April 10, 2020

A 24-hour Celebration of Supplier Diversity and Women’s Economic Empowerment

ONLINE, April 5, 2020 — The COVID-19 made a traditional gala celebration impossible. But rather than postponing or cancelling the event, WEConnect International decided to leverage technology for its first-ever, 24-hour Cyber Gala.

The virtual celebration featured multi-media from our award winners, insights from our members and partners, success stories from our women-owned businesses and mission moments from our dedicated team. The event kicked off Sunday, April 5, at 5 pm and culminated a day later with the announcement of our Top 10 Global Champions Monday, April 6, at 5 pm. The Cyber Gala was an exciting opportunity for WEConnect International’s supporters across the globe to come together despite the pandemic and celebrate the great work we are doing together despite the current challenges. Couldn’t make the Gala? See content you might have missed in this round-up.

Special thanks to our generous Silver Sponsor ExxonMobil; to our Bronze Sponsors Johnson & Johnson and JP Morgan Chase; and to our Supporting Sponsors Marriot, Moody’s, and UPS. 

DAY ONE: Sunday, April 5

5 pm — WEConnect International CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth Vazquez, welcomes you to the kickoff of the first ever 24-hour Global Cyber Gala. Watch the video.

5:30 pm — A message from our WEConnect International Board Chair, Natalie Stirling-Sanders, to all those participating in the 24-hour Global Gala celebration. Watch the video.

6 pm — CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth Vazquez, announces WEConnect International’s new president and praises the dedication of the Team as they meet the challenge of working during the current pandemic. Watch the video.

6:30 pm — A special message from WEConnect International’s new President, Rebecca Pearson, to our supporters around the world. Watch the video.

7 pm — Charmel Bowden, Executive Assistant to the CEO, describes what she loves about the Team at WEConnect International. Watch the video.

7:30 pm — Emily Coccia, Vice President of Special Projects, explains why she’s passionate connecting with the those in the 120 countries WEConnect International serves. Watch the video.

8 pm — Brittany Gonzalez is the Membership Relationship and Supplier Inclusion Manager at WEConnect International. Over her career she’s worked to remove the barriers facing minority businesses and wants to bring her expertise to the WEConnect International team. Watch the video.

8:30 pm — Alexander Kangas is the Certification Analyst at WEConnect International. Alex says that the best part of his job is knowing that the work he’s doing is helping people. Watch the video.

9 pm — WEConnect International’s Research and Project Manager, Nicolas Picard, wants you to join the Supplier Diversity and Inclusion Movement. Watch the video.

9:30 pm — Nikki recently joined WEConnect International as Director of Certification and Training. What she loves about the team is that they are collaborative, passionate, innovated group of professionals that is driving the mission globally. Watch the video.

10 pm — Saritha Venumbaka is the Chief Operating Officer for WEConnect International. What excites her about her job is identifying creative solutions to expand WEConnect International’s global footprint and impact. Watch the video.

10:30 pm — Angela Walker is the new Vice President of Communications at WEConnect International. What she loves about her work is that it combines her passions of leveraging the private sector for economic empowerment and promoting gender equity for women-owned businesses so that they can grow their businesses and ultimately help their communities. Watch the video.

11 pm — The WEConnect International Cyber Gala now travels around the world to hear success stories from our Women-Owned Businesses and the dedicated Team that supports them worldwide! Watch the video.

11:30 pm — Minnie Venkatachalam serves as WEConnect International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia and Oceania. She’s been working on women’s empowerment for a decade and is passionate about helping women-owned businesses grow their impact in the region. Watch the video.


DAY TWO: Monday, April 6

12 am — Jacqui Hocking owns Vision Strategy Storytelling, a WEConnect International certified women-owned business based in Singapore. She says that being a part of this global community has allowed her to connect with like-minded women leaders around the world. Watch the video.

12:30 am — Setsu Suzuki is the Project Director for WEConnect International in Japan. Her passion is connecting women entrepreneurs with qualified buyers worldwide. Watch the video.

1 am — Ayako Mochizuki is the owner of IBS Japan Co. Ltd, a computer equipment and software distributor. As a certified WEConnect International women-owned business owner, she’s proud of making the world a better place through technology. Watch the video.

1:30 am — Jayne Walsh is the owner of Design Logic based in Australia. She says that being certified by WEConnect International has afforded opportunities to network with women-owned businesses just like hers so that they can learn from and support each other both professionally and emotionally. Watch the video.

2 am — Watch the video with World Bank Group Senior Director, Gender, Caren Grown, with WEConnect International CEO, Elizabeth Vazquez, from the Corporate Connect Conference & Business Fair in Bangladesh 2020. They’re joined by Nazli Hussain, the CEO and Founder of Praxis Architects, and Amer Salim, Director of Knit Asia Ltd. Watch the video.

2:30 am — Nilay Celik serves as the Market Lead for WEConnect International Turkey. She says she loves what she does and is thrilled each time a woman-owned business tells her that they’ve sold their goods and services to an international business. Watch the video.

3 am — Feyza Özay Ekşi is the Turkish owner of Decoristan, a gift and craft company. She says certification with WEConnect International has resulted in her getting contracts from global companies like Marriott. Watch the video.

