How meeting Chelsea Clinton inspired us to become women entrepreneurs through CGIU & her #NoCeilings Initiative
It was one of those happy accidents you read about, but looking back it clearly all happened for a reason. I was at work looking through some calendars in order to schedule a meeting in April 2013, when I saw these 3 letters: CGIU. Not immediately putting 2 and 2 together, I looked it up and saw that it was the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference being held at Washington University in St. Louis. Wait a second, I thought. I work in University Recruiting — I need to be part of this!
I was at work looking through some calendars in order to schedule a meeting in April 2013, when I saw these 3 letters: CGIU. Not immediately putting 2 and 2 together, I looked it up and saw that it was the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference being held at Washington University in St. Louis. Wait a second, I thought. I work in University Recruiting — I need to be part of this!
I jumped on the bandwagon immediately, and within a few weeks it was confirmed that I could attend. The day came and I knew there would be an opening plenary session panel moderated by President Clinton. Lights went up, music came on, and who first came out to my surprise….Chelsea! Frankly, it had been years since I had really seen her in-depth on television, let alone hear her speak. She took center stage and for the next 11 minutes spoke eloquently about the state of the world today. The need for us to determine how we prioritize what needs to happen and measure impact while doubling down on success. The emphasis on “how” needs to be at the center of every conversation in our neighborhoods to confront the global community. Most importantly, that young ppl have a vital role to answering these questions and are empowered to make a difference, regardless of background.
My view at the conference. Oh hey, it’s Matthew Perry (Chandler) from Friends sitting in front of me!
What struck me most was her passion for this topic. Yes she has a lot of influence as a political figure, but her speech seemed to genuinely come from the heart and not a route, rehearsed memorization. When I looked around the room, I was struck by truly how global a community they had — students of all different backgrounds and colors. To be specific, CGIU engages with 450,000 students from 130 countries with over 3,500 commitments made. They are dedicated to topics such as healthcare and climate change, but as a representative of Silicon Valley they made a concerted effort to focus on how young people can affect change through technology. One student made a soccer ball that can be used not only for play but electricity so that his mother can cook safely. A windmill that generates electricity. There are countless other projects and initiatives, but it was clear that this is a place and time where contributions from this generation are valued and celebrated. That we should and need to learn from each others’ experiences. And have fun!
After the opening session I was able to go backstage and briefly meet both President Clinton and Chelsea, and probably don’t need to say it was one of the top 10 best moments in my life. I connected with some of the organizers and soon after started conversations with the team on how we could partner together on another event. It took a while, but 2 years later I was at Spelman College promoting women in STEM, through which Chelsea agreed to attend to discuss her #NoCeilings Initative. Though a panel she spoke with 2 other women entrepreneurs about starting a business, barriers to entry, and how the larger community can provide resources for support. I was again able to speak to her after the event to thank her for her time.
Angela was there to support me and we couldn’t stop talk about it afterwards. There was such a movement happening for women, and we clearly are passionate about it as well. Why were we not directly participating in this conversation? I had to check my own bias around women entrepreneurs: they had to be engineers or have an MBA right? Definitely not — anyone can do it and it starts with an idea mixed with hard work, both of which we were capable of.
We are committed to this cause and know there are a lot of things we need to work on and get to, but the main takeaway we’ve learned is not to get hung up on things being perfect — starting somewhere will get you everywhere…with time. Thank you Chelsea for your inspiration and for championing #NoCelings!