When was the first time you heard of International Women's Day?
For me, it was 9 years ago on a trip to Peru.
For me, it was 9 years ago on a trip to Peru.
It was 2011, and I was attending business school in Bloomington, Indiana. A long way from LA which I called home for so long. While at school, I had the opportunity to join an international program (GLOBASE) and offer pro bono consulting to small businesses in Peru. Our team was tasked with helping a Peruvian entrepreneur export bamboo into the US market. This was also my first time learning about Pachamama, which later became the inspiration for MamaP. In the last dinner on March 8, 2011, our client wished the women a Happy International Women's Day. Ironically, we hadn’t heard this before and discovered it was better known outside the US. It got me thinking why it wasn’t bigger in the US?
The first Women’s Day happened in New York City, on February 28, 1909, organized by the Socialist Party of America, at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel. This event inspired other countries to hold International Women’s Day, targeted at supporting women’s suffrage, holding public office, and protesting employment sex discrimination. Fast forward to 2011, President Obama proclaimed Women’s History Month and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges", on the eve of IWD. I believed 2011 was the year that helped restart the long battle for women’s equality. It keeps growing in momentum, and it’s beautiful to watch how this movement is evolving society towards more balanced equality.
While I recognize, womxn’s equality still has a ways to go, I view it as a challenge to build a world we can all be proud of. My favorite expression is, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” in that, small things we do everyday can have a big impact on the future. At least that’s how I see it.
At the early stages of the company, it was fellow women who were the early supporters. Men seemed a bit more weary of the vision and most encouraged me to keep my day job. There was one exception, an male friend who I’d known for over 10 years heard about MamaP and to my surprise - he was immediately supportive and interested in helping out. Jay Sueno, Co-founder and Chief Community Officer, was one of the first folks to truly believe in the vision and wanted to join. Knowing him, he had a passion for the environment and is one of the most inclusive people I know. While I acknowledged we had different personalities and working styles, at the core foundation, we both believe that diversity and inclusion are so critical in building teams. I’m thankful to have a business partner who treats women and everyone equally as fellow human beings. For us entrepreneurs, we’re lucky enough to build companies from the ground up, and work with folks who align with the culture. More importantly, include allies into the network.
As the CEO of MamaP, I’ve made it a mission to build the company with diversity and inclusion from day 1. Womxn’s equality - along with basic human equality is assumed. Our team has grown to include folks from around the country and world, spanning over 40 years age difference, genders, socio economic and education differences, and many other types of backgrounds. We appreciate diversity because it yields some of the best ideas. It’s critical when building a team that all voices are heard, respect is given, and biases are minimized - we strive to treat each other and customers with equal respect. Recently, our team has become more sensitive to pronouns and how they’re used. Instead of saying things like, “Hey guys,” we’re moving towards, “Hey everybody.” It’s wild to see how ingrained pronouns are used everyday and how hard it is to break old habits. I’m guilty of using the term ‘guys’ to refer to mixed genders. But I truly believe, the more aware we are of these small things, like using the term ‘guys’, the more aware we will be when larger decisions need to be made - like setting salaries.
It’s up to all of us to make waves in our daily lives and to stand up for what's right. I’ve always encouraged my friends and colleagues to be open with their thoughts. If you ever feel yourself in an unequal situation - for example, a colleague constantly talks over you or you feel judged on a different scale than your peers - speak up. Find the right time and place, and speak to your manager, friend, or colleague in a respectful manner. Sometimes folks might not realize how they’re behaving and all it takes is for someone to point it out. This may not always work, but we’ve got to honor and stand up for ourselves when we can. We have to work together and help each other move towards equality for all.
Happy International Womxn’s Day!
Suz, Founder + CEO