International Women’s Day: A Celebration and a Call to Action

On March 5th, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted their 10th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, “Marking a Milestone, Continuing the Momentum.” There, speakers focused not only on women’s economic empowerment, but also how they can leverage their expertise to contribute to the long-term health and well-being of communities in the U.S. and around the world.

Here are some key insights:

Education and the Future of Work for Women and Girls

  • “I don’t have to be a doctor to save people’s lives. Science, technology, engineering, and math can be so much more than engines,” said Rosie Carrion, a mechanical engineer in Abbott’s Professional Development Program. There, she is gaining experience across all of its businesses, including Vascular, Structural Heart, and Diagnostics.

  • “The private sector can use its brand and voice to shine a light on the issues that women, girls, and refugees are facing… It can move swiftly in a flexible and long-term way… All of [our] data is gender-disaggregated, from needs assessments to monitoring and evaluation, taking into account the different experiences of boys and girls,” said Sarah Smith, Senior Director of Education at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Smith also spoke about the IRC’s partnership with the Sesame Workshop, which offers critical education to refugee children in the Syrian region. This project has become the single largest humanitarian intervention aimed at young children.

  • “How do we anticipate women’s needs for the fourth industrial revolution? The changing nature of the workforce, the gender pay gap, and other issues necessitate a lot of preparation and new skills training for women… The media isn’t giving enough attention to the fact that women – especially women of color – are more prone to displacement,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Castillo was the first Hispanic American woman to become the National Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency.

Gender Diversity and Women’s Leadership

  • “We don’t just measure what we treasure… we use the data to identify an opportunity and fill the gap,” said Angela Guy, the Senior Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion at L’Oréal USA. She spoke about how we can progress toward workplace inclusion by expanding the conversation beyond gender and focusing on intersectionality, taking into account other facets of identity such as race, ability, and sexual orientation.
  • “At Procter & Gamble, we have a global footprint through our advertising and partnerships to be a force for good and for growth… We believe that with representation comes the opportunity for innovation, creativity, and diverse experiences,” said Allison Tummon Kamphuis, Global Program Leader, Gender Equality and Children’s Safe Drinking Water at Procter & Gamble. 

  • “Women are an untapped resource of the economy, both in the developing and the developed world. Stimulating that sector is a core business activity, not just corporate social responsibility,” said Jim Jones, founding Executive Vice President at the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) Fund. He is currently the Director of Global Community Programs and Strategy at the ExxonMobil Foundation, where he oversees major grant-making programs in global health, women’s economic opportunities, and U.S. math and science education.

Women’s Entrepreneurship

  • “Only two percent of venture capital goes to women, and those women have to work extremely hard to get there,” said Ximena Hartsock, Co-Founder and CEO of Phone2Action. She is a pioneer of civic tech, empowering citizens and democratizing access to legislators and other key decision-makers.

  • “I remember sitting in meetings in the early days of Birchbox and feeling like, whatever I said, all the investors heard was, ‘I love lip gloss,’” said Katie Beauchamp, Co-Founder and CEO of Birchbox. She spoke about being underestimated by men and how a lack of female role models in the business world affected her ability to navigate the male-dominated ecosystem.

  • “Latino-owned businesses are the fastest growing in the U.S., so why do investors still not believe in them?” said Melissa L. Bradley, Co-Founder of Ureeka, a platform that provides key resources to small and medium-sized businesses owned by under-represented groups, such as women and people of color. Ureeka offers access to, for example, a collaborative community, mentoring, coaching, and a specialist marketplace.

Our Commitment:

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World has a comprehensive Gender Policy, created in close consultation with global health and agriculture experts, which documents our commitment to gender equality and the application of a gender perspective to all of our work. We strive to secure women’s involvement in the leadership of institutions submitting proposals, in capacity-building programs, as the participants of research, and as the implementers and beneficiaries of interventions. Capacity-building efforts apply to health sciences, agricultural science and interventions, business entrepreneurship, and advocacy. All of our grantees are required to ensure leadership opportunities for women and women’s equitable participation throughout project development, implementation, and reporting phases.