By Mary DePaolo Haddad, Helsell Fetterman LLP:
Shiza Shahid, the keynote speaker for PLUS Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Network event in Seattle, inspired those in attendance by describing her childhood experience in Pakistan, the second worst country in the world for women to be born. There, the average level of education for girls is 6 years to America’s 12. Before getting accepted to Stanford, Shiza was a young activist and helped serve imprisoned women with children. At Stanford, Shiza learned of the Taliban’s prohibition of girl’s education by Malala Yousafzai – who blogged about it. Shiza wanted to give back to girls from her country from circumstances she found abhorrent and began working with Malala’s father. She organized a summer camp for 26 girls to navigate their lives under the Taliban and help expose this human rights violation to empowered leaders whose influence could remedy it.
After Malala was shot by the Taliban at 15 for her activism for girls’ education and gender equality, Shiza rushed to her side and witnessed a miracle as Malala made a full recovery, stronger than ever before. Malala, thereafter became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and directed the corresponding flood of monetary support to be used to educate girls around the world to grade 12. Shiza left McKinsey and co-founded the Malala Fund that carries out this mission. After serving as the fund’s CEO, Shiza created NOW Ventures that backs “mission driven” start-ups.
At the Women’s Foundation event, Mary Haddad and Shiza discussed why NOW Ventures backs mission driven startups and why they are expected to bring scalable change and measurable profit. Shiza moved from the nonprofit sector, as the co-founder of the Malala Fund to create NOW Ventures to maximize the scale of change of mission driven companies. At our event, she challenged women to engage in investing and understand that they are far more comfortable donating time and money. While women in America enjoy far more opportunity in the market place than women in Pakistan, their rise into leadership positions over the last 30 years has stagnated. While different, women in both Pakistan and America fail to progress in education and work for similar reasons; because they lack the support of their spouse, are held back simply because they are a woman (implicit gender bias), and disproportionately take on the burden of household chores and childcare responsibilities.