By Kai Lin & Cecilia Toro
Though we celebrate women all year round, we wanted to take this International Women’s Day to highlight some of the women who continuously inspire us with their work.
Women have been tirelessly doing the work necessary to arrive at a place where feminism is celebrated and supported instead of disregarded. There is certainly more work to be done, and it requires the kind of passion, determination, and creativity women have.
But, much can and should be said about the work that has been done. It shows us how strong and resilient we are and that should inspire us to continue doing the hard work so that there’s always a place for women to use their voice and make changes for good.
Below are some amazing interviews with women who started their own sustainable businesses and they share their thoughts on their experiences in these industries. Achieving one’s dream is no small feat and these women are living examples that anything can be done with hard work and determination despite the hardships we may inevitably face.
Are there any hardships you faced as a businesswoman?
Julie and Marie, Designers and founders of Skall Studio:
“We are two creative persons, and we have to admit that the business part has not always been our strongest. This is why we are so grateful to have some great collaborators – we could not have done it without them. We are also extremely grateful to work in an industry with room to combine motherhood and business. We both have small children and we have always felt a natural support. Both in relation to leaving early to get our children or bring them to the office when they were babies. This is something we want to pass on to our employees.
Cora, co-founder and CEO of Rêve En Vert:
‘Raising investment funds as a young woman was incredibly difficult – I ended up approaching other women who I knew had a passion for sustainability and female-led businesses to invest in Rêve En Vert’
Aya Ahmad – Founder of Fyne Jewellery:
I’ve been very lucky to have a supportive network but I do think that as a business woman it is harder to make a lasting impression and to be taken seriously. Sometimes it feels like we need to work ‘extra hard’ to be put on the same pedestal as men. Prior to launching Fyne, I felt that my time was not always respected – but actions do speak louder than words – and that quickly changed after I had something tangible to show for all my hard work.
Samata Pattinson – CEO of Red Carpet Green Dress and founder of The Tribe:
From a global perspective, I would say that successful women often find themselves being questioned when it comes to their work, authority and capability. That is pretty standard, the presence of an undertone that you owe your position to someone else versus deserve to be in the room due to your capability and intellect.
Being a female CEO can often come with its challenges but the words I live by are “I Am Enough”. Coincidentally, the space that I work in, sustainable fashion, is a women’s rights issue, particularly when you consider that the majority of clothing made around the world is constructed by women, the majority of fashion houses have a predominantly female crew with few female CEOs and women make up 70% of fashion graduates but tend to make up the majority of the ‘bottom’ of the industry.
While women seem to have a better chance at succeeding in this space — out of the 24 female CEOs on the Fortune 500, nine of them run specialty retailers — there’s still an imbalance. For me, the key is to remain determined and welcome challenges with an open mind. Facing challenges also shapes you into the person you become.
This year has particularly brought challenges. As a young mother, I’ve learnt to pause and spend dedicated time with my family.
Nynne Kunde, fashion designer and founder of Nynne Kunde:
Of course, there will always be hardships as a woman in business, particularly during negotiations. However, as a woman, I feel fortunate for those who were before me and have pathed the way to bring more females to the table.
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What are your thoughts about women in the sustainability industry?
Julie and Marie:
“Luckily there are some very strong voices out there. Furthermore, we think sustainability and the goal to take better care of the planet goes hand in hand with women’s natural compassion. We think we are obliged to use this as designers and changemakers.”
That we need more of them!
Not to stereotype, but several studies have proven that women are more likely to prioritise sustainability due to their compassionate and empathetic nature. This is also the reason that there is a huge female led movement in the sustainability industry. I think women are first in line when it comes to championing the green movement and we are definitely raising the bar!
I am extremely grateful for the women who are defining and challenging the industry, fighting for a more sustainable future not just for the environment, which is typically the default area of concern, but for communities too. For me the work of people like Suzy Amis Cameron, Aja Barber, Dominique Drakeford, Orsola De Castro, Eva Kruse and others, is really something to be celebrated and being in the space with women like this is energising.
I especially praise the work of emerging designers who are so mindful of the impact of the fashion industry on the planet and are setting the example for the generations to come. Through RCGD, we engage with talents whose wish is to make a concrete difference and spread awareness. I feel extremely fortunate to have been given a platform to further educate others within this industry.
I applaud women working within the sustainable movement, it’s something I’m very passionate about myself and a key pillar at NYNNE. Our AW21 collection is made from 65% recycled materials, I find the more we can push forward and discover new ways to be sustainable the better, especially within the fashion industry which has created so much waste over the years.
