On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
On October 12, 2016, Whistler, BC will celebrate the International Day of the Girl: Sparkle and Grit. This day is not just about or for girls – this day is about raising the awareness of everyone that we must invest in all youth. Change our attitudes to grow a strong and vibrant community.
This celebration this year is smartly named “Sparkle and Grit”. I love meeting people with ideas – ideas they believe in – you can “see” the idea sparkling in their eye. They see it. They can so easily describe it. Lots of people have sparkle but not all people have the grit to get it done.
I recently read Angela Duckworth’s book “GRIT”. It’s a must read for all parents, educators, students, and businesspeople. It reveals the secret to outstanding achievement. It really resonated as “GRIT” is all about passion and perseverance. It’s not about who is most talented. It’s about who believes in their passions and follows through on their commitments. They figure out how to get it done. Whatever “it” is.
When I was growing up there was no celebration for the International Day of the Girl. When I think back to that – I personally don’t think that it was unusual. Growing up as a girl in a very traditional family – I was expected to do well in school and everything I did. I was expected to go to University and get a degree. After that I was expected to get married, stay home and raise children. BUT – somewhere I got a different message. Somehow these parental driven expectations were missed. Frankly it’s not that I was not aware of the expectation – I certainly was – but for some reason I did not care. I had other ideas and other things to do.
I did get good grades – top of my class. I did excel at varsity sports as well as provincial level and national level sports. I was and am a very high achiever – being the youngest of 5 kids (2 brothers and 2 sisters) in 6 years. I did go to university and get a four year degree by the time I was 21. I also went back for two more degrees in the very male dominated faculty of Computer Science. I still did not care that I was only 1 of 2 girls in Computer Science Degree class as well as my Masters of Computer Science. I was definitely aware but did not care. Why?
Even after graduating from university and moving out to Whistler, BC to build my first tech company with 3 other co-founders one of which who 15 years old – I did not pay any attention to gender. Really – why should I. All I wanted to do was build a global payment processing company and believed we could. When I was the last founder standing after a few years and CEO of the company – I was aware there were not many female CEOs in general and definitely not in tech. I did not care.
When we sold this company to a US company and became the first female executive in the history of this company – I did not care. I can remember being warned that there were no female leaders in this company. I did learn more about gender awareness that is taking place in the world through this experience but I did not let it stop me from being the very best to achieve the business results we were striving for.
I did leave and start another global FinTech company with a partner. As CEO – my peers in the industry were still all male. I did not care. Not a bit.
I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at all kinds of events – business, educational, universities and female focused. It’s interesting the questions that I get asked at the female focused events over the events. How were you able to raise $20+ million as a female? How did you keep your team so diverse? Why did you go into Computer Science? How did you know you would be successful as a female? WOW!
None of these questions even entered my mind til then. And it’s funny – that the answer to all of these questions are the same – I believed in myself. I was passionate about what I was doing. And thankfully I was able to find a whole-team of like-minded people who wanted to achieve the same goals. Looking back it was the inherent support of my family, friends, teachers, and coaches and their belief in me.
Come out and hear some great “Sparkle and Grit” stories from the youngest winners of BC Top 30 under 30 - Angela Wang and Madelaine Liu of Culitech. Devon Brooks – co-founder of Blo and named by PROFIT Magazine as 1 of the Top 30 entrepreneurs in Canada. And myself – Serial Entrepreneur and recognized as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40.
The film Dream, Girl will also be screened that highlights U.S. and Canadian, female entrepreneurs from brand new start ups to million dollar industries, in a mission to stop telling girls they can be anything they want to be and show them what it means to be a leader.
Whistler’s Celebration of International Day of the Girl is presented by www.shannonsusko.com. We need to support our local youth – male and female – in way that they first believe in themselves, are passionate about an idea, have the courage and confidence to take action and the grit to get it done.
Don’t miss this opportunity to support this community event being held at the Rainbow Theatre – 6:30pm – get your tickets https://ticketzone.com/event/504/international-day-of-the-girl-whistler-sparkle-and-grit All proceeds go to support: Howe Sound Women’s Centre and One Horizon.