Celebrating women innovators at the Halcyon and AWS Build(Her) Conference
On March 16, I had the honor of kicking off the Build(Her) Conference in Washington, DC, an event hosted by Halcyon and sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS), along with Kate Goodall, Halcyon co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO). First launched in 2020, the Build(Her) Conference brings together women leaders and entrepreneurs from both the public and private sectors to share ideas, network, and hear from speakers on topics like government innovation, fundraising and growing companies, resilience, and more.
The inspiring speaker lineup included Marla Blow, President and chief operating officer of the Skoll Foundation, and the Honorable Isabella Casillas Guzman, 27th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, who delivered the keynote. From AWS, Maggie Carter, global lead of AWS Social Impact, and Rebecca Wetherly, director of depth consulting for AWS worldwide public sector, also took part in presentations.
The conversations are timely, as March is Women’s History Month and we just recently celebrated International Women’s Day. This marks a time to recognize and honor the achievements of women around the world. It also marks a call to action to accelerate women’s equality and proactively call out gender bias and discrimination. While we continue to make progress, it’s important that we all work together to build and foster a diverse and inclusive workforce, create new career avenues, and provide skills development programs to help close these gaps.
I asked Kate Goodall to share a little bit about why this event is so important for Halcyon. Here’s what she said: “I’m so glad AWS proposed working on this event together – it was high time for Halcyon to reconvene speakers with an optimistic, actionable perspective around how to advance women in the business world. Funders, government leaders, entrepreneurs, and those of us who work to support them all share a common goal: close gaps and find ways to support women as they work to come back from the ‘women’s recession’ inflicted on them during the pandemic.”
AWS has been collaborating with Halcyon since 2017, and I am proud to serve on the Halcyon board. Our organizations share a deep commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs and diverse startup communities. Halcyon aims to make business and society more inclusive and impact-oriented. Similarly, broadening access for all individuals and helping social entrepreneurs leverage the cloud to scale their ventures and innovate is core to our principles and values at AWS.
One of the ways that AWS works with Halcyon is to support its Incubator Intensive Fellowship programs for early-stage women-founded startups in underserved communities and regions around the world. The program is designed to position participating founders for rapid and effective growth. We recently finished the 2021 Bahrain Women’s Intensive that consisted of 11 women social impact founders. Kawthar Al Gallaf, one of the Founders of 973 Labs, is applying the knowledge she gained from the Intensive to create and implement a digital innovation financial technology (FinTech) platform. FinHub 973 is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s first cross-border digital innovation platform that connects and facilitates collaboration between financial institutions and FinTechs under the supervision of the central bank, helping to simplify and increase the speed of regulatory testing and supporting business scalability.
AWS remains committed to supporting women entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, and funding needed to take ventures to the next level. Through programs like AWS Activate, we provide credits, technical briefings, and hands-on engagement support. We also offer training to build necessary skills to get the most out the cloud and provide certification opportunities. We recently launched two new global accelerator programs – the AWS Space Accelerator and the AWS Sustainable Cities Accelerator – to support startups innovating in these exciting domains. Applications for these programs are open until April 15, 2022.
I’m proud of the progress being made through these initiatives, and am continuously inspired by the women in tech and founders who are paving the way for change. I’m grateful to Halcyon for bringing us all together at events like the Build(Her) Conference, so we can learn from one another, make meaningful connections, and continue to build bigger and stronger communities to keep this momentum going.
Visit the Halcyon website to learn more about its efforts to accelerate change around the world and how you can get involved.
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