Just in time for SXSW we opened the doors of The Riveter Austin a week early to host The Riveter Spring Fest, a series of intimate events spotlighting meaningful conversations around women in work. The discussions included insights from dear friends and trailblazers like Backstage Capital’s Arlan Hamilton, conversations around reproductive rights and a woman’s earning potential with NARAL President Ilyse Hogue, and more. While we’re still basking in the post-SXSW glow, here are our five reflections.
1. Community Matters
Each discussion touched upon the fact that it takes a broad base of support to build a business: No one can succeed in business alone. Much like raising children, scaling a company takes a community and a place to gather and collaborate. In fact, we thought The Pink Ceiling’s Cindy Eckert put it incredibly well: “The system is set up to overlook you. Spaces like The Riveter are where you go to make business work for you.”
And it’s not about simply building a community that looks and thinks like you—it’s about bringing diverse viewpoints and experiences to the table so that we can all learn and grow. Gloria Calderón Kellett, co-showrunner of Netflix’s One Day at a Time (pictured left), addressed this topic head on: “You have to have representation in the room reflect the representation in the audience. Having more [kinds of] people in the room makes for a more interesting conversation.”
2. Other Factors Play into Equity of Opportunity for Women and Work
When we talk about women and work, the conversation must be more broad than just building businesses or advancing careers. It starts with a company’s culture. Backstage Capital’s inimitable founder Arlan Hamilton candidly discussed the importance of crafting her company’s culture to embody its mission, vision, and values. When asked why some companies have a difficult time building culture, Hamilton said, “I think it’s a matter of priorities. Some things come easier than culture… at Backstage Capital, we didn’t have a choice.” A strong culture is a part of their DNA.
Another major workplace equity factor? Access to healthcare. NARAL President Ilyse Hogue put a fine point on this with her insight that, “[A] women’s ability to contribute economically has everything to do with access to reproductive rights.” Hogue encouraged everyone in the discussion to take action by openly talking about women’s reproductive rights in more spaces to help these conversations feel less taboo. “No matter what your beliefs are, we can all agree that when your family is faced with these decisions, you don’t want someone far away from you making these decisions for your family,” said Hogue.
3. There’s No One Path to Funding Your Business
It’s no secret that white women-run businesses receive far less venture capital funding than those run by white men, and women of color receive even less financial backing. But as Arlan Hamilton shared in her fireside chat with The Riveter CEO and founder Amy Nelson, VC funding isn’t the only way to build a successful business. When a member of the audience asked for advice raising capital as a Black woman, Hamilton replied, “We have to figure out a way for you to do your thing without having to convince people to give you money. I really want us to have more control at the beginning than we have.”
4. Be Bold, Raise your Voice
In every panel discussion, speakers talked about the need to be bold in order to chart their own paths in business. The driving force for their successes? A passionate belief that the world would be a better place with new voices driving change. Cindy Eckert, CEO of The Pink Ceiling – an investment firm for female-founded companies, stopped by The Riveter Austin for a candid conversation about fighting for what you believe is right. (Eckert is the founder of Addyi, known as “women’s Viagra.”) No stranger to being an outsider in the world of biotech and pharmaceuticals, Eckert said, “If the system doesn’t work for you, you create a new system.” On the Future for Us panel, Cultivated Insights founder and Forbes columnist Tanya Tarr said she channeled a woman she admires, Shirley Chisholm, when navigating the workplace as a woman of color. “Chisholm said, ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’ Another way to be unapologetic is to be unbothered,” Tarr said.
5. Katie Couric Can Join a Party at The Riveter Anytime
How do you top an intimate dinner party with more than 30 women sharing their stories of community and success. Two words: Katie Couric.
The Emmy-award winning journalist, who has covered pivotal global events spanning the past four decades, joined the party at The Riveter Austin for a night of conversation and inspiration.
Katie — on behalf of all of us at The Riveter, please be our guest anytime you’re near one of our spaces!
Photo credits: Candidly and Katie D’Amato