Truer words couldn’t have been said in a room filled with thousands of powerful women from across the world. Clinton, Angelina Jolie, Diane von Furstenberg, Katie Couric, and Samantha Power (US Ambassador to the UN) were among dozens of exceptional women and girls who spoke at the 6th Annual Women in the World Summit (#WITW) held in NYC this week from Wednesday, April 22 – Friday, April 24.
Several Wharton Women in Business members attended the summit and walked away with powerful reflections on what it means it to be leader on the global stage today…
Kafayat Babajide, WG ‘15 – The summit was an emotional experience. We milled through an array of relevant and weighty topics that affect both men and women. I cried hearing Yeonmi’s story about her escape from North Korea and learned so much about the state of the region. I laughed when Samantha Power gave such an on point response to “What she thinks about Claire Underwood” (“I would be more effective with her wardrobe, and she would be more effective with my husband.”) I smiled until my face fatigued when seeing Eunice Akoth, and Marquesha Babers recite their powerful spoken word pieces. I writhed with tension when listening to the panels about rape in India and the US. My philosophy is that something that can shuttle you through so many emotions and move you in myriad ways is matter and import speaking to you. I truly felt compelled to act.
Maribeth Crane, WG’ 16 – The term “social impact” plays an increasingly important role on campus, but it still sits far from center stage in the minds of many banking, consulting or technology-oriented MBAs. The WITW summit was a refreshing opportunity to learn and think about incorporating more meaningful social impact efforts into my life. One of the major takeaways was that though women are severely marginalized in other parts of the world such as the Middle East and Africa, there is still so much ground to be gained for women right here in the United States. The U.S. is the only developed nation that lacks guaranteed paid leave for new mothers, maternal death dates are higher in some parts of this country than in sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. comes in at a dismal 54th place when ranked against all other countries based on female participation in government. These gender disparities affect men and affect our economy and our society as a whole.
Diyva Krishnan, WG ’16 – The Women in the World Summit was one of the most powerful conferences I have attended. Women from all walks of life including entertainment, politics, business, and activism led provocative discussions that made me question “what more can I do?” Despite the powerhouse names, my most memorable moment of the last day was when Eunice Akoth, a 10-year old poet and schoolgirl from Nairobi, brought the entire hall at Lincoln Center to a standing ovation with her heartfelt poetry dreaming about a better life. Listening to her passionately declare “And so I dream my dream!” reminded me once again that the power of dreams cannot be underestimated. Doubts and fears are not strong enough roadblocks to prevent us from scaling the mountains and reaching the top. With the gifts and privileges we’ve been given, we should all be just as brave as Eunice to dream big and follow those dreams with unrelenting passion.
Nearly all of the speakers and attendees were women, but the issues this Summit highlighted are truly all people’s issues. When the human, financial, political, and social rights of women are compromised, entire families, communities, markets, and nations suffer.
So here’s our call to action – inarguable things that we as Wharton students can do to drive progress for women in the world…
1. Speak up.
In Jon Stewart’s words at WITW, “Technology has democratized the idea of who can be an advocate.” Use your social media tools and networks to join the movement of voices that call out injustices to our world leaders.
2. Advocate education for all.
As students, we all know the value of education for advancing lives. Millions of children do not have access to educational tools. Without education they are compromised in their ability to rise out of violations and underprivileged life situations. Share your time or resources to ensure women and girls are being educated.
3. Now and throughout your career, advocate for female participation. How many women are in your worlds, do they reflect the true number of women in the population? When women are underrepresented, how did that happen? Ask those questions aloud and work to solve them. Look to your pipeline, your expectations, your cultural environment. When women are underrepresented in education, business, and politics, entire communities, markets, and constituents are overlooked.
We at Wharton are privileged with education, networks, future prospects, rights and comforts. Whatever you do after reading this article, please don’t do nothing. In the words of US Ambassador Power at WITW, “You can’t just say ‘The world is hard, I need a nap.’ Your job is to save who you can, support who you can.”
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