The Glass Ceiling Has Been Shattered

Jacki HillaryAs published on LinkedIn Influencers on July 29th, 2016.

“I am not a Republican or a Democrat. I am a Canadian.” Those two simple statements have saved me from a lot of arguments over the past few months. Who are you voting for has become one of the first questions people seem to ask these days. It is not that I don’t have opinions, I have many, but I have chosen to be somewhat quiet on the topic. Why? Because I have been practicing my listening. Also, as a Canadian, I cannot vote in the US, and I fully respect that everyone has the right to vote for whichever candidate they choose.

To be clear, I have dreamt about the day that a woman would not only become a serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States, but would win. I have thought about this for decades, and in the year 2001, it became the core plot line for a Wonder Woman screenplay I was working on at the time. That is a long story that you can read about here. The reason that having a woman President was so important to my story was because I saw it as a game changer. If and when a woman, a great woman, a qualified woman, a remarkable woman, ascended to the most important and powerful role in the world, the journey towards a truly gender balanced world would take a GIANT leap forward. In my make believe world, my lead character Wonder Woman, would use her superpowers to help make it happen. Not by forcing voters to choose her candidate, but by using her lasso of truth to make sure each of the candidates were in fact telling the truth. There was a lot more to it, but wouldn’t that be a handy device to have right about now?

So tonight, with Hillary Clinton accepting the nomination for President at the Democratic National Convention, I honor the moment. How could I not? This is the first time a woman has received such a nomination from a major party.  Whether you support Hillary or not, it is a game-changing moment.

Below are some highlights that I pulled from tonight’s program.

Chelsea Clinton

Firstly, I think she is awesome! As a mother of a 16 year old daughter who I think is one of the most amazing people on the planet, I know what an incredible bond it can be, should be, between a mother and her girl child. If you can be judged by the character and accomplishments of your children, then Hillary rocked it. May I be so blessed. Of course, you can say that Chelsea has been given every privilege and that is true, but I have seen lots of kids grow up with similar levels of privilege and turn out to be, well, not so nice and very self-interested. That is not Chelsea. She came across so natural, so poised, so honest, so likable. Amazing job.

The video by Shonda Rhimes with Morgan Freeman. 

I get that the whole point of that video was for us to leave feeling that Hillary Clinton is a complete gift to us all. So good job. That was what I was left feeling. But what was also clear from the video, and from other speeches, is that she has a life-long commitment to children, to families, and to public service.  Making the statement, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights” was a game-changing moment, and one of the most important speeches of all time. She said that over 20 years ago at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. I am glad they featured it.

Also, when they hugged on stage I truly lost it. What a moment. A moment for mothers and daughters everywhere.

Hillary Clinton – Some of my favorite lines from her speech.

We will not build a wall, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a job can get one.

As Secretary of State I went to 112 countries.

Don’t believe anyone who says I alone can fix it.

America needs everyone of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to make our nation stronger. Stronger Together. It is not just a slogan, it is a guiding principle. The economy needs to work for everyone.

My job titles tell you what I have done, not why. In all these years of public service the service part has come easier to me than the public part.

Caring is not enough. To drive real progress you have to change both hearts and laws. You need understanding and action.

When there are no ceilings, the sky is the limit.

I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives. Our Democracy is not working the way it should.

In America, if you dream it, you should be able to build it.

If fighting for equal pay and affordable child care is playing the woman card, then deal me in.

America is great because America is good.

Let’s be stronger together my fellow Americans.

Last thoughts

I am ending with one of my favorite quotes included in my Wonder Woman report.

“If ever the world sees a time when women will come together purely for the good of humanity, it will be a power as the world has never seen.” – Matthew Arnold, circa 1800

The photo was from 2013 when I received the Global Fund for Women’s Global Philanthropy Award. It was presented to me by Hillary Clinton. I was truly touched by how gracious she was, and how personal she made the award. Also in the photo is Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, President of The Global Fund For Women. Love her!

What I Would Tell The Next President

president picOriginally published on LinkedIn Influencers on April 23rd, 2016

On January 29th, 2009, a mere nine days after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was his first piece of legislation as President, and it set the stage for a presidency that has been visibly committed to equal rights for men and women. Since that historic day over seven years ago, Obama has reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, signed into law the Affordable Care Act, created the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the White House Council on Women and Girls, issued an executive order that mandated federal contractors to publish pay data according to gender and race in order to combat the wage gap, and this May, the White House will host The United State of Women, a three day summit in Washington DC that will tackle gender inequality across a range of issues, including education, health, leadership, and economic empowerment. Throughout his presidency, Obama has never been shy in declaring his commitment to gender equality, often referencing his two young daughters as his inspiration, but with his presidency soon coming to an end, it’s time to look to the future. Come November 8th, the United States will have a new President, and regardless of who that President is, I have one question I want to ask them: What are YOU going to do to improve gender equality in this country?

Yes, this is another post about gender equality, and believe me, I wish it wasn’t. I wish I could ask the future President a different question. I would love to sit down and talk to the future President about foreign policy or how to grow the economy. That being said, gender analysis is an important consideration for both of these issues, as it is for pretty much every issue, and it is my belief that if the United States was a country that took the lead on women’s equality, we would take the lead on a lot of other issues as well. Sadly, we are far from being the leader in this arena.