Can you name three things that you are proud of as a woman?
Julie and Marie:
“First of all, we think women are born with a strong intuition and therefore also a strong ability to understand themselves and others. This is something we can benefit from, both in our private and professional lives. Personally, we are very much driven by our intuition, also when it comes to Skall Studio. Women are also born with a strong compassion which is essential, also when it comes to good leadership. Finally, we are very proud of being mothers. The gift of giving life to another human being is just magical and extraordinary, and we feel very humble and grateful to have been given the opportunity of motherhood. We are aware that some women do not have the opportunity psychically, but we believe that all women are born with a natural sense of motherhood.”
My passion, my empathy and my dedication to others besides myself.
1. I’m proud to know how many previous generations of women have struggled and fought for us to come this far: we should never take that for granted. 2. I’m proud that women are pioneering the change in the sustainability field: studies reveal that as more women enter top executive positions, they are putting climate responsibility at the front of the agenda. 3. I’m also proud that historically women have always worked hard and filled up employment gaps in difficult times like the World War II era – and they did so even though they were paid unfairly.
1. Being able to highlight other women within my work through the AW21 collection was a proud moment for me, especially as this included my sister. This decision was a way to give back and thank all of the women who have supported me, inspired me and those who need inspiring, that we can do anything we set our minds to. 2.I’m proud that I have an all-women team behind me, supporting me and pushing me as a community within my work, as well as being able to support their talent and careers within NYNNE. 3. The whole concept of NYNNE is to create clothing that empowers and fills the wearer with confidence. I take powerful silhouettes such as the power suit and lighten them to reflect the feminine side of being a woman. We need to embrace this not a weakness, it is one of our many strengths and something I find great inspiration from. I’m proud that each season NYNNE develops, we continue to dress incredible women globally as well as take inspiration from pioneering women from the past.
What should we as women be doing more of?
Julie and Marie:
“Well, we are all so very busy doing our best as mothers, friends, wives and at work. This is great but sometimes it is ok to lower your shoulders, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are doing a fantastic job.”
Leading by example. I think that women can influence their children, families, friends and partners so much – a strong woman is one of the best role models I can think of and when you add to that fighting for social justice, environment and a sustainable future than I can’t think of very many things that would shine brighter as beacons of hope!
We need to be more adamant about what we want and speak up for ourselves: in work and at home. A lot of women in corporate jobs are too afraid to ask for salary raises, while men are more inclined to do so. Not only that, but we frequently put ourselves second and are ‘givers’ more than we are ‘takers.’ I think it’s definitely time we start taking care of ourselves first.
Definitely uplifting each other but also making space for women to be more proactive, more outspoken, more direct, more ambitious – it feels like we live in a society that punishes women for having these characteristics when they are traits to be admired. Now is the time for us to be building each other up regardless of race, religion, age or orientation is the number one way to empowerment, something I believe you rediscover in yourself versus can be given by someone else. I see womanhood as a blessing and women empowering women should not be such a rare, uncelebrated occurrence that makes headlines.
Using our voices or the stages we have available to us to support each other, whether this is within business or our friendship circles. We need to remove the stigma around women being each other’s competitions and build each other up to achieve greatness, celebrating these achievements together as a community as this is how I believe we will become stronger.
When asking what does International Women’s Day mean to them, there seems to be one thing in common, celebrating the women of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Julie and Marie:
“International women’s day reminds us of what we have achieved as women. It makes us proud and gives us hope for the future. In some part of the world there is still a job to do.”
“International Women’s Day is a more honed version of every day for me!”
“I love International Women’s Day because of what it represents: It’s a day where we can celebrate our historical accomplishments while remembering the amazing women who have spoken up, rebelled and paved the way for what we have today. I also find IWD a huge source of inspiration for the change we want to see in the world.”
“International Women’s Day is significant as a celebration of global womanhood, women who continue to face social, political, economic and cultural challenges everyday in all corners of the globe. Turning this day into a year-round movement, I decided to launch THE TRIBE in 2016 which is an empowerment journal. ’
For me, it’s a day we celebrate what it means to be a woman and those women who have been pioneers for us now.
The beauty of having women pave the way for so many of us is that there will always be space to keep growing and learning, each time creating more opportunities for other women to succeed. However discouraged you may feel, don’t be afraid to pursue whatever it is you want. Success is closer than you think.
Now, manifest on this quote, “There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise” – Bosa Sebele.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Let us know in the comments below, or join the conversation by subscribing to our newsletter here.