March 8th was International Women’s Day, and I was honored to represent The Coca-Cola Company at an event focused on gender equality. It was a day I had looked forward to for weeks because not only was I getting to take part in the Closing Bell ceremony at the NASDAQ, but I also was one part of a much bigger movement highlighting an issue I care about deeply. 

The NASDAQ and partners UN Women, the UN Global Compact, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, International Finance Corporation, Women in ETFs (exchange traded-funds), and the World Federation of Stock Exchanges joined 34 other exchanges in hosting Closing Bell ceremonies focused on International Women’s Day. It was a symbolic, inspiring act designed to call attention to the significance of gender equality as it relates to sustainable economic development and business.

I had never imagined I would have the opportunity to be at the NASDAQ. The greatest U.S. technology companies are listed on the NASDAQ, and it is the second-largest exchange in the world. Having spent most of my career in government prior to joining The Coca-Cola Company, the NASDAQ is a center of power I had only heard about, read about and studied. Suffice it to say, I was very excited to get to see firsthand what went on inside the building in Times Square New York. 

The buzz in the room was palpable. Women made up the majority of the group that day, it was International Women’s Day, so I guess was fitting that women were over-represented! For some, it was their first time at the NASDAQ (like me), but others worked in finance and had been there many times before. For some, getting to the NASDAQ was just a taxi ride away, but others came from around the globe to celebrate and call attention to International Women’s Day. The one common thread was that each person there was involved in working toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality. This commonality of purpose, despite the differences of backgrounds, made the excitement that much greater.  

I became increasingly involved in gender equality work when I joined The Coca-Cola Company. In 2010, the company created 5by20, a global initiative to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, recognized not only the need that existed, but also the ways in which we could use our value chain to have a positive impact in economic empowerment for women. 5by20 has created opportunities for us to partner with organizations such as UN Women, who we partner with to conduct job and skills training for women in roles from farmers to artisans and virtually everything in between.   

Study after study has shown a direct correlation between more women in the workforce and a higher GDP. I consider myself lucky to work for The Coca-Cola Company, a company working to bring more women into the workforce. I look forward to continuing our work and creating a greater impact in empowering women, and maybe getting to ring the bell again next year. But in the meantime I’m going to frame this photo.

Missy Owens (second from left in the photo above) is director of public affairs and diplomatic relations at The Coca-Cola Company.