Recently I had an amazing opportunity to interact with international women entrepreneurs. The experience made a profound impact on my world view. Meridian opened the Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Women – U.S. Department of State Entrepreneurship Program for Women in the Middle East and North Africa. This year’s program brought women entrepreneurs engaged in the business, technology, media, and nonprofit sectors from the Middle East and North Africa to the U.S. for two weeks of dialogue and exchanges on entrepreneurship, leadership training, public speaking, mentoring, and networking.
One snowy morning in D.C. I participated in 15-minute round-table sessions with Middle Eastern and African female founders. My topic to discuss was work-life balance. I must admit that I had been hoping for something a little meatier like market validation or handling competitors, but as it turned out work-life balance was a uniting struggle that every woman I met faced (myself included).
While our backgrounds, cultures, and religions were quite different, we realized that we had many things in common. We were all women entrepreneurs, most of us were mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends. I shared my viewpoint of changing my definition of success to include all of those roles, not just focusing on being a great CEO. We talked about how easy it is to feel like a failure when we have so many things we are striving to be successful at, and solutions we had devised to “have it all.” One female founder said, “The things you are saying, it’s like you are inside my head!”
As I left the meeting and reflected on the women and companies that were in that room, representing many countries and many cultures, I realized that the way to achieve world peace is to advocate for women’s education and entrepreneurship in every country. If those women and I had to work out ways for our countries to interact peacefully, we could have. Why? Because we could draw on our similarities and a common need to protect our families and livelihoods while respecting our differences. Women can and will change the world. The 10,000 Women initiative is a tiny step in fostering world change. Let’s work together to make that happen sooner!
Here’s a link to another article on the event!