women entrepreneurs participated equally in the economy, the GDP would go up by $5 trillion. That is good for business, that is good for our economy and that’s common sense. And third, we must combat the unconscious bias at the root of all inequity. And we believe that starts with embracing ambition. I believe that starts with embracing ambition. Whether that means being a stay-at-home mom, a business executive or an activist, whatever ambition means to you.”
She concluded her speech with a moving quote. “I’m a big fan of quotes. Shakespeare once said, ‘The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.’ My dream—my ambition—is to move the needle, to help create the equality our world so desperately needs right now. To all the women that are here tonight, all of you that have a dream, I want you to remember that the world will say no to you in so many different ways. Your job is to keep saying yes to yourself. And know that you have women, you have me supporting you all along the way. Because I feel like we’re just beginning, and the conversation is so important, so thank you so much for this honor.”