12 Incredible Moments From The Women in the World Summit


The eighth annual Women in the World Summit took place in NYC last week, and as to be expected, this gathering of some of the most powerful thought leaders of our time left the crowd alternately breathless and burning to take action. It brought together stories and advice from women (and a few men) of all backgrounds, countries, ages and religions, all driven by the same question: How can we make the world better? These women are challenging the status quo to live a better life, oftentimes breaking the law and risking their lives to do what’s right.

It was fun. It was heavy. And it was inspiring as all get-out. The cultural shift resulting from the 2016 election has intensified and magnified the problems at hand; as Nietzsche put it, “You need turmoil in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” And the dancing stars were out in force this last week; check out the best moments and truth bombs from the three-day event below:

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit. 

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit. 

1. “I am a mediocre mother on my best day.”

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest and former Wall Street exec, is on a mission to educate women to manage their life finances better so that all the pieces work together more effectively. The overwhelming pressure of “having it all” can actually hold women back, resulting in women dropping off right before breaking the glass ceiling.

On how to get more diversity in charge: “CEOs need to start holding middle management accountable with hiring metrics. Because they just promote people who [are] like themselves, and nothing ever changes.”

2. “Women internalize stress more, because they’re perfectionists and more judgmental about themselves.”

Five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Arianna Huffington’s view on solving the gender diversity gap in leadership is about changing work culture. “The culture is wrong. It was set by [men] and it it claims that in order to succeed, you need to burn out. We are not machines. We need down time. It’s not a bug, it’s a human feature. [On top of that], women internalize stress more because they’re perfectionists and more judgmental about themselves. Women have 40% more of a chance of developing heart problems and 60% [of an increased risk for] diabetes because of stress. That’s why women leave before reaching the top.”

3. “I had never heard about women who don’t work. Under Mao, men and women had equal pay and equal jobs.”

There is a fascinating phenomenon in China: It is home to two-thirds of the world’s female billionaires. Zhang Xin started as a factory worker and is now often referred to as “the woman who built Beijing.” Her visionary approach to real estate and architecture has made her the 5th self-made billionaire in China. Zhang shares how communism in China played into more gender equality in some respects: “China had no private economy 20 years ago. Men and women started at the same level. Nobody had anything. Mao was terrible in many ways, but he did say ‘Women can raise half the sky.’ We grew up in that environment.”

photo: Mara Lecocq

photo: Mara Lecocq

4. “Little girls would rather have cancer than be fat.”

With her campaign #WomenNotObjects, Madonna Badger uses advertising as a tool to act against the objectification of women in advertising and their negative impacts on women. Right now, male-dominated advertising executives make the decisions that impact the fabric of society. Yet more than 75% of household purchase decisions are made by women. When more women are involved, studies show that ads perform better and bring brands more revenue. “Before the the '#LikeAGirl’ commercial came out, only 19% thought it was a positive expression. Today, 76% do. Advertising can be a force for good,” says Mac Pritchrard, Chief Brand Officer of P&G.

5. On harassment in the workplace: “[Human Resources] is not your friend. HR won’t help you. The first call you need to make is to an attorney.”

Former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson, her lawyer Nancy Erika Smith, and firefighter Patricia Tomesello spoke about the retaliation sexual harassment victims face long after their stories make headlines. “When you speak up, you lose your job. The law needs to change. It’s the man who needs to lose his job, not the woman. We’re not going to be silenced anymore. We’re mad as hell.” The solution: Get more female legislators to change antiquated laws that stop women from exposing sexual harassment in the workplace.

via IMDB

via IMDB

6. “Women are not afraid. It’s 2017. You cannot hold women back.”

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy uses film as a means to highlight societal issues that need to change. A Girl in the River tells the story of a woman who miraculously survives after being shot in the face and thrown in a river by her father and brother—the price to pay in Pakistan for falling in love. She pressed charges, and Shereen won an Academy Award for the film. In the wake of these events, Pakistan finally made honor killings illegal. “The world is really changing. With 80% of Pakistanis now having access to phones, women know what their rights are. Women are not afraid. It’s 2017. You cannot hold women back.”

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit

7. A group of Yazidi women are fighting ISIS.

As the result of genocide and sexual enslavement by ISIS, a group of Yazidi women are fighting back. One of the key motivators of The Sun Ladies is that men fighting for ISIS believe they won’t go to heaven if they get killed by a woman. These rape victims are ready to give them hell. Maria Bello, actress, activist and producer, tells the stories of the Yazidi female fighters with an upcoming virtual reality short film.

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit

8. “When you ask a man if he wants to run for office, he says, ‘When should I start?’ When you ask a woman, she says, ‘Really? Why me?’”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on a mission to get more women in politics, starting with a campaign called “Ask Her To Run,” in which he invites people to act as motivators. “It’s important for women to put pressure on other women.”

On using men as allies: “Men have to be part of the solution. We need to talk to the people who—unfairly—still have more power.”

On the female agenda: “Promoting women to positions of power isn't just a nice thing to do, it's the smartest possible thing to do."

photo by Mara Lecocq

photo by Mara Lecocq

9. “When you understand that a cartoon can lead to violence, it’s our duty as journalists to break this taboo.”

Zineb El Rhazoui is a journalist and writer whose colleagues were killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack. Samia Hathroubi is a French Muslim activist with whom she shared diverging points of view on the hijab. Zineb claims, “I will consider the hijab as normal dress the day women won’t be jailed for not wearing it.” Samia defends, “If you are a feminist, you have to fight for the rights of every woman. And they should be able to choose to wear whatever they want.”

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit

Photo: Tina Brown’s Women in the World Summit

10. “Standing up against a Nigerian army is like standing up against a moving train... So let us do it together.”

Hafsat Abiola-Costello is the daughter of first democratically-elected and peaceful president in Nigeria, who was sent to jail by the military before he ever took office. Her mother became an activist who persisted in the face of rampant death threats before she was eventually murdered by the Nigerian army. Despite the incredible tragedies of her life, Hafsat still believes: Nigeria is a democratic country, and fighting for your rights is always worth it.

11. “I’ve always wanted to get older. Do you know how hard I worked to get these?”

Golden Globe-winning actress and Blackish star Tracee Ellis Ross pointed to her under-eye bags with pride.

12. “Society doesn’t think young women can think in multitudes. Women are raised to think that they need to be either pretty or smart.”

Elaine Welteroth, Editor of Teen Vogue, on biases towards women and the very simple idea of them being allowed to enjoy fashion and politics at the same time.


(Hillary Clinton was there, too, and she said so many important things she got her own post; check it out here.)

-Mara Lecocq

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