GC4W 2021 International Women’s Day Summit concludes as a Day of Inspiration, Courageous Conversations, and Hope.

Written by Leang Chung.

On Saturday, March 13th, 2021 the Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W) curated a memorable virtual summit packed with inspiration, courageous conversations, and celebration in honor of International Women’s Day. CoachDiversity was the presenting sponsor of the GC4W International Women’s Day Event. CoachDiversity Institute offers the world’s first coaching program specifically designed for diverse communities and preparing individuals, communities, and institutions for rapid demographic change and culturally sound communication.

The event proved to be exactly what we needed at this moment. Given the year we endured in 2020. Riding the downward and upward movement throughout that year as the impact of a global pandemic and the racial justice movement in the wake of the public lynching of George Floyd challenged our definition of the term ‘normal’ and when enough is enough. 

The impact that Covid-19 has on women globally cannot be overlooked or forgotten. The closure of schools led to homeschooling and increased household responsibilities that largely fall on the shoulders of mothers everywhere. Setting off a rise in mental and emotional health concerns. And the fragility of women staying in the workforce. According to McKinsey, women makeup 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses in 2020. Wiping away years of progress. 

The racial justice movement demanded that all systems, and those who created them reevaluate who they were designed for and the negative implications on equity. Equity for the marginalized. Equity for women. Equity for Black and Brown people. Equity for Indigenous people. Equity for People of Color. The movement spotlighted how companies are holding or not holding themselves accountable. LinkedIn reported an 84% expansion rate year-over-year of job listings for Chief Diversity Officers, making it the fastest-growing C-level position in 2020. 

The Founder and CEO of GC4W, Dr. Lilian Ajayi-Ore, adds, “this year’s celebration of international women’s day brought our guests closer to real topics and the real actions required in moving us as a society into a more fair, just, and equitable world. For we all got to reflect individually on what we must do to transform, engage, and uplift each other.”

We also celebrated the appointment of notable women of color to prominent positions in government and business. 

  • Kamala Harris became the first Black and South Asian woman to be sworn in as Madam Vice President of the U.S.A.
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appointed to Director General of the World Trade Organization. 
  • Rosalind Brewer appointed to CEO of Walgreens
  • Thasunda Brown Thuckett appointed to CEO of TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association) 
gc4w internatioanl women s day event

That is why I believe this year’s celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day is more meaningful and important than it’s ever been in the past. That is why the GC4W International Women’s Day Summit was filled with inspiration, courageous conversations, and hope from the panelists of female icons and moderators across the virtual stage. 

Building Strong Connections and Relationships in a Covid-19 World

The summit kicked off with Renu Hooda (Chief Talent Officer, Kinesso), Fran Hauser (Startup Investor & Author of “The Myth of a Nice Girl”), April Franzino (Beauty Director, Hearst Magazine), and me (Leang Chung) as the moderator for the first panel. Together we unpacked how Covid-19 shaped the way we view our relationships, how we connect, and the epidemic of loneliness. 

Fran expressed how she learned which relationships are the most meaningful to her and how to be more present with those she cares about most in her life. April talked about the importance of nature and being in nature as a form of self-care and wellness. She’s happy to see the growing trend of people who are taking road trips or trading their typical workout routines for a walk around the park instead. Fran shared that she’s also taking her investment calls with her while hiking and doesn’t plan on adjusting this practice any time soon. 

Renu expanded on her thought provoking quote, “We must find ways to end the epidemic of loneliness. We need to cultivate a connection mindset by helping others meet their needs for social activity and human engagements.” Providing her thoughts on how lonely people are around the world and shared how she’s making it a personal mission to address this in the workplace, particularly for women and working mothers. 

Women Leading in Politics and What Good Citizenship Mean

The second panel with Senator Pat Spearman (State Senator of Nevada), Chelsea Miller (Co-Founder of Freedom March NYC), and moderator Janice Perkins, Director of Marketing Marshall Goldsmith’s Methods of Leaders, MG100, what was a galvanizing moment at the summit. They illustrated the impact of what it means to create social justice and what a day in the life of an activist looks like as Chelsea joined us while in a cab. On her way to a march to raise awareness and honor the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death. 

Senator Spearman spoke about how George Floyd’s death set off 3000 tons of dynamite across the Black and Brown community everywhere. It forced the question, “what kind of changes can I make?” That change is now going local where, as Senator Spearman explained, citizens can have the biggest impact on the day-to-day areas that affect us most such as schools, healthcare, and local policies. She went on to share personal examples of how she was the subject of discrimination and bias throughout her career. Because of her gender and intersectionality. That directly fueled her actions, progress and professional achievements. Pushing the importance of having the right representation to influence policies. The people who can speak to the lived experience. Her advice to us was, “you have to figure out a way to turn your pain into passion”. 

How does one become an activist? Chelsea’s advice is to start somewhere, with one issue that you care about most. Use that to build your platform and speak about it with a megaphone to raise awareness. She shared how she herself felt the calling to do something to address the injustice she was witnessing. Eventually leading her to organize and form The Freedom March NYC. 

Both Senator Spearman and Chelsea talked about how activism and leadership in social justice can happen at any point in your life, regardless of age or experience, and the importance of getting the generation behind them involved to continue making progress. As they were saying this, I couldn’t help but see that blazing torch get passed from Senator Spearman to Chelsea, sustaining the legacy of what it means to be a catalyst for change in politics and social justice.

The Art of Resilience, Perception, and Business Sustainability 

The final panel was a literal fireside chat with Kara Goldin (Founder & CEO of Hint, Author of “Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters”), Stacey London (American Fashion Stylist, NY Times Bestselling Author), and moderator Megan Bruneau, Therapist & Executive Coach, Forbes Contributor and Podcast Host. The conversation was an intimate and vulnerable perspective on what resiliency looks like, how they redefine their identities with age, and what success looks like. 

Kara embodied the undaunted leader she writes about in her book when Covid-19 tested her adaptability and leadership during a time when there were a lot of unknowns and fear was high. She had to find a way to maintain balance or choose between being still and moving. She chose to move. Being an FDA approved supplier allowed her to keep manufacturing going and employees employed.

Stacey shared an intimate perspective on resiliency in the wake of something that impacted many people in 2020, grief. In the wake of her own loss of her dad, whom she was a caretaker for and was very close to, she opened up about the pain she endured because of it. How it’s made her reevaluate other aspects of her life. What she referred to as ‘secondary grief’ for women. It’s the grief that comes from letting go of an identity you once had and creating a new one as you age. 

What We’re Hopeful For 

The final panel was followed by a mixer event hosted by Chef Madison Papp, a musical performance by Broadway star Telly Leung and The Female Icon Award ceremony led by Dr. Lilian Ajayi-Ore, Founder & CEO of GC4W, and Francesca Vuillemin, Board Chair of GC4W. 

GC4W Board members, Yerddy Lanfranco and Carolyn Bankston gave closing remarks about how the panelists, topics discussed, networking, and the entire summit inspired self-reflection and change to those who attended. It was an unforgettable event that will serve as the starting point for the type of change we hope to see in the year ahead of us. 

A warm thank you to our guests who supported the GC4W Marketplace female business owners with their ticket purchase — over 120+ products were sold.

Thank you to everyone for attending. We look forward to connecting with you at the upcoming GC4W Circle Network event. If you are interested in becoming a member of the GC4W Circle Membership Program, submit your application to circle.gcwomen.org.

For media inquiries or to be a speaker at a gc4w event, send an email to info@gc4women.org.