Last Sunday, I was fortunate enough to get to witness something that I have never experienced before: over 600 driven, determined, and successful Iranian-American women came together under one roof in San Francisco to celebrate each others’ achievements and contributions. The event was the Iranian American Women’s Leadership Conference, organized by the Iranian-American Women Foundation (IAWF), which aims to inspire, connect, and empower Iranian-American women of all ages.
The caliber of speakers and attendees was phenomenal! Speakers included people like Anousheh Ansari (1st Female Private Space Explorer & Co-Founder of Prodea System), Parisa Khosravi (Senior VP for CNN Worldwide), Mahvash Yazdi (Chief Information Officer for Edison International), and Anna Eshoo (Congresswoman) to just name a few.
Being part of the Organizing Committee of this event, I saw firsthand the efforts, challenges, discussions, and collaborations that went into pulling this successful event together. It’s worth noting that none of this would have been possible without the clear vision and superior leadership of the IAWF President and Founder, Mariam Khosravani. As a Product Manager, whose job is to understand and build what users/people want, I really appreciate when leaders build products or offer services that perfectly cater to their target group’s taste. Since this past Sunday, I can’t stop repeating to my family and friends how well Mariam knew her audience and how deliberately she calibrated and customized everything in this conference to perfectly match her audience’s needs and preferences. Every little touch was well thought out and perfectly harmonized with the rest of the user experience during the conference.
Having organizations like IAWF and events like the Women’s Leadership Conference are critical for nurturing and empowering women for success. Below are the top 4 reasons why I think these types of efforts and organizations are super valuable:
- Platform to celebrate success: Generally men are much better in promoting themselves than women. Our media, societies, and cultures also tend to promote men more than women. This holds particularly true for Iranians. As a result, having platforms like IAWF to put the spotlight on women and their successes is essential. I personally had no idea we have so many super successful Iranian-American women in many different fields, from the C-level executives of multi-billion dollar American companies to leading positions at the White House. It’s through communities like IAWF that we get to know our movers and shakers and those who’ve paved the path for the next generation.
- Raise the bar on what the possibilities are: These types of events empower the younger generation of women to look around the room and feel that breaking norms and glass ceilings is so doable and so achievable. If you focus on your big dreams, visualize them very vividly, and work really hard towards them, there is nothing out of realm of possibility, even a private trip into space! As my hero, Anousheh Ansari, said in her super motivational speech during the opening ceremony of the IAW Conference, “Imagination is a gift given to each and every one of us, but we are not utilizing it enough; particularly when we grow older.” Dream, and dream big! Stay focus, and stay you! And everything becomes a possibility.
- Connect people with the same interests: Bringing a group of like-minded women who are focused and determined towards their goals is valuable in and of itself. The connections established in such settings can often lead to friendships or business relationships — hiring, investments, deals, partnerships — that can nourish both parties.
- Enable mentorship opportunities: Bringing multiple generations of women from all over the country and all walks of life together enables women who are in the earlier stages of their careers to access and connect to other successful women in their field. If there is the right chemistry and level of interest from both sides, these types of relations could manifest into more formal mentorships, something that can be very powerful in any individual’s career development.
If you were at the IAWF event last week, I hope you enjoyed it and took the most out of it. If you were not, I hope you join the next event or find other local events that support and empower women. Who we are is defined by the communities to which we belong…Surround yourself with those who support you, teach you, and empower you for success.
Please share this with your network and express your view on the topic as well.
By Yasi Baiani: Product Lead @ Fitbit, Startup Advisor, Entrepreneur & Researcher in Health & Wellness, Blogger.