500 Reasons to Support International Women’s Day

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on March 8th, 2018.

Every March 8th, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, a celebration first held in 1909 in New York, but which was formally declared an annual international celebration by the United Nations in 1975 during the International Women’s Year. Today, March 8th is officially a public holiday in numerous countries around the world, including Cambodia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Mongolia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and there are events scheduled to mark this occasion in nearly every country across the globe. International Women’s Day is both a celebration of the accomplishments of women worldwide, and a call to action for gender equality and world peace, and I hope you all join me today in celebrating the incredible women in your life.

Every year, the United Nations picks a theme for the celebrations, and this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Time is Now. I can’t think of a better mantra coming off of the year we’ve just had. Incredible strides have been made, yes, but we still have so much farther to go. Gender inequality is not yesterday’s business, it is today’s. The Time is Now. This past year was, for me, the year that moments became movements, and movements are about people moving together towards a better future.

So what makes people move, individually and collectively? Many things, including personal experiences, values, stories of others, and yes, data. Prior to my extensive work in philanthropy, I worked in the finance industry as a trader, and I relied on numbers, statistics, and data to inform my decisions and my actions. As I transitioned out of the financial sector and into the philanthropic space, I brought this mindset with me. Though I personally did not need evidence to prove what I know to be true; that a more gender balanced and inclusive world will be a better world for all, when I truly dug into the research, I learned the depth of the need, the depth of the inequities, the depth of the opportunities, and the depth of proven interventions in need of resources. A road-map for positive change is in the research. It is not hypothetical, it is real. So not only did I search out, collect, and aggregate research and studies, but I shared them. Last year, in honour of International’s Women’s Day 2017, I published the Top 400 Reports on Women and Girls. 

The response to this publication was fantastic, and over this past year it has been an invaluable resource on more occasions than I can count. However, it quickly became clear that 400 reports, as high a number as that may seem, did not nearly encompass the scope of the research available. I continued to collect and gather research, studies, and reports, and before I knew it, that list had grown to 500 reports across 20 different categories, including Arts, Entertainment, Film & Media, Impact Investing with a Gender Lens, Philanthropy, Violence Against Women & Trafficking, Entrepreneurship, and Political Representation. There’s even a section for Masculinity and Engaging Men in Gender Equality.

I cannot promise that this list will be updated and republished every March 8th to celebrate International Women’s Day, but I’m hoping it will, so please send me any missed or new reports for inclusion in future editions to @researchonwomen and #researchonWandG on twitter, or post the link below.

Happy International Women’s Day!

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 16th, 2018.

I’m not exactly what you would call an early adopter of technology. I love it, but I don’t always take to new technologies right away. That being said, once I figure it out, I usually become a ferocious consumer, which is a pretty accurate way to describe my initiation into the world of podcasts. I may have been late to the podcast party, but now that I’m here, I can’t get enough. Whether it’s in the car, on the elliptical, or taking my dogs for a walk, there’s never a bad time to catch up on my podcasts. While there are literally hundreds of thousands of podcasts to choose from, there’s one that is heads and tails above the rest as far as I’m concerned, and if you’re not listening to On Being, I’m not going to lie, I may be judging you right now. Just a bit.

Hosted by Krista Tippett, On Being is a weekly podcast that discusses some of the most basic, and most profound, questions in life. What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live our lives? You know, the easy questions. Except that they’re not easy at all, and in fact are incredibly complicated questions that require extraordinarily sensitive and respectful discussions in order to get anywhere close to an answer, and this is where Krista excels. Guests on the show range from scientists and religious leaders, to artists and teachers, and while you may have heard of some of her guests, such as Maya Angelou, Desmond Tutu, Sheryl Sandberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Martin Sheen, Eve Ensler, and the Dali Lama, I know I hadn’t heard of the majority of her guests before listening to their episodes. However, after hearing what they had to say, I’m happy that On Being provided the introduction, as their discussions with Krista are always thoughtful, insightful, illuminating, and just downright incredible. With episodes dating all the way back to 2001, there are hundreds to choose from, but if you’re looking for recommendations, please check out 5 of my favorite episodes below.

1) Brene Brown – Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

I just listened to this podcast yesterday and it is so, so, so good. If you do not know Brene’s work, I’m judging you again. Check out her many books and TED talks HERE. Together, Brene and Krista take on the issue of belonging. It’s a big one and it’s an important one, and it goes to the core of who we are as human beings. Such a great episode. Go. Listen.

2) Parker Palmer and Courtney E. Martin – The Inner Life of Rebellion

I am blessed to personally know these two amazing people, and I cannot get enough of either of them. You may know Courtney from her many books and TED talks, and Parker, well, he is a legend, and one of his many books, Let Your Life Speak, was a game-changer for me when I read it almost 20 years ago. I have listened to this episode over and over again.

3) Sheryl Sandburg and Adam Grant – Resilience After Unimaginable Loss

Sheryl suffered an unimaginable loss when her husband, Dave Goldberg, passed away suddenly in 2015. In this touching podcast she opens up about her loss together with her dear friend Adam Grant. I learned so much from listening, including how to support a friend who had recently also suffered an unimaginable loss.

4) Maria Popova – Cartographer of Meaning in a Digital Age

Before On Being I had not heard of Maria and Brain Pickings. Now I know and I am the better for it.

5) Lyndsey Stonebridge – Thinking and Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt for Now

There were so many great lines and incredible observations in this podcast that I found myself pausing it, hitting replay, and then pausing it again to process. Here is one of them. “Thinking,” she says, “is not the same as judgment, but it creates the right conditions for judgment.” Since last year was the year I was committed to thinking about my thinking, this podcast was a perfect fit.

