By GUILD Member and Editor Susanna Camp
The GUILD sponsored a different kind of women’s event last week — CauseConnect: Speed Networking with Causes You Care About. GUILD members and other passionate women gathered in San Francisco for an evening of networking, resource sharing, and reflection on common interests in support of charitable causes and good works. Products supporting women’s rights, impressive, new and established women-centric foundations, and the value of volunteering were on full display.
The GUILD’s founder Anne Cocquyt kicked off the evening at WeWork Mid-Market with an introduction to Rowan Harvey, board member of Womankind Worldwide, a charitable organization that works to improve women’s rights around the world. Anne also invited the event’s sponsors to share the stage before a brief speed-networking session where attendees socialized among tasty fare donated by Green Pea Cookies, Revive Kombucha, Numi Tea, and Bitty Foods, and product pop-ups from Cora, a feminine products company, and Atlas, a fitness tracker app that partners with businesses to donate charitable funds per mile of running.
We polled attendees for their answers to the question “What causes are important to you and what do you do about it?”
Politics were a big inspiration:
“Given the current political climate, several causes have become more important to me, like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood — and most specifically, women’s rights — that’s one of my personal priorities now.” Rosslyn Kasman (Director, Kasman Design)
“Top of mind right now is preserving democracy. I just set up a recurring donation to the ACLU last week, and I’ve been protesting a lot, making calls, and talking to my network about what they’re doing as well.” Dr. Holly Battey (Clinical Psychologist, Matchmaker and Coach)
Women’s issues and education were another major priority:
“I have two daughters, and for me it’s important for them to learn to be independent and to stand up for themselves — and not let anybody rule or limit them. Health for women is also very important to me. I’m not currently involved in a not-for-profit, but I’m starting to think about it. That’s why I’m here.” Fabienne Van Eyck (SMB Account Manager, Global Capacity)
“I would say: access to education. As a first-generation Latina, working with other students with similar backgrounds, there’s a lot of obstacles. High potential students can sometimes go down the wrong path, because there’s so many things that get in the way. I’m really passionate about making sure that they have access, and that they can thrive. It’s not just about getting into school, but actually having the skill sets to do well once they’re in a specific environment.” Karla Gonzalez (Strategic Planning Associate, SMART)
“Arts education is really important to me because the research shows that it really adds a lot to children’s lives and also transfers into their adult lives. It’s not just brain development but it’s also social-emotional benefits. It’s a skill that carries on through adulthood. There are lots of reasons why arts education needs to be in schools, and so I work for a non-profit that helps this cause, but also try to fund arts education and attend events that support arts education, and keep it alive and make sure that it’s still vibrant and valued in our society.” Kim Kays (Executive Director, zSharp)
Non-profits were another prominent theme. Many participants are pursuing a career in non-profits, and spoke of their particular focus and interests:
“I’m really passionate about promoting women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and I’ve decided to volunteer with Girls in Tech here in the Bay Area. It’s a national non-profit organization, and they promote their cause through monthly events with a lot of programming that helps women to learn to code and really excel in technology-related fields.” Caroline Ward (Data Analyst, Volunteer at Girls in Tech)
“I strongly believe that empowering local organizations in countries around the world is very important. Finding funding is one of the big barriers that local organizations face. They may lack the money, language skills, website, or social media knowledge to go out and be sustainable. So, I work for an organization called Give2Asia where we connect local community-based organizations to get funding from the US.” Aqeela Jogee (Vice President of Programs, Give2Asia)
Cora, one of the event’s sponsors, offered an inspiring model of social entrepreneurship. The company has embraced a buy-one-give-one model. For every month’s supply of Cora’s organic tampons purchased by a consumer, the company donates a month’s supply of sustainable pads to a girl in a developing country so she has freedom and mobility during her period. We spoke with Cora leadership about their motivations:
“It’s about health, it’s about dignity, and it’s about education — and that’s really why we started the company. It’s why the company has resonated with so many women here, because we realize that menstrual health is such an integral part of our health overall and we all know how difficult it can be if you don’t have the products you need. And to imagine that lack of access actually negatively impacting your education and your future is really powerful. Education is the cornerstone of why we do what we do. So that these girls can stay in school and get the education that they deserve.” Molly Hayward (Co-Founder, Cora)
“My mother was one of four girls who grew up in India and they each would miss a week of school every month because they didn’t have menstrual products. What we’ve learned is that a quarter of girls in developing countries will drop out of school. You don’t get to complete your education and you don’t get as many opportunities as your male counterparts. One of the biggest things for me personally is contributing to Cora and helping to ensure that women are able to stay in school and to access the same opportunities that we enjoy here in the US.” Puja Patel (Head of Growth and Analytics, Cora)
Speakers at the event included executives and thought leaders from SHE-CAN, Rise Up, and Volunteer Match. They shared their stories and expertise in small sessions with members looking to join a cause or network and combine forces with others in the industry.
“I’m all about women’s leadership, globally. And so I started a non-profit that helps young women from post-conflict countries win scholarships here in the US and return to their countries to become leaders who can change their nations. So, what I’m doing about it: I jumped in and created an organization to support my cause.” Barbara Bylenga (Founder, SHE-CAN).
Barbara discussed her foundation in-depth at a break-out session where she detailed her work and recruited others to join. SHE-CAN helps women from post-conflict nations win top college scholarships and find their personal power as leaders ready to make an impact. Barbara is seeking mentors to help transform these women’s lives, and connected with many talented and interested women at the event.
Barbara’s session was followed by a conversation with Rise Up Leadership Council member Jodi Morris and Executive Director Denise Dunning. Rise Up advances health, education and equity for girls, youth, and women in the US and globally by investing in visionary leaders for large-scale change. Denise recounted her experiences as a young Fulbright Scholar in Honduras working on hurricane relief projects with the United Nations Development Program to improve economic opportunities for local women. Her international experience in advancing women’s health, education, and equity led her to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the International Development Exchange, and eventually to start Rise Up.
The critical value of an online platform in driving support for charities was discussed by Jennifer Bennett, Senior Manager of Education and Training at Volunteer Match. Jennifer detailed her efforts building and maintaining an online platform that brings good people and good causes together, by finding opportunities that leverage their interests and skill sets.
The evening was a great success! We raised over $1,000 in donations to Womankind Worldwide, and we’re proud to have hosted and networked with so many passionate women connecting for a cause. What causes are important to you and how do you plan to take action in 2017?
Join the GUILD and continue the conversation one-to-one.
Photos by Gavin Farrington, an event photographer based in San Francisco. Gavin was named top wedding photographer for 2016 by SF Magazine. See more of his work at gavinfarrington.com