By Reece Soltani (In Collaboration with Andrew Koved)
Other than being the first sunny day in Silicon Valley, I’m not sure many people were aware of this significance of this past Saturday. For those wondering, it was International Women’s Day. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was “Inspiring Change”, a noble theme if there ever was one. I look forward to IWD every year because it is a chance to take stock of all the progressive, game-changing and proud accomplishments achieved in just one year by 52% of the world’s population, and this years’ was no different.
I think though that the theme for this year is truly apt, because for as much as we need to champion the successes of women, we also need to remember that many women aren’t ever granted the privilege to realize their dreams. “Inspiring Change” means taking all of the fantastic examples of women excelling and shouting that from the mountain tops.
FEDU is a tech startup in Silicon Valley, a place where there are too few women starting their own companies. Women are going to college in higher numbers than men, so why aren’t we at least founding companies in similar numbers? The hugely successful Sheryl Sandberg should be a blueprint for women to take charge, and not used as an example of one of the only women to advance in tech.
Here at FEDU, we believe that education is about progress and the process. Not necessarily about where you end up, but about the journey along the way. About the yearning to be a lifelong learner. “Inspiring Change” can be viewed the same, where it is more important for women to take their first steps towards their goals than it is they all become COO’s of companies like Facebook. No role too small, no step to little.
My goal for every March 8th is to take a moment from the million-mile-per-minute pace around me to reflect and question, “What are other women doing well and how can I learn from them?” I came across this quote on Saturday by Melinda Gates that struck a cord personally, and really spoke to this years’ theme. She said “A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman”.
Of course Mrs. Gates meant this to be a positive quote, but I couldn’t help but be sadden a bit by its underlying implication: that a female without a strong voice today is not considered a woman, and one not to be taken seriously. But for all the females around the world working –in the tech world or outside- through hierarchical tensions silently, pushing through several unskilled 9-5 labor jobs hoping to provide a better life for their children, and all the women like that one grandmother who carried her granddaughter with cerebral palsy 6-miles to and from school everyday, you are by definition a strong woman. Especially for the 10 women in India recently funded by FEDU who wanted to learn cooperative dairy farming in order to generate more steady lives for their families post-Monsoon season, I tip my hat to your strength in particular.
I want to leave you with this idea, that it is not the volume or authority with which you speak, but the fact you are “speaking” at all; success, both in life and for women, is about inspiring others to aspire and to create change. Women have a lot to celebrate and feel proud of from 2013, and I look forward to seeing our triumphs in 2014.
Happy (belated) International Women’s Day all!