“Becoming an entrepreneur was a dream, but my true ambition has always been to help other women,” Tory Burch, executive chairman and chief executive officer of her own brand and founder of the Tory Burch Foundation, told the audience of 1,200 in kicking off its second Embrace Ambition Summit. “I started a company to create a foundation that gives women entrepreneurs a valuable career — the confidence to dream, capital to build, and the community to grow, and I am happy to say that is just what our foundation has been doing since it launched in 2009.”
Burch said there’s so much they want to accomplish and it’s all vitally important. “Change does not happen overnight — it is slow, frustrating, and yes, sometimes very painful. It is measured in moments — a women getting her first credit card, deciding to start a business, refusing to give up her seat on a bus, challenging an abuser, or simply just asking for a promotion. All it takes is a single person, a single action, that’s how change begins.”
In one of the morning sessions, titled, “Businesses Leading With Purpose,” Tom Montag, chief operating officer of Bank of America; Steve Case, former chairman and chief executive officer of AOL and chairman and ceo of Revolution, a D.C.-based venture capital firm, and Dina Powell McCormick, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, spoke about what they are doing to level the playing field. McCormick noted that in the past 10 years, the Tory Burch Foundation has empowered more female entrepreneurs in the U.S. than any other foundation, and that Goldman Sachs partners with it.
“There are many graduates from the 10,000 Small Businesses program that we partnered with Tory on in the audience,” she said. In 2007, when they launched 10,000 Women, a study showed that labor force participation by women in developed and developing economies “would hugely increase global GDP.” She said Goldman Sachs found its best investment was the investment in females in the workforce.
Case said it’s critically important to think about the next wave of companies and to recognize the change. He explained that the first wave was the Internet, and getting everybody online; the second wave was building the software such as Facebook and Google, and the third wave was integrating the Internet into everyday life and transforming some of the largest industries and improving how you live your life and stay healthy.
Case explained that 35 years ago when he started AOL and the Internet was getting going, it was important to level the playing field around information, education and commerce, and “we largely achieved that.” He said now that focus around Revolution and Rise of the Rest is how do you level the playing field of opportunities. Rise of the Rest is a seed fund whose investors including Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz and Meg Whitman believe some of the most interesting companies in this next wave are going to come from all over the country, not just Silicon Valley.
So far, they have backed 130 companies in 70 cities, and 40 percent are women and people of color. “There’s still a lot of work to do to really make sure these companies can scale to the next level,” said Case. “To me it’s a shift from creating the Internet and now leveling the playing field, because entrepreneurs change the world, and we want to make sure everybody gets a shot. And the data is pretty scary, pretty sobering and disappointing. Last year, 75 percent of venture capital went to just three states — California, New York and Massachusetts.” Some data said less than 10 percent of venture capital went to women, and less than 1 percent went to African Americans. He said the reality is that it matters where you live and what you look like, but if you have an idea and want a shot at the American dream, it really has to change.
Burch said Bank of America is investing $445 billion in financing and other business activities to help accelerate the transition to a low carbon, sustainable economy. According to Montag, they started this in 2007, and their goal by 2030 is do almost half a trillion dollars in financing with people all over the world. Bank of America has raised its commitment to the Tory Burch Foundation to $100 million, and they’ve given out $57 million in affordable loans.
McCormick said Goldman Sach’s ceo, David Solomon, recently unveiled two new initiatives. The first is they will no longer take a company public if it does not have a diverse board member, and the second is Goldman launched a $500 million initiative to invest in those entrepreneurs that are not getting capital, such as Hispanic, African American and female entrepreneurs.