Womensphere: Women You Should Know
February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is the second guest post by Georgia Tech student, Melissa McCoy. Make sure to check out Melissa’s earlier post here.
When she walked up onto the stage I wasn’t sure if 24-year-old Jessica Posner was a lost undergraduate attendee who thought this was the way to the restroom or the just-announced speaker; apparently she was the speaker. Confidently but humbly she began to tell of her experience in Kenya and how she created Shining Hope for Communities (www.hopetoshine.org/), a non-profit that combats extreme poverty and gender inequality in Kibera- Africa’s largest slum. Her story was inspiring not only because she was so young but also for the level of impact she is making. Shining Hope runs the Kibera School for Girls- the slum’s first free school for girls, as well as a community health clinic, clean toilet initiative, youth and community education, and economic development initiatives. The school is helping young girls in Kenya as well as giving motivation to young women of my generation to go create this kind of change in the world. From her speech and story, I learned that you’re never too young, unskilled, or unknowledgeable to create the change you wish to see. Jessica won the 2010 Do Something Award and was named “Amerca’s top-world changer 25 and under” live on VH1 (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_15550044). Shining Hope has been featured on CNN, in Fast Company Magazine, and The New York Times and won the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition as well as been recognized by Newman’s Own Foundation.
Later in the day, the founder and CEO of T3, the largest independent advertising agency owned by a woman in the country, with offices in Austin, New York, and San Francisco was introduced. I was intrigued not only by this introduction and but also by the all-too-familiar Texas-accent she began to speak with. In 1989, Gay Gaddis started T3 with two employees and a $16,000 IRA, after her former company failed to support a new business model, she developed a company that combined creative advertising with scientific measurement. She trusted her gut and never looked back and the level-mindedness, personality, and effective communication that no doubt led to her success was strikingly apparent when listening to her speech and meeting her in person after the event. She is showing women that it is possible not only to build a multimillion-dollar company from the ground up, but also that it’s possible to do it while having a family and maintaining a healthy balance. She has a strong marriage and 3 children, 2 of whom work with her in the company. My favorite thing she said was “Just do it. So many women entrepreneurs piddle around and don’t move forward and it’s better to just jump and fight to survive.” She is a strong role model for women entrepreneurs, especially those with a small business who are unsure about growing, as well as those of my generation who are becoming vastly more concerned with balancing career and family ambitions. Gay reminded me so much of my chemical engineering mother who now runs her own engineering consulting business and I’m so glad women of their generation are inspiring and pushing young women of today to reach for their dreams like they did.