I was in Silicon Valley this past week for Jason Calacanis’ annual Launch Festival. The conference had about 12,000 attendees, and it really seemed as though 99% of them were male. As a woman I felt almost uncomfortable, like the odd one out.

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs need mentoring. By listening and connecting with one another at in-person events, networks are built and people leave feeling supported and inspired. Flying home to Toronto, I realized that more than ever women truly need inclusive places to come together, network and share their stories. That’s what regular events can provide for female entrepreneurs and professionals, and for those women thinking about making the entrepreneurial plunge.

Today marks International Women’s Day, so I thought it especially fitting to highlight a great networking event designed to help women succeed in business.

MaRS is the venue host of Women 2.0’s monthly City Meetups, which are sponsored by MasterCard Canada (and which men can also attend). Women 2.0 offers community, content and conferences for current and aspiring female technology innovators. The organization’s mission is to increase the number of female founders and executives of technology startups through inspiration, information and education.

Chia Chia Sun
Chia Chia Sun, CEO of health startup Damiva, speaks at the last Women 2.0 event at MaRS.

The Women 2.0 meetups promote the creation of new networks among aspiring entrepreneurs, current entrepreneurs and investors in innovative cities globally. The meetups are not about excluding men; rather, they’re about creating an environment that is comfortable for women.

Each month, two local female founders take to the podium to tell their stories, offer advice and answer questions from attendees. No fancy PowerPoint slides or pitch decks are needed, just honesty.

Angie Kramer, female founder of JobBliss and a 2014 Women 2.0 pitch finalist, does a fantastic job moderating the meetups, facilitating connections and matching people in the room who are looking for specific advice or help.

MaRS has hosted four of these events thus far and I’m always amazed at the friendliness and openness of this community. Attendees from all demographics and backgrounds genuinely want to connect, ask questions and, in some cases, make new friends. No one is ever left standing alone in a corner feeling uncomfortable. It’s really a great vibe.

These types of events are important. So why not join us next month?

Photo credit: Women 2.0 Facebook

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Jennifer Marron

Jennifer Marron was the Manager, Marketing and Channel Development for MaRS. See more…