Supporting vulnerable womenthrough business creation
Ever dreamt of being your own boss? Chiara Condi has changed this ambition in a social project: in her organisation Led by HER, the American woman now living in Paris helps women victims of violence to become their own company boss.
BOUNCING BACK THROUGH RAGE
"To test the nature of a man, give him power", said Abraham Lincoln as a joke. His fellow countrywoman Chiara Condi used a female version of this by creating the organisation Led by HER, a community incubator supporting women in their business creation project.
After having faced ordeals in their lives, participants of the program find resilience again through professional development. These women may look fragile, but they draw their rage to bounce back in the past violence they have experimented. "They draw from this violence a strength highly praised in the corporate world: the appetite for risk", says Chiara. "They have nothing to lose, so everything becomes possible."
Try the fashion industry, design or communication, opening a female garage, create a kindergarten on a golf course, etc. Projects are as diverse as the profile of applicants: they come from all social classes, have studied at all levels, have dozens of nationalities and are between 22 and 60 years old.
"A few years ago, I saw issues in relation with woman condition as the expression of deeper social and economic problems", says Chiara. "Then I realised that poverty couldn't explain everything and that how women are perceived would not change without a great deal of help."
BOSSES IN TRAINING
Other organisations offer psychological support or social assistance to woman victim of violence. Led by HER is different in that it takes action directly during the reconstruction step. The organisation boasts about a hundred common classes are given by experts of entrepreneurship (including by teachers of two partner business schools, IÉSEG and ESCP Europe), a 3-years tutoring program and events and conferences frequently held in collaboration with entrepreneurship environment and partner companies.
Access is unfortunately limited: 30 women each year, selected during a motivation interview. The system needs huge resources: a 10-individuals board of administration and 200 volunteers are involved in the project, which has now its second class. "Our objective is to provide the means to go forward. Every month, we organise events with other incubators to boost the creation of professional networks and improve opportunities."
Chiara studied in Harvard, Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics. She was a bright student who found her way in social and solidary economics very early. While she was still a student in the US, she implemented programs to socially rehabilitate the homeless. Led by HER would be born a few years later despite a few obstacles.
"In the American culture, we see things as a cycle: those at the bottom of the ladder may rise to the top, that's why everything is possible. This is less the case in France. It's important not to bond these women to their past, because they are not defined by what happened to them. They have the capabilities to build a new future."
Two prestigious Parisian business schools, IÉSEG and ESCP Europe, support the organisation since the very beginning. They put classrooms at their disposal for classes and conferences. Today, Led by HER can also count on the financial support of the City Council of the 7th district of Paris and the patronage of companies such as Google.
Chiara's determination not only brought down prejudice, it has also risen the heads. "I see the effects of time: the status of women is evolving. They on the lookout for opportunities and feel capable of conquering the world."
Chiara often bets on tenacity and desire to succeed. She is enthusiastic, humanist and pragmatic, and she has a quality that is particularly sought after by company bosses: long-term vision.
"Whether they have been victims or not, all our young entrepreneurs feel difficult to start their business. That's why I'm currently working on another project, a platform dedicated to helping women build their business projects. Gender equality can only be reached if schemes are created to support this. I hope that I'm helping making things change."
© Samuel Cortès