Gitanjali Swamy, a longtime investor and technology professional, filed this dispatch from Hyderabad, India.
GES started in a very Indian way, with chaos, color, emotion and diversity. The spirit of global collaboration was infectious and the entrepreneurial delegation was exuberant. Rapidly formed messaging groups and new friendships buzzed throughout the day.
The winning speech came from Ivanka Trump, who made a powerful case for women entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneurial story Ms. Trump highlighted, focused as much on its impact as the execution in theentrepreneur’s journey; whether it was 3D printing for disaster areas or an AI powered glove for remote medicine. In a yellow and green brocade gown, Ms. Trump’s charm, warmth and infectious smile stole the show.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi followed Ms. Trump’s theme of women-first, noting that more than 50% of the attendees were women entrepreneurs; a notable first. Mr. Modi spoke about GST, the new national sales tax, bankruptcy regulation and minority investor protections. Mr Modi lauded technological sovereign achievements like Aadhaar, India’s unique-identifier, and smart cities to highlight an emerging digital nation with tech-savvy entrepreneurs.
He concluded with a challenge for the rest of the world to come ‘make in India.’ All in all, a promising first day at GES.”
Today, nearly 40% of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates are women, but only a handful of top C-suite positions are held by women. The solution isn’t parachuting a few privileged women to the top, or pushing another generation of women into the workplace minefield, where they may be taken down by higher attrition, lower promotion and lack of funding, not to mention sexual harassment, discrimination and pervasive unconscious bias.
The most consistently articulated complaint of the 50 women entrepreneurs polled at GES was lack of adequate funding. As the jobs of the future change through the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ it is critical that we design the workplace of the future to leverage the greater innovation, participation, empathy that a diverse, balanced and respectful workforce delivers to humanity.
Outside the conference halls, a highly educated and committed group of entrepreneurs was working out ways to collaborate globally. It was not just the many women delegates from hundreds of startups, but the presence of initiatives like Women Investing in Women and investors like the International Financial Corp. All are talking about real initiatives and policy changes today. It is clear from GES that the time for lip service has passed and that men and women together are going to create a better future for the world.