Encouraging Women to Pursue Business and Technology
by Madeline Friedman
Several hundred female innovators from across the country recently came together to build professional skills and relationships, and to share experiences at the fourth annual Women Entrepreneurs Festival. Hosted by the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), a two-year graduate program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and founded by Nancy Hechinger and Joanne Wilson, the Women Entrepreneurs Festival aims to foster a strong community of women entrepreneurs by giving them inspiration, information, advice, and support.
ITP graduate and regular attendee Susan Sandler was among the many entrepreneurs attending this year’s festival. Sandler is a digital brand and marketing strategist who is most recently the founder of PopUpSummer!, an alternative retailing and exhibition company, and has formerly served as Vice President of U.S. Interactive and Senior Director at international public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.
One of the biggest benefits of the festival, Sandler said, is the opportunity for women to speak about their own personal journey. “This is something most business conferences don’t do,” she said. “[Conference organizers] have really encouraged that level of sharing in this environment, which is unique.” She added, “I think that there is a deeper level of sharing about the work-life balance.”
Besides giving participants the opportunity to share and learn from others’ experiences, the festival also facilitates the formation of new professional connections. This year’s festival featured a “High-Speed Networking” event to further encourage community-building. Sandler said that the networking is valuable for personal and professional purposes. “In that environment, you’re meeting with other women who are interested in working with women entrepreneurs, and others who are offering services, so there might be people you wanted to hire, if you’re looking for web developers or other professionals.”
The theme of the Fourth Annual Women Entrepreneurs Festival Challenge was “Be Bold.” Speakers presented about the courage it takes to start a new business. They included festival co-chairs Joanne Wilson (Gotham Gal) and Nancy Hechinger (ITP); Vanessa O’Connell, Entrepreneurship Editor of The Wall Street Journal; Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of the New America Foundation; and Geraldine Laybourne, serial entrepreneur and founder of Oxygen Media and current Chair of KANDU, a start-up consumer technology company for kids.
Highlights of this year’s conference can be viewed at http://itp.nyu.edu/we/2014/.