The Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts launched the Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Institute (GWEI) in Atlanta, Georgia from November 1-4. The four-day event was birthed from the highly successful Africa Atlanta 2014, a citywide yearlong series of events highlighting Atlanta as the nexus for reinventing the cultural and economic bonds among Africa, Europe and the Americas.
This invitation only event hosted approximately 45 women, many of whom were participants from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Zambia as well as local participants from the City of Atlanta.
The GWEI has partnered with leading local and international private and governmental entities to select and connect African and Atlanta-based women entrepreneurs who represent the industries of agribusiness, technology, manufacturing and media/entertainment.
Managing director of the GWEI, DeShawn Jenkins, said that the initiative is important, as there are so many commonalities among women regarding business.
“We were learning, the last couple of days, that women overcoming fear, women taking challenges, women really working together and to have that transatlantic opportunity is something that we really understood,” Jenkins said. “As we climb we pull up and so as we are working together and realizing that not only we can do that in our own city but we can do that in various countries and continents.”
The initiative began with a welcome reception followed by two days of intense, high-level training sessions covering topics such as marketing strategies, building and managing wealth and social responsibility.
Launching this type of initiative in Atlanta fits into the hustle and bustle of the city’s business scene since, according to Metro Atlanta Chamber, Atlanta is ranked in the top ten metro areas for entrepreneurial activity, and women-owned businesses have grown by 63 percent from 2002 to 2014.
Dean Dr. Jacqueline Royster, the first black Dean of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, mentioned that there needs to be a focus on collaboration, not competition, among women from around the world when it comes to business practices.
“We are in many ways more alike than different. We have to spend the time getting to know personally who we all are and how we can connect and what kinds of things we can do together,” she said. “So that it is a deliberate choice to do what we do so that it is an intentional act to do what we do.”
She added that once women feel the power that they hold, they will know they can use it. During the closing reception ceremony, Yawa Hansen-Quao, founder of Leading Ladies’ Network, in Ghana, and GWEI mentor, spoke on the negative attention that Africa receives instead of discussing women with good ideas.
“I like that this program is looking at helping us think bigger. Travel changes you without your permission and over these past couple of days, I’ve changed,” Hansen-Quao said. “There’s been a realness and a vulnerability in all of the sessions, all of the speakers and trainers.”
With the success and excitement from this year’s Initiative, Jenkins said that they are already planning the next steps for GWEI.
“There’s been two challenges, one to take it to Ghana and the next to take it to South Africa,” she said.
She mentioned that they would connect all of the participants, so that they can continue to update with learning opportunities and continue to develop.
“The Ivan Allen College is very heavily focused on researching on international affairs and there will be a research component to determine what’s the before and after and what gap are we filling as a research institution as well.”