3 Realizations I Take Home from an All-Women Entrepreneur Conference
I attended the Wonder Women conference in Stockholm. Here are my thoughts on the train back home.
This weekend, I attended the all-women entrepreneur conference Wonder Women in Stockholm, Sweden. For two days, we attended lecture and seminars, discussion groups, we mingled and networked, exchanged LinkedIn details — and all of this sans bros. Here are 3 things I take with me on the train home from this quite extraordinary weekend.
Wonder Women is a conference organized by, with and for female entrepreneurs from all over Sweden. This year was their third time around, and over 100 entrepreneurs had gathered in Stockholm to learn new things, swap ideas, be inspired and of course to expand their networks. These are 3 realizations I had over the weekend.
Femtech has huge potential — because women are still deeply underserved
Two innovation experts talked about how women today control over 75% of the consumer buying power in the world, but still feel deeply underserved by many industries who are too lazy and ignorant to actually take women’s needs and perspectives into account when creating and improving products and services.
Even companies that produce very female-specific goods, such as menstrual products, are owned and controlled by a majority of men. Hence, feminine hygiene products have not seen more than a handful of new innovations in the last 150 years (!).
In other words, if menstrual products were cars, they would still have a horse attached at the front. Really.
But this also means that attending to the actual needs of women across the globe has huge market potential for innovators who are willing to take the time to listen and understand, instead of just “shrinking and pinking” existing products (and then adding a pink tax on top).
Being expected in the room makes a huge difference
In the four our so years that I have run my own business, I have attended countless networking events, business gatherings, seminars and workshops catering to this, that or the other segment of entrepreneurs.
And I have never. I repeat: never. Felt more included, safe, listened to, appreciated and lifted up, than at this women-only conference.
Talking to my fellow attendees, this was one of the recurring themes. That the ambiance is different. That there is more inclusion and less competition That you don’t feel the same need to claim your space, because you are expected. You are welcomed. You are assumed to be part of the group and to be attending for a reason. You are assumed to have something worthwhile to contribute.
“Others have done it before you, others are doing it with you, and others will do it after you.”
And the most down-putting part? I probably wouldn’t even have realized how much tension and pressure events like this usually put on me, and many others like me, if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to experience something so different.
We are all role models, sometimes just by showing up
Not to brag, but writing on Instagram about this particular realization won me a brand new cabin bag in a contest at the conference yesterday. A hot-pink bag that screamed “middle-aged woman on her way to a yoga and creative writing retreat in Portugal”. I loved it.
But I digress. My point is that as a female entrepreneur, I look for role models and people to inspire me all the time. And as in any endeavor, role models are important because they tell you that “someone who looks like you, who comes from your background, can do this think you’re dreaming of”. We look at role models and we see ourselves in a mirror.
And sometimes I forget that as a young female entrepreneur, coming from a blue- and lower white-collar background, with no academics before me in my family, I can be a role model, too.
Just by attending an all-woman entrepreneur conference, all of us signal to each other that “look, you’re not the only one, this isn’t impossible. Others have done it before you, others are doing it with you, and others will do it after you.”
If there was one thing from this conference I could stuff in a little jar and take out and sniff on (look at? listen to?), whenever I feel like nothing is going my way — that last realization would be it.
Being an entrepreneur is the second hardest job in the world (after, of course, being a parent. Duh.) And the best way for us to make it through the hard times and the good, is to go the distance together.
I’m going — wanna walk with me?
Lina Bodestad is an organizational psychologist with a mission: to create a more sustainable and meaningful world for her daughter. She is the author of two books and an avid drinker of oat milk cappuccinos. She’s based in Gothenburg, Sweden.