Our sixth annual Bay Street Bull 30X30 guide showcases a group of incredible individuals who are redefining the way we do business, championing their communities, and cultivating entirely new industries. From tech and environmental pioneers to cryptocurrency entrepreneurs and media trailblazers, each of this year’s inductees is challenging Canadians to think (and work) differently for a brighter future.
In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and best advice.
Rachel Wong and Istiana Bestari
Co-founders, Monday Girl
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Istiana Bestari: 80 percent of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections. However, most women can tell you how uncomfortable and exhausting traditional networking is. Rachel and I attended countless networking events just trying to get our foot in the door that were awkward and male-dominated, we handed out lots of business cards that went nowhere, and sent out dozens of cold emails asking for coffee chats with no responses.
Rachel Wong: We thought that building your professional network and meeting cool women in the city shouldn’t be this difficult or draining. So we started Monday Girl, Canada’s first networking platform for 10,000+ women to find job opportunities, build their network, and develop soft skills they don’t teach you in school, like how to prep for an interview or ask for a raise. We wanted to make it easier and actually fun to find mentors and connect with industry leaders.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Rachel Wong: Speaking from experience, I’ve been given a lot of career advice that just wasn’t applicable to me as an Asian-Canadian woman, especially early in my career. It can also be very discouraging when you don’t see anybody that looks like you in a position of leadership. I’m excited to be changing that and working to create a safe space for all women, regardless of their background, and to make job and mentorship opportunities more accessible.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your industry and/or community?
Istiana Bestari: It’s really exciting for us to see 48 percent of our actively job-hunting members actually land new jobs every single day. One of our members, Nicole, said it best, “Monday Girl Social Club was great for connecting me with mentors and new people in the marketing space. I had an MG mentorship meeting which helped me figure out exactly what I wanted in a role which gave me that extra insight and confidence for my interview–and I got the job!”
What kind of problems are you trying to solve? What’s wrong with the current status quo that you’ve taken on as your mission to change?
Rachel Wong: Research shows that women in Canada are 26 percent less likely than men to have a strong network, and we want to be a part of the driving force to change those numbers because having a strong network results in more job and mentorship opportunities. Networking events are typically seen as a ‘boy’s club’ since many of these events make it uncomfortable for women to get involved and feel represented. We built the platform we wished we had when we were starting our careers and our mission is to simply open more doors for more women.
How has the word “impact” manifested in your work?
Rachel Wong: I think impact really shows up in numbers. We’ve seen our members feel 40 percent more connected and confident about their careers after joining the platform and we’re also proud of the diverse community we’re building. 49 percent of our members identify as a woman of colour so continuing to connect Monday Girl members to mentors and leaders who look like them is how we truly make an ‘impact’ on the networking gap.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away from your work?
Istiana Bestari: Our biggest hope is that more people will support and uplift women in the workplace, especially when they’re not in the room. Can you bring in different perspectives and voices if you’re not seeing women and those of marginalized backgrounds around? Can you shout someone out for opportunities or recognize their contributions when they’re not in the room as well? Who is and who isn’t in the room always matters.
What has been your proudest moment as entrepreneurs? Your biggest milestone?
Istiana Bestari: In April 2022, we hosted our first big in-person event since the pandemic started with 150+ women in Toronto–The Monday Girl Summit. Tickets for the event sold out in under 24 hours, which shows the demand for in-person events and how women want to network in an inclusive space. We were excited to bring together an incredible roster of industry-leading keynote speakers including Taylor Frankel, co-founder and CBO of NUDESTIX; Nitsan Raiter, content creator and host of That’s So Sabotage podcast; Catriona Smart, co-founder of Coco + Cowe; Coach Carey; and Hyla Nayeri, co-founder of 437, and more.
Rachel Wong: We also just closed our doors for registration for our Q2 Monday Girl Social Club membership on May 1st, and we’re so happy to announce that we’ve reached over 1000+ Social Club members. We’re excited to launch more membership features, facilitate more mentorship opportunities, and host more in-person events across Canada.
Why does your work matter?
Rachel Wong: According to LinkedIn, the “networking gap” is the advantage some people have based on factors outside of their skill or education level. We all want to think that if you just work hard, two people with equal talent should have equal access to the same opportunities. The reality is that those who grow up in more affluent neighbourhoods and go to more prestigious schools get 12x the advantage in gaining more access to opportunities. Having seen and experienced this first-hand, our mission is to provide all women, regardless of their background, access to career support, job opportunities, and mentorship with leaders that look like them.
What have you learned about yourselves as you’ve built your company and raised your voice?
Istiana Bestari: Over the past few years we’ve really learned how to just figure anything out. From building the platform and marketing to planning events and shipping logistics, we’ve learned how to be really resourceful. Before the pandemic, we had hosted over 17 sold-out events and then had to pivot digitally which allowed for us to launch our Monday Girl Social Club membership. This was actually a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to bring that networking and mentorship experience online and make it more accessible.
What is a major career goal that you have set your sights on and hope to accomplish in 2022?
Rachel Wong: Up next we’re planning on hosting a pop-up in Vancouver and embarking on a campus tour across southern Ontario. The pandemic has made networking opportunities for students and those just starting their careers few and far between so we’re excited to connect them to our network of 10,000+ professional women across Canada and help them gain the confidence to build and grow their careers.
What is your ultimate north star?
Istiana Bestari: We just want women to see themselves represented at networking opportunities and not feel excluded or uncomfortable. So as long as we’re doing that and changing the way women experience building their careers. That’s all that matters to us.