VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A regional nonprofit is commemorating Women’s Equality Day by working to educate and connect women entrepreneurs and professionals.

Black BRAND, the regional Black chamber of commerce, is hosting “Women and Equality Forum” presented by Truist Thursday, Aug. 26.

The day celebrates the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which prohibited the government from denying people the right to vote based on their sex.

Black BRAND president Blair Durham says they wanted to honor the day but put their spin on it.

“Our focus is all things wealth building, entrepreneurship,” she said. “So our event looks at how women can level up professionally,” she said.

The day-long forum is free and Durham says it will provide women education and other resources that can sometimes be hard to come by.

Durham says diversity is needed in the business space, whether it’s race or gender.

She says about 18% of businesses in Hampton Roads are Black-owned.

“The fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs are Black women, and it’s interesting because we’re having so many more entrepreneurs come forward but only about 3% are developing mature businesses,” she said. “There’s a lot of drop-off. Our hope is by having Black BRAND and programs like this, Black women and women in general get the skill sets they need to be viable whether through intrapreneurship in corporate space or entrepreneurship.”

The forum is meant to celebrate how far women have come since the passing of the 19th Amendment but it will also include talks on how to move forward.

“There’s still such a tremendous gap and not just access to resources but women’s pay. There’s still that issue that women don’t earn as much as their male counterparts. We know some of its systemic. Some of it’s discrimination but some of it’s education and developing those professional circles, being in the right place at the right time, having access to mentors, having access to sponsors to close some of that gap, that’s there. Move that need so more and more women can achieve these roles and really place in the entrepreneurship space.”

The event has both virtual and in-person options.

Two attendees at the event will be given $1,000 grants each to help their own businesses.

“We’re thrilled to be able to do that because access to capital is such a huge issue and to provide that boost to women to serve our community is what we’re doing,” Durham said.

For more information about Black BRAND, click here.

To register for the in-person event, click here.

To register for the virtual event, click here.