Detroit may often get overlooked by the rest of the country, but other parts of the world are looking directly to us as a blueprint on how to rebuild and resurge. The United States Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, situated between eastern Europe and western Asia, took notice – and then zeroed in on Meagan Ward. She's the owner of Creatively Flawless Branding Agency and co-owner of FEMOLOGY, Detroit's first modern business lounge for women. The embassy invited Ward to speak during 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to confront violence against women and girls.
The campaign runs each year from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov. 25) to Human Rights Day (Dec. 10). Last year's theme was "The Future is Ours," and Ward was asked to share with women of the war-torn country her knowledge on women empowerment and entrepreneurship.
"They thought it was really cool that a woman was making her mark and creating opportunities for other women," Ward says. "They wanted a speaker that the women could identify with." The Georgian diplomats expressed their desire to strengthen their economy by encouraging not only more women in the workforce, but entrepreneurs as well.
Ward spent eight days in Tbilisi speaking to a complex array of women, many of whom have been displaced and are living in impoverished conditions – or in prison. "I spoke to women in government, all under the age of 30 years old. With them having this new government, they have more millennials being interested and really taking up opportunities," Ward says. She says she sat in a room full of 27-year-old prosecuting attorneys and high-level decision-makers. During her trip, Ward also spoke during the United Nations conference targeted toward CEOs and policymakers to help them be smarter about how they're treating women in the workplace.
"By the time I was finished with each workshop, you could tell that the women had hope and a new mindset. The concept of women's empowerment is very new over there." Ward says she tried to stress that, "If they band together, they're more powerful together than they are individually."
If Ward has one ultimate purpose, she says it's connecting to other women. She started Creatively Flawless in 2014 and knew quickly that she wanted to target women of color and "start sharing my experiences with more women who are scared to take those leaps, just like I was scared. Being a black woman entrepreneur, our sisterhood is so sacred. It is very special, and I'm so proud of it."
FEMOLOGY followed last July. Ward says she was connecting with women but started to realize that they weren't really connecting to each other – or, when they were, they were spending hours in whatever random coffee shop. She says, "I started to think, 'What if we had our own space one day where we could just come and work on our businesses? And not only talk about business but talk about womanhood?'"
During 16 Days, Ward says she noticed that the women she spoke to and with "really wanted to cultivate sisterhood. And I know that we've done it here in Detroit, and we've really inspired other parts of the world." But, she says, the experience "was a mutual exchange." She says she learned as much as she taught.
"The western world is very centered around only our practices, how we think, the way that we do things – and not on understanding that we're only (a small) piece of the globe. There are so many different issues that other women are facing. Change has to happen on a global scale, not just in America."