Claudia Chan is the founder of S.H.E. Global Media, a women’s media and education company and the force behind the S.H.E. Summit, an annual conference devoted to supporting women’s movement champions around the world. Chan sat down with Forward Females to discuss her career path, her daily inspiration and the importance of involving men in the fight for gender equality.
Describe your professional journey and how you ended up where you are today.
I went to an all women’s high school and college. I also had a strong, entrepreneurial mother. I come from a Chinese first generation family. My parents came to America from Taiwan and opened Chinese restaurants. They had fierce entrepreneurial spirits and taught me that in order to be completely independent I’d have to open my own business one day.
Out of Smith College, I started out doing dotcom networking parties. Then, with a friend, we met the founders of Shecky’s, an event promoter company. We rolled out a Girls’ Night Out platform with Shecky’s. This was during the Sex and the City era. There was so much emphasis on going out, wearing certain brands, shopping, etc. That was the culture. We were the largest, premium women events platform. We were in 15+ cities and 150,000 women attended our events each year. I helped form a lot of corporate partnerships for the company.
How did you go from organizing Girls’ Night Out events to working on women’s empowerment?
After ten years at Shecky’s, my partner and I didn’t have the same vision anymore. There weren’t a lot of successful women business owners. At leadership conferences, women were part of the work/life balance conversation. But in the forums on leadership, only men would serve on those panels. At that time I also read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and it had a huge impact on me. It documents the greatest atrocities affecting women around the world. I started reading more about inequality and how women are underrepresented and undervalued in so many segments of society. We’re 118 years away from gender equality according to the World Economic Forum.
I wanted to create a cool, mainstream women’s empowerment company to get women involved in the cause.
What is the S.H.E. Summit?
I’ve spent the last 5 years, together with an army of women, driving awareness of women’s empowerment. The conference is affordable. We’re engaging the masses. We have a holistic leadership agenda covering wellness, motherhood, and financial wellbeing – not just entrepreneurship and business leadership. We encourage 360 degree empowerment – embracing everything that makes up our lives. We can’t be successful if we’re not taking care of ourselves fully.
What does S.H.E Media do besides for the Summit?
That’s our big event for the year. But we’re also focused on the corporate market. Women today associate passion and purpose with leaving corporate America. We consult with corporations and help them gain clarity on how they are empowering women both internally and externally.
How do we get more men involved in the women’s movement?
Women’s forums have to be a lot more inclusive of men and boys. Women aren’t going to thrive unless they’re co-existing with men in their reality. It’s a partnership of genders to make something work. We need to ask men what they’re thinking about, what they’re struggling with, and include them. There’s a new masculinity movement. We have to be concerned about our next generation of men and boys and how they’re fitting into the women’s empowerment movement. It can’t be a woman’s-only approach anymore. We need a partnership approach.
We are bringing the S.H.E Summit to Bacardi, the global spirits company based in Miami. Bacardi is a corporation that has an internal women’s network. A lot of the male, senior managers are participating in the event. Content creates consciousness and consciousness creates change. Individuals create change. We need to ignite individuals.
How would you respond to women who say, “We’re already equal, we’re already empowered”?
Women create society. We bring life to the world. That’s a pretty big responsibility and a lot of work. A huge percentage of women drop out of the workforce to take care of their families. Childcare is expensive. Parental leave isn’t mandatory. The political is personal and the personal is political. But these issues still affect everyone. For example, women aren’t taught financial literacy and how to manage their money. Money affects the choices we make and the families we raise.
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
My short-term goal is that the S.H.E. Summit is successful. I want to activate people to take steps to actualize their potential and decide how to contribute and empower others. I want to further the leadership and impact of those who attend.
My long-term goal is to cultivate a network of corporate leaders who are truly devoted to empower women in their specific areas and close the gender gap by 2030.
What are you most proud of?
My ability to continually grow. I constantly change in my leadership, in my character and in my integrity. I devour books on leadership development. I go to Church. I’m a student of life and I’m really proud of that quality.
And my son. He is just the greatest miracle and force of light in my life.
Who inspires you?
My dad inspires me. He taught me how to be a good person. He told me to marry for love, to do the right thing, and not to sweat the small stuff. He taught me character. He came to America, started a business, sent us to school and gave us a wonderful life.
What life experience has had the greatest impact on you?
Losing my father has really put everything in perspective. His passing reminds me that we’re all here on earth for a limited period of time. However much time I have left, where I invest my time and energy matters. It makes me intentional about the character I want to be, the quality of experience I want to have, and what contribution I want to make to this world.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I encouraged people, primarily women, to serve and contribute to society in areas that are authentic to them. And if it’s specifically within the gender equality movement that’s even better!