How to Invest in Women: Silicon Valley Financial Consultant On How She Does It

“To girls and women everywhere, I issue a simple invitation. My sisters, my daughters, my friends; find your voice.” - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia and first elected female head of state in Africa.

As we continue through Women’s History Month here in the United States, we must not forget the reason we celebrate. While important to recognise the progress made, we must acknowledge that progress has been far too slow. The world recently celebrated International Women’s Day under the call to “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” Together the world proclaimed a goal of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. At the current rate, that will not happen until the year 2308. These gender-equality measures have annually been underfunded by $360 billion. We must increase our investments. We must put our money where our mouth is. We must make 2024 be the year we truly begin to Invest in Women.

Equality of Opportunity Builds Equality For All

We cannot only use one day or one month, we must devote ourselves wholly to investing in and empowering women all year round. After studying economics and business in Iran, and building my own fashion label from the ground up, unequal rules dictated by equality-fearing leaders limited how much my business could grow. Limited how much I could grow. I went to study business in the United States, and I stayed here and rebuilt myself into a successful consultant and entrepreneur. The lessons I learned as a woman leader building a business gave me a different perspective from many of my classmates. While living in Silicon Valley I saw the struggles faced by countless startups seeking a staircase to success. 

The leaders of these startups, some of the most brilliant minds I have known, came to the crucible of the Internet Age to turn their idea into the next Apple or Facebook. But they needed guidance. They were trying to build a staircase to the top without knowing which way was up. Barriers to entry kept them from the help they needed, that could let them realise their dreams. Few of us can afford the salary of a full-time expert or the small fortune necessary to bring in a major consulting firm. Startup entrepreneurs are no different. By simplifying the complexities of the path in front of them, and offering them actionable financial advice, I have guided over 100 startups toward growth. Silicon Valley startups have changed the way we work, the way we travel. By failing to invest in women, we are leaving behind half of our entrepreneurs, half of our startup CEOs - and the ideas they have that can change the world. If we truly want to Invest in Women and Accelerate Progress, we must give them the guidance they need, reduce the barriers they face. If we invest in women, women will be the ones who bring the world the Next Big Thing.

Invest. Build. Empower. 

Just as I worked firsthand and saw the difference mentorship and proper guidance can have in Silicon Valley, so too have I seen the difference proper investment can make. From bringing in the right minds to being able to afford the best advice, the best space, the best equipment, money matters. When it comes to women, it is more so. Women have different experiences, different lives, and can draw on these to bring invaluable insights to the business table. 

To achieve this we cannot only invest in women for other businesses, in helping women create other companies, we must build inclusive and diverse workspaces of our own. Part of my advice to any entrepreneur is to leave no stone unturned, no well untapped, when it comes to finding talent. I have advised countless businesses on creating inclusive workplaces, where the unique strengths of every individual, regardless of gender, are recognised and celebrated. 

To ensure women can thrive in all offices and boardrooms, can build their careers at any company or go anywhere to build their own company, we must empower women leaders. The value of mentorship truly cannot be overstated when 75% of executives credit their success to mentors, according to the Association for Talent Development. Given that 71% of executives choose to mentor employees who are of their same gender or race, investing in women must happen from the top down as well. Not only must we build workspaces that encourage women to take on leadership positions, we must push those in leadership roles to join us in accelerating progress. By encouraging women to take on leadership positions, innovation and diversity within organisations will gain a momentum of their own. If we invest properly in women, that investment will yield dividends for all for generations to come.

Injustice Anywhere Everywhere Is A Threat to Justice Everywhere.

When I came to Silicon Valley I was able to grow my business as never before, a business built on helping other people build theirs. However I learned that  entrenched interests will never be the ally women need. When women gain economic power, they will be able to wield power elsewhere. We must stand together and empower women. We must do more than welcome our sisters into the halls of economic power. We must build those spaces into ones where women can succeed. Where women can thrive.

I did not escape unequal rules dictated by equality fearing leaders when I left Iran. The fight for equality in the United States is not the same as the fight for equality in Iran, or any of the different fights in countries all over the world. From Malala Yousafzai to Mahsa Amini, we cannot wait on tragedy to start a revolution. The revolution starts with us. In every boardroom, in every office interaction, we must lay the foundation in which women have access to the same opportunities for advancement, can achieve the same progress, as the men they work alongside.

That is why we must all rally behind the call to “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” We must take this literally. The importance of urging our elected officials and governments to make good on the Sustainable Development Goal pledges made in 2015 cannot be understated. But we cannot wait on our leaders to act while doing nothing ourselves. 

We, too, must invest in women. We must be the ones to accelerate that progress.