In the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report, an annual paper published by the World Economic Forum that tracks 145 economies according to how well they are utilizing their female citizens, the United States ranked 28th in the world, directly below Mozambique. Additionally, with issues such as campus sexual assault, rape culture,  gender pay gaps, sexual harassment, lack of quality childcare, inequitable access to capital, lack of women in leadership positions and TRAP laws dominating the headlines, it is clear that this country has a long way to go if we want to improve that ranking.

But just for a moment, imagine what would happen if we had a President who was dedicated to bringing greater gender balance and gender intelligence to their leadership and political agenda. Imagine what we could achieve as a country if every citizen, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, had a more equal opportunity to thrive and contribute. Imagine if the decision makers in all walks of life had diverse and varied life experiences to draw upon when making these important decisions. It’s an amazing vision for the future, and it’s what keeps me going in my work when all I want to do is bang my head against a wall. I recently attended the Skoll World Forum, a gathering of over a thousand of the world’s leaders and doers in the field of social entrepreneurship, and the issue of the lack of moral, authentic, and compassionate leaders came up more than once. Where are the world leaders that we truly respect, who are doing the “right” things, and who inspire us to be all we can be and do all we can do to make the world a more just and equitable place? Seriously, try to name some!

Thankfully, there are a few who while perhaps far from perfect, at least give us some hope. Last October, I was proud to watch as my fellow Canadians elected Justin Trudeau as the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada. Almost immediately, Mr. Trudeau made it clear that gender equality was going to be a core component of his platform when he unveiled the 29th Canadian Ministry; the first gender balanced ministry in Canadian history. When a reporter asked he why he felt gender equality was important, he simply replied, “Because it’s 2015.” Frankly, that’s all he really should have to say on the matter.

But it isn’t just Mr. Trudeau and Canada where gender equality is being addressed by world leaders. From Finland and Sweden, to Indonesia and Rwanda, world leaders across the globe are realizing that the key to economic development and social prosperity is gender parity, and it’s not just because it’s the morally right path. Research across all sectors have shown that when women and girls are empowered, everyone, every man, woman, and child, reaps the benefits. Together with Women Moving Millions, I recently put together a list of the top 200 reports that supports this argument, but the effort continues. I am currently curating a list of the top 300 reports that should prove once and for all that supporting and empowering women and girls is indeed a powerful strategy if you want peace and prosperity. If you cannot wait for me to share the final list, you can download the current version that at present includes 269 reports here. If you do take that step and you find that I am missing your favorite report, add the link in the comment section and I will include it.

With so much research, evidence, and common sense behind the idea that making women’s rights and inclusion a priority is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, why has no country ever achieved it? Well, the reality is that this sort of change is not going to happen overnight. As Elizabeth Banks put it so astutely at our Women at Sundance gathering earlier this year, “We are up against something, which is the entirety of human history”, but that doesn’t mean we stop pushing forward. If you were to be elected as the President of the most powerful country in the world, isn’t that be something you would want to be remembered for? Changing the course of human history for the better? My guess is that the answer would be yes.

What Will It Take To Make A Woman President?

Posted on LinkedIn Influencers on November 20, 2013

In 2008, amid the historic election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, Marianne Schnall’s eight year old daughter asked her mom a question: “Why haven’t we ever had a woman president?” It’s a fair question. Countries all over the world have or have had female leaders, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iceland, Ukraine, Norway, Liberia, Thailand, Argentina, Peru, and Denmark, and therefore it makes sense that a little girl in the United States would want to know why her country has never elected a woman for its leader. This question prompted Schnall to take a good look at the issue, and to delve deep into the myriad of reasons why a woman has never been the President of the United States. Her research has produced a book, titled What Will It Take To Make A Woman President?, and it was released earlier this week on November 5th, a timely date given that it coincided with a day of elections for many Americans.

An accomplished writer and interviewer, Schnall is no stranger to the challenges facing women today, as she is the founder and Executive Director of Feminist.com, one of the web’s leading sites for women. Acting as a resource guide and informational tool to help promote awareness, educate, and advocate for women worldwide, Feminist.com began in 1995, and has since grown to be one of the premiere resource guides on women’s issues online. Additionally, Schnall has written extensively for O, The Oprah Magazine, CNN, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, In Style, and the Women’s Media Center, as well as being a featured blogger for the Huffington Post. In 2010, Marianne compiled her “Inspiring Conversations” column into her first book, Daring to be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness, and Finding Your Own Voice.

This time around, Schnall has gathered an impressive list of interviewees for her exploration of women in leadership, including Anita Hill, Gloria Steinem, Kirsten Gillibrand, Maya Angelou, Nancy Pelosi, Pat Mitchell, and Sheryl Sandberg. In looking at previews posted online, it is clear that all of these women have very interesting and pointed opinions on why there aren’t more women in leadership positions across all sectors of life, and in sharing their opinions, they also share their optimism for the future. As Sandberg states, “One day there won’t be female leaders. There will just be leaders. I personally think it’s a numbers game. I basically think the system is broken and there are all kinds of institutional barriers, but if we can get enough women into jobs like yours and jobs like mine, that changes.” I couldn’t agree more that change is possible, and it is my hope that when women read this book, they will see more clearly and understand the barriers in their path to leadership, and find the inspiration to overcome them.

Jacki Zehner and Laura Moore