An ode to the women that lift others up

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman


4 min read


It’s safe to say that none of us would be where we are today without the support of the strong women in our lives. Our mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, guardians, teachers, friends, role models shape us into the people we are and show us that we can be anything - do anything.

I am grateful

I, personally, have been fortunate enough to have female influences in my life, who have taught me to fight for what I believe in, to pursue whatever goals I set my sights on, to exude confidence when I walk into a room, and to treat others with respect and dignity. They have instilled in me the once crazy notion that I am equal to any man; they have encouraged me to push myself, educate myself, be honest with myself, and believe in myself. And I am grateful.

Because of them, I had the audacity to start my own company. Because of them, I had faith in myself that I’d pick things up as I went along. Because of them, I knew the value of surrounding myself with people who are more experienced than I am. Because of them, I knew I had a support system rooting for me to succeed.

The community of women that I had surrounding me - back in New York, at school, in my family - is the reason behind my passion for community. I understand how lucky I was to have grown up with these people in my corner and how they shaped my perspective and self-worth. Different people find this kind of support and camaraderie in different places; however, traditionally, this has largely been dictated by geography - where you live and who lives near you. There is so much potential for bringing women together all around the world because who knows? Maybe the woman who inspires you the most lives on the other side of the planet, and you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet her.

Bringing people together is a gift

This is why I admire community managers so much and am thankful to get to work with them every day. They dedicate their lives to connecting people so that the people they connect can be better off. The important role they play when it comes to bringing women together changes lives, and we at Toucan are honored to play even a small part in this. To the women who spend their time and careers lifting other women up, we celebrate you - today and this Women’s History Month, in particular. You make a massive difference.

In fact, I feel it’s fitting to let real female community builders share what International Women’s Day means to them and how other women have impacted their lives. I spoke with a few and really valued what they had to say. I can’t pretend to know everything, the best I can do is surround myself with those that are willing to impart their own wisdom to me.

Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

It’s a day to remember how far we’ve come and raise awareness for how far we have to go. Less than 2% of VC capital goes to women, healthcare systems are not created with women's needs in mind, and over 2m women left the workforce during COVID because the 9-5 corporate culture was created in a patriarchal industrial revolution era. -Amanda Goetz

What are you most proud of doing, and why?

I’m most proud of building a successful community and networking technology brand to be proud of, with ethical foundations, a fabulous team and wonderful members. -Michelle Goodall

If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

(1) Elizabeth Warren (2) Queen Elizabeth I (3) RBG because they are all badass leaders with exceptional minds who stood against the misogynist status quo of the patriarchy and actually DID something about it for themselves and the women who came after them. Elizabeth Warren championed the creation of the CFPB to protect everyday people from predatory lending. She knows that to achieve any sort of equality in this country, we have to do more to reduce the generational wealth gap that our financial institutions and tax laws perpetuate. Queen Elizabeth I stood before a nation and said I will not allow a man to govern my life or my country. She oversaw one of the most productive and prosperous eras in British history. And RBG is the obvious choice, though I wish I could meet many more of the female figures who have shaped the conversation around the rights of women in this country. (AOC is a close fourth.) These women stood in stark opposition to the patriarchal systems that tried to keep them quiet, submissive, and subservient and opened the doors for the women who followed them to reach for more. -Jamie Langskov

Do you feel like sufficient progress has been made to erode gender bias?

What I like about Community as a profession is that community roles from my understanding aren’t associated with a particular gender. So representation wise in regards to gender, there are some fantastic examples and voices of community professionals of all genders in the ring. Where I think there is progress to be made is about really tackling the nuances around gender bias beyond gender representation. How do we ensure gender equality is explicitly and intentionally included in plans around community. Ensuring that members of any gender group feel comfortable and safe in the communities we lead. - Faisa Mohamed

Do you have a message for other women out there on International Women's Day?

Speak up and advocate - not only for others, but for yourself. If practices are unfair, say something. If you witness a gap in gender equality, work to close it. Elevate the voices of other womxn in your circle who deserve to be heard. When I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago, I got to visit the Women's Pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai and the wall as you entered the Pavilion said "When women thrive, humanity thrives." Let's lay that on our hearts as we advance this profession and society as a whole. -Marjorie Anderson

What advice do you have for young women today?

“There’s this dynamic with young women, where we’re scared to talk about what makes us special. We’ve been taught our whole lives to be modest about who we are… Just tell people about you. The other advice I would give is to try everything and not to get too pigeonholed in one career space. There are a lot of different things out there that you can try. Explore everything.” -Shaily Hakimian

Happy International Women’s Day. Regardless of your gender, please take this day to reflect on the women that have impacted your life and consider the steps that you can take to support women and girls, both in your hometown and across the world.

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About author

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman is co-founder and CEO of Toucan.

She is a recent graduate of Stanford University, having studied political science and economics.

She enjoys long walks to explore new cities, listening to audiobooks on 1.2x speed, a cup of hot water, and re-watching mediocre movies.

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