By: Amy Rosner By: Amy Rosner | September 22, 2022 |
In honor of American Business Women’s Day, we’re celebrating trailblazing women pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings.
And who better to connect with than Sophia Bush: actress, producer, activist, and advocate for women’s rights in the business sector?
The definition of a multi-hyphenate, Bush has partnered with Johnnie Walker on their First Strides initiative, which focuses on gender parity for women leadership in the business world.
Johnnie Walker, Lilly Singh, and Sophia have collaborated on a short video that serves as a call to action in support of the next generation of groundbreaking female leaders.
In the video, they illustrate the inequalities businesswomen face in the workplace, highlight the positive impact women have as leaders, and emphasize the critical need for more funding for women entrepreneurs to achieve greater success and recognition in the workplace.
In honor of American Business Women’s Day, we’ve connected with the ultimate #girlboss herself on the ‘first strides” we can take to support women in the workplace and beyond.
What are the main differences and commonalities between Women’s Equality Day and American Business Women’s Day?
Unfortunately, we need more than one day, because women are facing so many hurdles and so many glass ceilings across every industry there is, not just in business, but also in politics and academia. It's incredibly important for us to create enough public education so that people understand the problem and also feel hopeful about solutions.
American Business Women’s Day is especially important to focus on because when we talk about women being 51% of the population but being underrepresented in so many different areas of society, we need to think about what that means for us when it comes to business and the economy. It means we are under-resourced.
It means that women are being held back from being able to build generational wealth, women are being held back from access to capital to start businesses—when women do get access to capital, they get less.
So, at every turn women are being asked to work just as hard or harder for less and it's unacceptable. And for us, as a team of what I like to call “Bandits for Good,” we want to create change. We are a team that believes in being disruptive for progress and positivity.
It's incredibly exciting to figure out how to put our heads together with our ability to tell stories, with our ability to garner a megaphone, with our activist organizing backgrounds and our political knowledge, and with our partners—obviously at Johnnie Walker— with their corporate dollars. We are finally beginning to move the needle on this issue. It’s really really exciting. Can you talk a bit about your decision to partner with Johnnie Walker on this particular initiative and what this cause means to you both from a personal and activist point of view?
It's been one of the greatest relationships that I've built in the last five years of my life, working with the team at Johnnie Walker and Jane Walker.
This all began in 2018. We were using Jane Walker as a platform to raise money for She Should Run to ensure that more women would be represented in government and elected to positions around the country.
And look what it’s turned into! We’ve launched so many incredible programs together and to be in this position now, where we're working with IFundWomen, we are championing women around the country in their businesses. We are giving them money, and helping to close those gaps, which is just unbelievable. If you'd asked me if I saw this coming five years ago, I would have said no, but it would have exactly been my dream. So to be here now is really special.
Can you talk a little bit about Johnnie Walker’s collaboration with IFundWomen and She Should Run? How are they collectively aiding to accelerate women in leadership?
To date, Johnnie Walker has funded nearly $500,000 In business grants through IFundWomen. This next phase of our partnership, First Strides, will bring us closer to our goal of pledging $1M dollars in grants for women-owned businesses by 2030. We're obviously very ahead of schedule and we're thrilled about that!
IFundWomen felt like a natural partner for us because they’re the go-to funding marketplace for women-owned businesses and all of the people who want to support them with access—whether that mean access to capital, to coaching, or to connections. They are on a mission (and really kicking butt!) at closing the funding gap for women-owned businesses. So for us, it felt like a really amazing group to partner with and to help lift with resources.
How is Johnnie Walker paving the way for more seats for women in the boardroom and in public office? What are the symbolic and tangible implications of this?
Each of those issues is being addressed through different partnerships. So, IFundWomen is obviously working on closing the funding gap. We are providing resources to help do that and offering grants to women around the country. She Should Run works to get women elected all across the nation, and we have also been working with them since 2018.
We also work with Black Tag, because it felt incredibly important for us to be looking at enabling firsts and culture for underrepresented communities, whether that was in social and political arenas across the gender spectrum or across economic equality. So then, we have been able to find and financially support incredible partners to build awareness education campaigns and create access to their resources for women all across the nation.
How are you using your platform to close the gender leadership gap? What can your community of followers do to support women in business?
I really consider a platform to be a privilege. I believe that sharing information that matters, that is newsworthy, that is trusted, is so important. Whether it be about the sort of gaps that we’re talking about or public health, I take it all very very seriously.
So for me, I feel very grateful that I have such a committed and engaged base of people that I get to speak to on social media every day, who are still with me because they also care. And whether we're talking about something happening in my own backyard or something happening halfway around the world, there's always a focus on access and always a focus on women and on equity.
How can your fans support women-owned businesses as we head into the fall and holiday season? Furthermore, how can we implement activism in our everyday lives?
I think it's incredibly wonderful to be intentional. If you are part of a household that does holiday giving or gifting, being intentional about seeking out women-owned businesses, businesses owned by people of color, or businesses that are local in your community, can be so impactful for that.
I also think it's very cool when people choose to change the idea of what gifts mean, and give as a family or a household to a charity that you care about. There are so many ways, big and small, to support groups and initiatives. All it takes is a little intentionality and perhaps being a little inventive in the conversations that you're having around your dinner table at home.
But each and every day, there are certainly ways for us to contribute. And I'm really excited to be able to share so many of those things with people regularly, hopefully, to help inspire them to make that change in their own lives.
What are some of your favorite woman-owned businesses’ to support?
I'm incredibly excited that we have just given our most recent grant to the ladies at Locatora Radio here in Los Angeles. They are an incredible podcast and media studio and as a fellow podcaster myself, I know how much work that takes and how research-intensive it is. So, to be able to support them in their mission of lifting up the stories of Latin women in their community and women of color is incredibly inspiring to me.
Also, this year, we were able to give a grant to some really incredible women who run a company called Green Buffalo that is making firefighter uniforms for women. You would think that those exist, but women have just been wearing men's uniforms for a long time. To begin to create equity for women in any industry feels incredibly important, and honestly, it’s past time.
It’s amazing to see the people who are solving these gaps and making sure that in years to come women don't face the same challenges.
Photography by: Courtesy Johnnie Walker