Joya Dass co-founder LadyDrinks
People often ask me, “How did you start LadyDrinks?”
The movement actually has its origins in Toronto.
My friend and colleague Greta Knutzen had started it with a group of friends as a response to the Recession. It was a way for women in film and television to come together each month, network, and find jobs.
When Greta and I teamed up to launch documentary production company, we decided to keep the tradition and keep hosting LadyDrinks networking events in New York City.
The first one was held at Bubble Lounge in Tribeca July 2012.
Three hundred. That’s the number of South Asian women that started showing up to the first events. I was OVERWHELMED. That’s the only word I can use to describe the feeling. I had no idea what was happening.
All I did know is that I had dreamed of becoming a television anchor since I was four years old. It was a goal my immigrant Indian parents were not behind, so I did it on my own. I paid for college. I paid for graduate school. I paid for every move from Pennsylvania to Boston to Washington to New York to Wyoming and back again to realize the dream. And if it had not been for some very strong men and women who had stood in as family over that journey and supported me, believed in me—I would not be standing here today. I often told that story. I was very vocal about it.
I just had no idea that anybody was listening.
At the first LadyDrinks, the ladies were coming to share that they, too, were leaving behind “Indian parent approved professions” to realize their dreams. They were coming to share they, too, were doing things outside of ‘doctor, lawyer, engineer.’
It was the first time I had come down from behind the glass screen of the tv camera to connect. I realized that I was in a place of responsibility. Whom had I interviewed for the last 17 years on television? CEO’s, thought leaders, authors, and titans of business. Why not create programming to connect that thought leadership to this demographic of smart, ambitious women professionals?
Today, LadyDrinks has 1300 members and spans events in New York, Washington DC, Toronto, Princeton, London, Paris and Mumbai.
I’ve grown the membership by hosting events every single month. Some are fun things, like a tour of the North Fork wine tasting region of Long Island via limo. Some are panels on serious subjects such as “How to network better” or “How to negotiate?” But most importantly, I’m being very intentional about putting successful minority women role models to put in front of this audience. Our stories are different. We need to see what we can be. We also need to realize we are not alone in addressing the cultural hurdles we had to overcome, before tackling the professional ones.