After 20-plus years of working as an executive in trading, technology, philanthropy and policy, Gayle Jennings decided to use her experience to amplify social change for women of color.
Jennings founded iNTENT Manifesto, an educational and investment platform based on good design, intent and investment to drive meaningful amounts of capital to women of color tech startups.
Through iNTENT Manifesto, Jennings hopes to create a self-sustainable solution that will empower women of color entrepreneurs and improve the communities they live in.
“The smartest investment the world can make is in women of color entrepreneurs,” Jennings explained. “Together with good design, intent and investment we can create a world we can all be proud of.”
In March, iNTENT Manifesto received a $500,000 investment from JP Morgan Chase. A part of the company’s $150 million Small Business Forward initiative, the effort is intended to build and grow underserved entrepreneurs and provide flexible financing and other support to underserved women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses and applying what the firm has learned from small business investments in other communities.
“Our mission is to create a more inclusive economy in which entrepreneurs from all backgrounds have a fair shot at building and scaling their companies,” said Janis Bowdler, head of global philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase. “We are proud to support iNTENT Manifesto in its goal to elevate women of color as technology business leaders and owners. Thanks to its efforts we are beginning to change the face of entrepreneurship in the tech industry.”
Jennings met with The Atlanta Voice’s Rashida Powell to talk about the campaign and the impact entrepreneurial women of color make in the world. To learn more and sign the manifesto visit https://www.intentmanifesto.com.
What is the premise of iNTENT Manifesto?
Jennings: When I tried to raise funds for women-led tech companies, I found that people were surprised there were women entrepreneurs in that space, so I’d spend a lot of time educating them about that. This made me realize that before we can get people to invest in these businesses, we must open their eyes to the fact that these businesses exist. We needed a way for people to say they stand with us. That is how the iNTENT Manifesto was born.
How does your professional background support your movement?
Jennings: My background is in investment banking and international lobbying, and my last corporate role was with JP Morgan Foundations. I saw the movement of capital on the mergers and acquisitions banking side. On the social impact side, I worked with entities trying to affect social change through philanthropy. I wanted to merge the two – financial and social impact.
What motivated you to leave your corporate role to launch iNTENT Manifesto?
Jennings: I wanted to make a greater impact. This feeling was intensified by a cancer diagnosis. I had cancer in my eye and was worried that I was going to lose my vision or even worse – my life. I told myself if I lived, I needed to do something with my life that had purpose.
What is your vision for iNTENT Manifesto?
Jennings: My vision is that we move a billion dollars over the next couple of years to women of color tech entrepreneurs globally. We want to mobilize people to sign the pledge and get comfortable with the idea that they can support women entrepreneurs in tech.
How many signatures do you want on the pledge?
Jennings: A gazillion. When I coach women entrepreneurs, I tell them to have the courage to think big. I can’t say that to them if I don’t do it myself, so I’m shooting for the stars. If I can take that many signatures to Congress, the United Nations, General Assembly and Fortune 500 CEOs, we will start to unlock the dollars. This is a way to mobilize people and show that the world cares about this.
Which audiences are you targeting?
Jennings: The iNTENT Manifesto movement started nationally and focused on Black and Latina women. I have since expanded it to include all women of color internationally. India, Morocco, Dubai – all these places have amazing entrepreneurial women doing great work.
How did it feel to be awarded with $500,000 from JP Morgan Chase in support of your cause?
Jennings: I felt heard and validated. It proved to me that there are others who care about this issue who are willing to invest in it.
How will more women of color in tech help shape the world?
Jennings: Globally, everyone wants social change. They want to stabilize families, stimulate the economy, create jobs and create and improve companies. I believe if we invest in women we will arrive at these goals. Women-led companies create jobs, stabilize families, stimulate neighborhoods and increase the value of companies by building more diverse, inclusive teams. The smartest investment the world can make is in women of color entrepreneurs.
Why is it important to have women represented in business?
Jennings: I want the voices of women to help shape future products, services and technology. Products for my female body, health, education and more should be created by people who share my experience and perspective. The people who shape products should mirror the consumers who purchase goods.
How can readers get involved?
Jennings: They should think about how they consume and be intentional about what they buy. For example, if you want to support women, every other product you purchase can be one created by a woman.
What new trends in technology should women be aware of?
Jennings: Blockchain and crypto. Women need to build companies in those spaces. We should be right in the middle of it. I see women going to conferences centered around these topics and that excites me. They should read “The Truth Machine” by Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna. That book was my entry into understanding Blockchain on a macro level without being overwhelmed.