Building Inclusion Into Your Business – with Chiara Condi

How do you find the confidence you need as a woman, to be empowered to speak up for your rights and demand equality? Today’s show explains why you don’t need a course or a book to teach you how to have confidence. Everything you need is within you right now! You just need the self-awareness to know what you’re worth to the world!

Chiara Condi is a gender diversity expert and advocate for a world with more female founders and better rights for women. She’s the founder of the non-profit, Led By HER, which supports women’s entrepreneurship, creating a world where discrimination and gender violence don’t exist and diversity in business and entrepreneurship is a fact. In this episode, Chiara and I chat about building inclusive entrepreneurship models, how companies can create successful mentorship and sponsorship programs, what an inclusive digital economy really means, and the reason why she thinks imposter syndrome isn’t real. 

Living the dream

Chiara lived in Italy until age 12, when she moved to the US. After college at Harvard, she got a fellowship to study in Paris and then went to the London of School of Economics. She’s back in Paris now, pursuing her passion and building a mission-driven business around entrepreneurship, women’s rights, and how innovation can bring change. Chiara created her own organization to become a stronger voice in impacting the environment around women’s empowerment.

Keys for women entrepreneurs

We can empower women as individuals, but the hostile environment around them will stop their progress. In 2018, the Me Too movement showed that the culture and its surroundings weren’t ready to accept women. For so long, women were powerless, couldn’t evolve, and had to fight for rights. The historical and cultural heritage of the past has set the pattern of oppression and inequality, the vestiges of which are still present today. Chiara explains how each of us can be a gender-empowerment hero.

Led By HER

It’s been five years since Chiara started her non-profit, Led By HER, which empowers women who have suffered from violence – all through entrepreneurship. Chiara helps women become entrepreneurs through courses, volunteer opportunities with organizations, and organizing events to encourage support for women in entrepreneurship. She explains the connection between violence and entrepreneurship, which is a vehicle for change with an exponential effect. She’s committed to helping those with no voice to find and use their voice through acquiring skills and coaching to help them become leaders who give back.

“Hackathons”

These events foster the magic of improbable people coming together to support women entrepreneurs, and not just for technology. It’s a way to accelerate entrepreneurial projects by women, and Chiara makes sure students, employees, entrepreneurs, and freelancers are invited to collaborate, work on projects, and present them in front of a jury. Everyone gets the “prize” of mentorship for their project, and women entrepreneurs are exposed to resources and networking connections. 

True mentorship

Chiara has very specific ideas about how companies can create impactful mentorships. There are lots of weaknesses in most current mentorship programs. She says it has to be more than a one-on-one relationship between a mentee and mentor. We need to build more collective mentoring programs and have them support each other and not just stand alone. Mentors need the skill set for coaching and not just expertise.

An inclusive digital economy

Why is this an important subject? Because if women aren’t a part of the digital economy today, then they won’t be a part of it in the future. Women have to be part of the artificial intelligence advancement and technology, and women should be included everywhere as creators and users of digital technology. How do we cultivate this new paradigm shift? Chiara says we need to get young girls into STEM education and projects, and companies should put resources into training tomorrow’s women engineers. Are we truly creating the pipeline for the future?

Using quotas

Along with the idea of a pipeline of women in STEM for the future, we need to consider the effects of positive discrimination and quotas. Since women are not hired or promoted as often as men, choosing a certain percentage of the population can force us to change. If we don’t see change, then white men are only going to be replaced with other white men. Quotas will make us look for permanent change and go against the existing biases and step outside our comfort zone. 

What is confidence?

Many people think they need to read a book or take a course on how to gain confidence. Chiara says no one can give you confidence or help you repair it, but you. It’s there inside you right now! Finding your talent and your passion allows the alignment with confidence to happen. You have to know who you are – that’s self-awareness. Once you know what you know, then you’ll tell other people. The first step in autonomy is knowing what your worth is to the world. 

Highlights of this episode:

  • 3:55 – Building a business around activism
  • 5:20 – Key elements for creating successful ecosystems for women entrepreneurs
  • 12:15 – Chiara’s non-profit, Led By HER
  • 14:40 – The connection between violence and entrepreneurship
  • 17:20 – Shifting the narrative toward leadership
  • 21:47 – Hackathons and how they bring people together
  • 25:28 – How to build community around projects
  • 29:04 – How companies should do mentorship
  • 36:30 – Creating an inclusive digital economy
  • 44:00 – Advice about owning your confidence
  • 48:35 – Fem Five

Resources Mentioned:

The Fem Five:

1. Favorite book to recommend for women?

  • The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • “Yoga, because it sends the message to your brain that you’re putting yourself first.”

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “You have to believe in yourself before others will.”

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your five years younger self?

  • “Do everything sooner. Do it today and don’t wait.”

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

Good Leadership is Compassionate Leadership – with Laurel Donellan


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