3:30 am — Refiye Erişçi owns Favori, a certified WEConnect International woman-owned business in Turkey. Last year, she won an award for landing 20 contracts with eight different corporate members. Watch the video.

4 am — Patricia Langan serves as WEConnect International’s Regional Director for Africa and the Middle East. Patricia says that she’s constantly inspired by the creativity, innovation and gumption of the women-owned business owners that WEConnect International supports. Watch the video.

4:30 am — Check out all the exciting work that WEConnect International is doing with our corporate members and our women-owned businesses in South Africa. Watch the video.

5 am — Jean Chawapiwa is the Country Director for WEConnect International in South Africa. In South Africa, WEConnect International is working with 21 corporate members! Watch the video.

5:15 am — Judy Sunasky is the owner of Blendwell Chemicals in South Africa certified as women-owned by WEConnect International. Her company is at the forefront of battling the current pandemic crisis producing hand sanitizer to fight the spread of the virus. Watch the video.

545 am — Ayanda Mzondeki owns Liyema Consulting in South Africa. She says that being a part of the WEConnect International community allows her to network and attend events with both buyers and suppliers. Watch the video.

6 am — Yeshua Russel is the WEConnect International Market Lead in Nigeria. He says that he is inspired by the Nigerian women business owners that he works with, who are full of energy, innovation and intelligence. Watch the video.

6:15 am — Dr. Ibilola Amao is owner of Lonadek Inc in Nigeria. She joined WEConnect International because it supports women business owners and encourages them to achieve more globally. Watch the video.

6:30 am — Funmi Ogbue is a woman business owner in Nigeria. Her two companies, Jake Riley Ltd and Zigma Limited, are both certified by WEConnect International. She says that her “mind was blown away” by the benefits she has found at WEConnect International by coming together and working with other women in the network. Watch the video.

7 am — Maggie Berry is the Executive Director for WEConnect International in Europe. She says that she loves working with WEConnect International, because it provides women-owned businesses with real access to business opportunities and the ability to pitch and sell. Watch the video.

7:15 am — Emma Duncan is the Outreach and Event Manager for WEConnect International Europe. Emma is passionate about the way WEConnect International provides women-owned businesses with the opportunities to work with more corporates so that they can sell their products and services. Watch the video.

7:30 am — Noreen Cesareo is the owner of Market Accents based in the UK. She says that she loves being a part of the WEConnect International community, because it is like one big family of corporates and women-owned businesses supporting each other. Watch the video.

7:45 am — Jay McLeod serves as the WEConnect International WECommunity and Operations Manager for Europe. One of the best parts of her job, she says, is being able to interact with people of different nationalities. Watch the video.

7:50 am — Ellie Mackrell works in Administration for WEConnect International Europe. She says that she is constantly inspired by the women across the WEConnect International network. Watch the video.

8 am — Fiona Blades is the owner of the UK-based MESH Experience. She says that she joined WEConnect International to meet our corporate members as well as other women entrepreneurs to learn from their stories. Watch the video.

8:10 am — Rachel Ryan works on Finance & Accounts for WEConnect International in Europe. What she loves about WEConnect International is the feel-good factor of working with like-minded people to achieve women’s equality — especially as the mother of two daughters! Watch the video.

8:20 am — Becky John provides Social Media Support for WEConnect International Europe and loves sharing the success stories of our corporate members and women-owned businesses. Watch the video.

8:30 am — Kathrin Puhan is the Certification Assessor for Switzerland for WEConnect International. She is currently supporting women-owned businesses via a hotline to answer their questions about COVID-19. Kathrin says that we’ll all get through this current situation together!​ Watch the video.

8:40 am — Andrea Ambos and Franziska Enderlein own Know How Events based in Germany. They say they are so appreciative of WEConnect International’s support during these trying time dealing with the current pandemic, especially the online webinars. Watch the video.

8:50 am — Evelyne de Gruyter is the Certification Assessor for WEConnect International in Germany. What she loves about the WEConnect International mission is that it is opening doors for women entrepreneurs and making the world more diverse — especially now in times of crisis. Watch the video.

9 am — Arine Huijboom is the WEConnect International Certification Assessor for the Netherlands. Arine says she is motivated by empowering women-owned businesses to make connections with our corporate members. Watch the video.

9:15 am — Wendy Broersen is the owner of Superwomen Academy based in the Netherlands. She says that being part of WEConnect International has allowed her to meet women entrepreneurs from all over the world and has learned how to speak to large corporates. Most of all, she says, she loves being part of a community that aims for sustainable growth. Watch the video.

9:30 am — Shirley Davies is the Certification Assessor for the UK and Ireland. Shirley feels privileged to help women-owned businesses on their journey to grow their businesses. She says she is constantly inspired by their hard work, enthusiasm and sacrifice. Watch the video.

945 am — Watch the video of WEConnect International CEO, Elizabeth Vazquez, and Procter & Gamble’s Jamila Belabidi-Chahid talking about the importance of supplier diversity for women’s economic empowerment at the recent Global Women’s Forum in Dubai. Watch the video.

