#HerVisionforTomorrow: Q&A with Shelly Bell

In celebration of Black History Month and the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s 11th Annual International Women’s Day Forum on March 5, we’re spotlighting inspiring women who are working to break barriers to pave a more equal, inclusive, and resilient future for women and girls around the world. Shelly Bell is the founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures, a nonprofit dedicated to creating access to capital for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs.

How has the pandemic presented opportunities to reimagine systems and help build more inclusive workplaces?

The pandemic has been a major disruption of all things, including work; the lines we once drew between work and home have dissolved. Although the workplace has always been a kind of home for employees, employers now need to ask themselves: what will we go back to? As business owners, we can disrupt, innovate, and create the companies and cultures we wish to see in the world, as long as we provide the psychological safety and freedom to do so.

The pandemic has disproportionally impacted women, especially women of color. What advice do you have for young Black women today to help them overcome the barriers they face?

Having a support system is more important now than ever. Surrounding yourself with community to support your business and surrounding yourself with the right people is key to overcoming this moment. Use this time to build influential relationships that can help you on the next step of your journey, and now that everyone is at home it’s the perfect time to do so. 

What is your vision or hope for the future of women and girls’ empowerment around the world?

My vision or hope for the future is that the next generation of girls doesn’t need to have the same conversation about equity and inclusion in business, in leadership, and in various aspects of our country. I'm hopeful that women and girls will be inspired to start their own businesses and that entrepreneurship will become a career path that is celebrated by everyone. 

Editor’s Note: Shelly Bell spoke on a panel, Funding Minority Entrepreneurs, at the 11th Annual International Women’s Day Forum. Click here to view the session.