I AM Mending the Gap: How MMIE Student, Anne O’Neill, is Tackling Gender Inequality

Posted on June 25, 2019

Anne O'Neill, MMIE 2019

When Anne O’Neill started a social innovation project during her MBA (Cape Breton) in 2017, she hardly expected it to turn into a movement to increase awareness about gender inequality in athletics. But that’s exactly what happened. In just three months O’Neill has reached 35 countries with over 4000 views on her platform.

Anne, a current student in the Master of Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MMIE Class of 2019) program and the Certificate in Social Impact at the Smith School of Business, is on a mission to spark conversations about gender inequality in athletics.

Anne’s initial research was inspired by her experience as a tennis athlete and coach. It was during these experiences that she realized the common trend that girls were vastly underrepresented in her sport and others. Since then, Anne has interviewed numerous Olympians, coaches, and veterans in the world of athletics to create momentum for her social enterprise venture, I AM (mending the gap).

“I AM is a platform which educates and increases awareness around gender inequality in athletics,” Anne explains, “It starts conversations around the gender gap and equality in sports participation by providing certification to businesses which in turn support the I AM initiative.”

Over the past year, Anne has focused her attention on I AM through her Master’s and collaborated with the Centre for Social Impact to increase the momentum of her venture, which launched in March of this year. While she hopes to be revenue positive and successful in the traditional business sense, her success is about much more than profit.

“I’ve seen the [gender inequality] gap,” Anne says, “and if I could be part of mending it, it would be the best thing I’ve accomplished in my life thus far.”

Additionally, Anne’s experience as an entrepreneur has taught her the importance of following her passion, doing the right thing, and listening to feedback from peers, mentors, and the surrounding community. “Sometimes entrepreneurs get tunnel vision because they fall in love with their ideas,” she says, “but as social entrepreneurs and innovators, we can be leaders if we listen to feedback from our communities.”

Anne’s understanding of community support ecosystems has also helped her overcome challenges in her business. Earlier this year, she brought on 7 volunteers through the Centre for Social Impact to prepare for the launch of I AM’s website and digital marketing. “The Centre really helped me prepare for launch,” Anne comments, “I had a wide range of students helping, with experience from undergrad to masters. The diversity of students added huge value.”

Ultimately, Anne’s efforts in launching I AM (mending the gap) have added to her perspective that social innovation is where she wants to dedicate her time. While she knows that while gender inequality is a massive issue, she feels confident that she can be part of the impact to mend the gap for future generations. “It’s about taking steps towards change and starting the movement for the next generation,” Anne says, “It only takes one person to start a conversation that can spark a spiral of change.”

Thanks to Anne O’Neill (MMIE ‘19) for sharing your experience with the Centre for Social Impact. Are you a student who has a social impact story to share? Reach out to Marina at csi@queensu.ca.

Written by: Marina Darling, Program Assistant | Centre for Social Impact, Smith School of Business


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