Analisa Balares: My Pivot Point Led Me to Create a Global Social Enterprise
By Analisa Balares, CEO & Founder of Womensphere and the Womensphere Foundation, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader March 26, 2014 01:21 PMAnalisa Balares is CEO & Founder of Womensphere and the Womensphere Foundation, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
I grew up in the Philippines, while led by its first female President, Corazon Aquino, who transitioned the country from dictatorship to democracy. She inspired young people like me to become agents of change, to use our talents to solving issues that beset our country. I grew up actively involved in helping improve my communities, whether empowering girls through running teen leadership programs, or organizing conferences to mobilize Filipino youth to use science and technology for sustainable development.
I left my country to study, and eventually work, in North America. As a scholar at Mount Holyoke College, the first and oldest women's college in America, I was inducted into the global women's movement. Working for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Microsoft immersed me in the worlds of global finance, business, and technology. I was dazzled (and overwhelmed) by the many ways one could make a difference and change the world.
My biggest pivot point came while studying for my MBA at Harvard Business School. I purposefully chose to use those years to explore what major global challenge I wanted to solve in my lifetime, and how I would go about solving that challenge:
As my studies and work took me around the world, I embraced the belief that "my community" is a global one. Humanity is united by shared hopes and dreams - for happiness, love, success, meaning, and impact. However, it became clear to me that half the world's population - women - were mostly missing out on opportunities to realize our dreams, whether resulting from internal barriers or external circumstances and ceilings, whether in developing countries or in the developed world. I also cared deeply about sustainability, innovation, entrepreneurship, economic development, and fighting poverty.
What I thought was great about investing in women's potential, is that women also hold the key towards fighting poverty and sustainable development. If more women could be unleashed as successful entrepreneurs and innovators, the world would be a better place.
Thus, while at HBS, I put together the plan for what would eventually become the Womensphere community and social enterprise, which fosters a global renaissance and unleashing women's potential to create our future. Womensphere grew over the years, supported by an amazing network of individuals, partner companies, NGOs, universities, and institutions that share our purpose. Today, the Womensphere Foundation is building an Emerging Leaders Global Network, connecting and empowering the next generation of women leaders, creators, scientists, and innovators. We're investing in mentoring circles and scholarships for girls. Our Summits are platforms to exchange best practices in fostering gender equality and inclusive growth. We create programs that develop women as leaders and innovators.
This all came about after I carved out the space and time to answer a question posed by the great poet: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" There was no blueprint for uniting impact in this way - it had to be created. I think it's so important to purposefully initiate one's pivot point, to create both the inspiration and plan to fuel one's journey.