10 am — Andrea Lizarzaburu is the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for WEConnect International. Andrea says that the women business owners in her region never stop surprising her and inspire her with their strength, resilience and commitment. Watch the video.

10:15 am — Ana Elisa Benavent is based in Mexico City where she handles web design for the Team. Ana Elisa says that she is proud of contributing to WEConnect International’s mission and telling the inspirational stories of our women entrepreneurs. Watch the video.

10:30 am — Rebeca Mora is the owner of Grupo Wimo Cosmetics in Costa Rica, and she says she is truly thankful to WEConnect International’s corporate members who support women-owned businesses like her cosmetics corporations. Watch the video.

10:45 am — Priscila Mazochi is the WEConnect International Market Lead handling Chile, Brazil and Argentina. What she loves about her work is that the whole team has accepted the challenge to make the world a better place for women. Watch the video.

11 am — María Angélica Porto works to enhance brand visibility and outreach to women entrepreneurs in Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru. She says that working at WEConnect International has opened her eyes on how women can boost their economies and bring sustainable growth to countries in Latin America. Watch the video.

11:15 am — Alicia Sierra Morales is the Program Manager for WEConnect International in Mexico. She says she’s had the opportunity to nurture and mentor women who have managed to stand out in a country with limited opportunities, and today they are leaders in their industries. Watch the video.

11:30 am — Natalia Torres is WEConnect International’s Regional Corporate and Partner Engagement Manager for Latin America based in Brazil. She is inspired by the impact that big value chains and corporations’ purchasing power can have so that no one is left behind. Watch the video.

11:45 am — Danielle Thomé owns Projex Engenharia, a construction company based in Brazil. She says that WEConnect International’s certification of her women-owned business opened doors to new multinationals for her company. Watch the video.

12 pm — A special announcement from our Gala Committee Chair, Bill Kapfer, from JPMChase. While acknowledging the challenging times we are facing by the impact of COVID-19, he applauds WEConnect International for leveraging technology to hold the Cyber Gala. Watch the video.

12:15 pm — Stephanie Fontaine is WEConnect International Country Director for Canada. She says she feels energized sharing resources, connections and ideas with our Canadian women-owned businesses. Watch the video.

12:30 pm — Watch the video with WEConnect CEO, Elizabeth Vazquez, and Michael Okoroafor, Vice President, Global Sustainability & Packaging Innovation, at McCormick & Company talk about our members’ commitment to supplier diversity at the recent Global Women’s Forum in Dubai. Watch the video.

12:45 pm — Tanya Walker says her certification with WEConnect International has presented her firm with the incredible opportunity to meet fellow WEConnect members and corporate lawyers. Her Canadian law firm, Walker Law, has now represented several Fortune 500 companies and WEConnect certified businesses with their legal disputes. Watch the video.

1 pm — WEConnect International CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth Vazquez, announces this year’s Cyber Gala awardees! Watch the video.

1:30 pm — Johnson & Johnson receives this year’s Buyer of the Year Award from WEConnect International. The award was accepted by Len DeCandia, Chief Procurement Officer, at Johnson & Johnson. The company has supported 700 women-owned businesses and urges other companies to increase their supplier diversity. Watch the video.

2 pm — Katie Kaufman is the Chief Strategy Officer for the US International Development Finance Corporation. She is accepting the award with her daughter for WEConnect International’s Distinguished Champion. Katie applauds WEConnect International’s promotion of female entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Watch the video.

2:30 pm — Adient Senior Manager for Supplier Diversity, Sherry Diccion, has won this year’s WEConnect International WECatalyze Award. She says that she’s grateful to WEConnect International for taking an idea, provided the resources and executed the plan to champion the first-automotive-in-Mexico initiative. Watch the video.

3 pm — Gill Thorpe is the owner of The Sourcing Team in the UK and the winner of the WEConnect International’s WBE of the Year. She says that she’s leaned on other women entrepreneurs in the WEConnect International network during this difficult time to share their insights and knowledge. Gill says she knows that we all will ultimately emerge from this crisis better and stronger. Watch the video.

3:30 pm — Ambassador Alice Wells, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Pakistan delivers a special message to the WEConnect International Cyber Gala participants. She says that during this challenging time, we must come together as a global community. And she thanks WEConnect International for the work that we do to create prosperity for all, especially for the women around the world. Watch the video.

4 pm — Arlene Isaacs-Lowe is Global Head of CSR at Moody’s Corporation and President of the Moody’s Foundation. WEConnect International is proud to have Moody’s as a corporate member. She says that Moody’s is steadfast in its commitment to empowering people with financial knowledge in order to build a stronger and more inclusive ecosystem that supports and invests in women. Watch the video.

4:30 pm — A video message from Vice President of Member Development for WEConnect International, Michael Tobolski, as we gear up for the announcement of our 2020 Top 10 Global Champions for Supplier Diversity & Inclusion. Watch the video.

5 pm — Now for the highlight of the first-ever, 24-hour WEConnect International Cyber Gala, the announcement by our CEO and Co-Founder, Elizabeth Vazquez, of the 2020 Top 10 Global Champions for Supplier Diversity & Inclusion. Watch the video.