TEDx Zurich Women
There is no glass ceiling in your own business
For the first time, women meet in Zurich under the umbrella of the American organisation TEDx. This could give female entrepreneurship (in Switzerland) a boost.
What is TED and TEDx? Platform with influence.
TED originated 30 years ago in California. It is a non-profit organisation that aims to support ideas worth spreading by providing a speaking platform for global leaders. All talks are recorded and broadcasted online, mostly for free.
Local organisations can host local events under the TEDx name and aim for the same goal as TED. TEDx Zurich Women gives female entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their ideas in the conference on May 29th. «NZZ am Sonntag» is the media partner of the event.
It took three days and all of the 200 tickets were sold. No marketing. Just word of mouth. Despite the steep price of CHF 96 (approx. 100 USD) for Friday’s conference. The TEDx platform is well-known by the younger generation and among social media savvy users, not just in the US but also in Switzerland. On Friday eight female speakers and one male speaker will present their ideas for gender equality and female entrepreneurship.
Jessica Gaines is one of the initiators of TEDx Zurich Women. She studied at Harvard University where “global diversity” is one of the required courses.She is thrilled by the success, but not at all surprised:”TED has been known globally for 30 years. It is an influential platform, and everyone wants to be part of it.” Gaines, a resident in Zurich, has launched TEDx Zurich Women collectively with other women. She took initiative because TEDx provides an unique platform to exponentially distribute ‘ideas worth spreading’ worldwide.
“Aren’t there already enough associations, clubs, and initiatives that offer specific events about gender equality?
Gaines: “Yes and no. There are a lot of institutions organising events for women. But we unite all these initiatives under one umbrella.”
Sigrun Gudjonsdottir is one of the speakers. The Icelander has been living in Switzerland for while and explains the high demand for the event with the frustrating circumstances women in Switzerland are still faced with.
“On the one hand, Switzerland lags 50 years behind modern times in regards to child care and school system.” Having your own business makes it much easier to live with this insufficient system. More and more young and well educated women want to start their own company because of the glass ceiling in traditional companies. “The struggle to break through it is often unpromising. In your own business, nobody bangs their head.»
Among the speakers are only female entrepreneurs who are doing «their own thing» and have a clear why (see info box below). Like Véronique Goy Veenhuys.
She is founder and CEO of Equal Salary. The foundation certifies wage plans for companies. The companies can then prove that they pay men and women equally for the same performance. Goy Veenhuys sees the TEDx event and its feedback as a sign that things finally do change. “The theme of the conference is ‹momentum›. It fits: At least regarding the equal pay debate it seems to be gaining momentum. We also have received signals by the Swiss employers’ organisation that things have clicked” she believes. Just 10 years ago, the organisation didn’t take wage discrimination seriously. Goy Veenhuys wants to use her presentation at Tedx Zurich Women to put her demand for equal pay on to another level. At the same time, she wants to advertise female entrepreneurship. Since she became a mother, she is a self-employed entrepreneur. She started out with bed-linen for babies. Later it was consulting. Looking back, Goy Veenhuys says: “Entrepreneurship is the great chance for women to combine a career with family life. In corporations, women often feel pushed around, misunderstood.” New communication technologies have given entrepreneurship a boost. “The office is always with you.”
Grace Cassy, Epsilon Advisory Partners, UK
“For 10 years, I was in diplomatic services for Great Britain, among others in Pakistan, and worked for Tony Blair. In 2008 I decided I wanted a bigger entrepreneurial scope than diplomacy could offer me. I founded a consulting company with my business partners and now support companies outside Europe to export into the old continent. Women as entrepreneurs is a fascinating trend. The path to equality is long indeed, but in comparison to 20 years ago it’s much easier for women to start their own business. Young women don’t sense any restrictions after their graduation from college. If they want to start their own business, they can go ahead and do it. Female entrepreneurship means more creativity, they give the economy a new force. Having your own business, doesn’t just make sense for women but also for men. It creates independence, you get control over your professional life, career, the implementation of your own ideas. This is impossible in hierarchies of a corporation.”
Olivia Schofield, Spectacular Speaking, DE
“Half of the population is female – yet not half is at top of the career ladder. We need more role models. Business women are perfectly suited for this. We have too few of them. To be heard, women need to learn to speak better, to present themselves at their best. This is what I teach women. Also, to state more clearly what they want – without feeling guilty or selfish at the same time. Women are entitled to demand what they ask for. We were born as caretakers for others, we take care of everybody else, but not enough of ourselves. This needs to change. Call it selfishness, but if we as women want to be successful, we need to learn to delegate. Therefore, having your own business is the most sensible thing woman can do, because you can then juggle all the balls of the game much more easily. I work when I want to, don’t need to ask anyone, don’t need to do something meaningless for others. To have your own business means to be flexible and free, a fantastic quality of life. You don’t constantly have to play a role, you can be yourself.»
Sigrun Gudjonsdottir, Sigrun GmbH, CH
“At the age 16 I visited a course with women in their forties. They all moaned about what they not had achieved. None of them was living their dream. I took a vow that day: This is not going to happen to me.
First I led (for 10 years) IT companies as a CEO. For a few years now I have been supporting female entrepreneurs with my consulting company to build a business model from their passions and to create a sustainable income. I specialize in selling products (& services) online. The time of the coaching varies, it depends on the business idea. To be self-employed is ideal for women: You chose your lifestyle first, and then you build your own business around it.
My principle: Output before hours. Regardless of where and how long you work: Only the result matters. I believe that female entrepreneurship will change the business world dramatically. The more women have their own companies, money and influence, the stronger the momentum becomes, to change the surrounding conditions and society.”
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