Beyond her incredible podcasts, there are many other reasons to jump over to the On Beingwebsite. In 2013, Krista expanded her operations by starting her own production company, Krista Tippett Public Productions, in order to produce future episodes of On Being. Since then, this company has gone on to launch several additional podcasts, conversational and writing projects, and 2016’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, a book that once again tackles the ever simple question of how to live a life of wisdom, and where exactly that wisdom can be found. Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite books and I can’t stop recommending it to everyone I meet.

This weekend, Krista is further expanding her enterprise once more by hosting the first ever On Being Gathering in California at the 1440 Multiversity, and I couldn’t be more excited to be one of the inaugural attendees along with my husband and daughter. Billed as three days of “conversation, poetry, and community with Krista Tippett, beloved teachers from the show and the blog, and the entire On Being team”, I can’t wait for the retreat to get started later today.

In today’s divided and fractured times, I look forward to my weekly appointment with On Being, because every time I finish an episode, I’m reminded that civil, respectful, and productive conversations are possible, even between those who couldn’t be farther apart in their opinions, and this is something that our world desperately needs right now. And in case you were wondering why I’ve been referring to Krista in the informal first name basis for this article, it’s because I’ve been lucky enough to get to know her over this past year and to call her a friend. I can assure you, she’s just as incredible in person as she is on the podcast, so go subscribe now. You’re welcome.

PLEASE share your favorite episodes in the comment section if you are already a listener to On Being, or if you have other favorite podcasts, please share those too. Have a great day.

Imagine Yourself a HERO

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on February 5th, 2018.

The Sundance Film Festival takes over the small town of Park City, Utah for 10 days every January. Yes, it is all about movies, but it is also about so much more than that. It is a full-out cultural experience. The programmers choose from thousands of feature fiction, non-fiction films, shorts, episodic, and virtual reality works to present to a global audience of industry folks and film lovers alike. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it can make a career to have a work premiere at Sundance. In many ways this festival is like winning a gold medal for storytellers.

I am lucky enough to live in Park City, and for the past 5 years I have served as a Trustee of the Sundance Institute, which is amazing because I LOVE movies. For 10 days I am ALL IN, seeing 20+ films, attending panels, meeting with filmmakers, going to parties, and much, much more. Sundance is non-stop from 8am to 12am every day and I love every second of it. What makes this festival so incredible is to not only experience the work, but to get to know the creators of that work as well. At Sundance it truly is all about the filmmakers. Year after year I have noticed that themes often reveal themselves in the films being presented, and this year was no exception. The tag line for 2018 was “the story lives in you”, and it could not have been more appropriate. The characters in so many of my favorite films this year all had these profoundly complex back stories.

In particular, Jennifer Fox’s The Tale was easily the most talked about film at the festival, but it won’t be coming soon to a theatre near you. Instead, The Tale will be coming to a television screen near you as it was picked up by HBO shortly after its Sundance premiere. Described as one of the first truly great films of the #MeToo movement, despite having been in the works for years, The Tale is not only an incredibly powerful film, it’s also incredibly timely, as it manages to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist in a way that is astonishing. I was at the premiere of this film last Saturday, and believe me, it very much earned its standing ovation. Starring Laura Dern and Isabelle Nelisse (she was 12 when filming took place), it is about a woman who “discovers the coded details she composed 40 years earlier” of “a special relationship she had with two adult coaches.” It is a film about memory, agency, the choices we make, the choices we think we make, and ultimately, the choices we don’t make. The Tale is both a stunning film and a crucial movie for our times, so please look out for it on HBO later this year. (photo with the incredible Director, Jennifer Fox)

One film that will be finding its way to cinemas in the coming year is opening night film Blindspotting (Twitter @blindspottin), which was picked up by Lionsgate last week. Featuring searing performances by leads Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, this is a movie for your must see list. (photo with these incredible actors below)“Exploding with energy, style, and raw emotion, this film unravels today’s intersection of race and class with urgent and poetic justice.” There were many films about this intersection, including MonsterMonsters and Men (@monstersmenfilm), Burden and others, and never before in my experience at the festival have there been so many complex male characters that challenge beliefs around what it means to be a ‘real man’. There was a rap sequence in the film that blew my mind and for good reason. Lead actor Daveed Diggs was one of the original cast members of Hamilton.

Other highlights for me included Puzzle, picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, Monster, from Executive Producer John Legend, and Heart Beats Loud, which had probably the most epic title song ever. On the documentary front, the best of the best included Won’t You Be My Neighborfrom Focus Features, 306 Hollywood, award winner On Her Shoulders, and Generation Wealth by the magnificent Lauren Greenfield (@lgreen66) and Studio 54.

Onto the Virtual Reality. Sundance has been programming VR pieces for the past few years, and may have been one of the first major film festivals to do so. This year the number of submissions in this category exploded. “The New Frontier section champions filmmakers and artists who explain, experiment with, and explode traditional storytelling.” I was transported to the Amazon to spend time with the first woman shaman in Awavena, dove in to the animated world of a teenage Puerto Rican girl in Battlescar, and was trained as an astronaut in Space Explorers: A New Dawn. While all of these films were incredible, Hero(@iNKStories) was transformational. Please find a video I filmed right after experiencing this piece below.

Stories matter. One of my favorite quotes is by Harold Goddard. “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” The Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support independent storytellers, helping them to tell the stories they want, no, strike that, NEED to tell. Yes, of course, the hope is that the end product is sold, but it is clear that what might matter more is that the end product is seen, is heard, and is experienced.

Please support independent film and artists. Take some time on the Sundance website and watch the short videos on the artists behind the work. Their stories are as amazing as the stories they tell.

Here are the winners.

To find great films and where to watch them, here.