Why No Wonder Woman?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 23rd, 2017.

“The destiny of the world is determined less by battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in” – Harold Goddard.

What follow is the opening letter to a 70 page report I did 4 years ago called “Why No Wonder Woman?” Given that we will indeed have the first feature film for this character on June 2nd, I thought this was the time to repost these words. It shares my love for the character and what she has meant to me. 

I believe in the story of Wonder Woman. I always have. Not the literal baby being made from clay story, but the metaphorical one. I believe in a story where a woman is the hero and not the victim. I believe in a story where a woman is strong and not weak. Where a woman can fall in love with a man, but she doesnʼt need a man. Where a woman can stand on her own two feet. And above all else, I believe in a story where a woman has superpowers that she uses to help others, and yes, I believe that a woman can help save the world.

“Wonder Woman was created as a distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to ʻa world torn by the hatred of men.ʼ”

While the story of Wonder Woman began back in 1941, I did not discover her until much later, and my introduction didnʼt come at the hands of comic books. Instead, when I was a little girl I used to watch the television show starring Lynda Carter, and the animated television series, Super Friends. Like so many other little girls I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I twirled, I lassoed the bad guys, I pretended I had an invisible plane, and I dressed up in that iconic costume.

But then Wonder Woman went off the air, and I forgot about her and went on with my life. Or so I thought. I fearlessly rode horses. I started working at age 14. I graduated top of my class from high school. I became a Canadian Junior Body-Building Champion. I got into an elite program at the University of British Columbia that allowed me to become the first undergraduate recruit from the school to be hired at Goldman Sachs in New York. And in 1996, I became the youngest woman and first female trader to be made partner at Goldman Sachs. I also became a wife and a mother of two. I was busy trying to become my own kind of Wonder Woman. One who had a successful career, served her family, was there for her friends, and gave back to her community.

It was at the height of my struggle to try to balance it all that I rediscovered Wonder Woman. The year was 2001. At the time, I was working in Goldmanʼs executive office reporting directly to the most senior leaders of the firm on issues relating to the firmʼs culture, diversity, compensation, promotion, retention, and most importantly, leadership. I became obsessed with the concept of leadership, and I would devour anything that was written on this topic. One such piece was an article written by Tom Peters in Fast Company Magazine called “50 Rules of Leadership”. It became my favorite, and I would pass it along to anyone and everyone because it represented diverse, creative, and bold thinking. Peters left one rule blank, and invited readers to submit their own rule of leadership. I sat there trying to determine what was missing, and for whatever reason a thought popped into my head: “Be a Superhero.” The leadership principle followed and this is how it read.

“Remember what it was like to jump out of bed on those Saturday mornings so you could rush to turn on the TV to get another dose of Superman, Batman, or in my case, Wonder Woman! These characters inspired us to change the world and to do the right thing. To fight evil wherever it reared its ugly head. To be an example, and yet hid your true identity because it was not about personal glory. They never asked, “What is in it for me?” They never let the bad stuff get them down. They had a job to do and damn it they approached it with absolute enthusiasm and discipline. Be a superhero!”

I typed up this statement and shared my idea with a colleague. She added some great visuals of superheroes to my new motto, including Wonder Woman, and I proudly displayed the finished product on my desk. Wonder Woman was back in my life, and this time, she was here to stay. From that moment on, whenever I was facing challenges at work, at home, or in life in general, I would think to myself, BE A SUPERHERO JACKI. BE A WONDER WOMAN. Not THE Wonder Woman, A Wonder Woman.

At this point my story becomes very, very long, and one day I plan to tell it in all its detail. It is the story of the past 11 years of my life, years that began with Wonder Woman inspiring me to leave Goldman Sachs in 2002 to pursue a different path. She has been with me, guiding me, and manifesting herself in the countless women with whom I have come to know and love and collaborate. Wonder Woman has been with me as I discovered and then pursued my personal destiny to use my time, my treasure, and my talent to create a more gender balanced world. A world where women, WOMEN, are more equally represented in positions of power and influence, and to encourage women to use all of their resources, including financial, to help other women and the world in general.

Pursuing this destiny has taken me on quite the journey, a journey that has brought me to where I am now, serving as the Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions (WMM). WMM is a community of nearly 200 people who have given gifts of $1million or more to organizations or initiatives that work on behalf of women and girls. Our mission is to mobilize unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls. We work for justice, for peace, for love, and for our world that has been torn apart. Moreover, I know that I will never stop fighting for what I know in my heart and head to be true, that a more gender balanced world is a better world for everyone.

I am also a past and current board and advisory board member of many, many womenʼs organizations and networks. Increasingly, my service and funding has gone towards driving collaborations, collective impact, and more and more, towards film. Through Impact Partners, and now Gamechangers, a feature film fund for women directors, I am leveraging my resources to shape and influence popular culture, because I know it matters. I believe that “we cannot be what we cannot see.”

What is missing from all of this is a film to inspire us. What is missing is a superhero film that has a WOMAN in the lead. What is missing in a world full of wonder women, is THE Wonder Woman.

In the 11 years since I left Goldman Sachs this film has never left my mind. It started with an idea for the story, and from there I took a screenwriting course, I founded a film production company, I met with film people, and I tried to figure out how we could get this done. To this day I clip articles and jot down ideas, and I stick them all in a giant plastic box with a label that reads WONDER WOMAN MOVIE. I thought my destiny was to eventually write the screenplay, or get involved with the movie in some capacity. I reasoned that this was why a film had failed to materialize; it was waiting for me!

The fact of the matter is that no, it is not waiting for me. It is waiting for us. It is waiting for Wonder Woman fans like you and me to stand up and demand a great film that will inspire a new generation of girls to be all that they can be. Just like the Wonder Woman of the 1970s did for me. Just like she has done for so many other women. Right now I have a 13 year old daughter and 16 year old son, and they have both grown up in an era where superheroes are everywhere in pop culture. These characters provide entertainment and escapism at a time when the world is in turmoil, and they allow us all to imagine what we could do for this world if we had superpowers. Whether we like it or not, superheroes are role models, and so far the only role models my children have seen at the cinema are male. Enough is enough.

My frustration with the absence of Wonder Woman on screen led me to the creation of this report. I wanted to chart Wonder Womanʼs history in all forms of media and prove just how far her influence reaches. Contained in the report is a brief summary of her storyline, the history of Wonder Womanʼs film development, the various other mediums in which she has appeared, and a chart outlining the history of superhero stories on screen, as well as the budgets and grosses of these films. Over two years in the making, I chose April 15th, 2013 as the date for this reportʼs release because it is the same day as the release of Kristy Guevara-Flanaganʼs documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines on PBS. As this film demonstrates, I am not alone in my frustration for more female role models in the media.

So here is my request to the powers that be who have the decision making power over the future of Wonder Woman on the big screen. Please hire the most amazing feminist writer you can find to write the screenplay. Before she sits down to write, have her meet with the feminist leaders of our world. Women like Gloria Steinem, who happens to be a Wonder Woman expert. Women like Hillary Clinton, Musimbi Kanyoro, Leymah Gbowee, Carol Gilligan, Marion Write Edelman, Helen LaKelly Hunt, Abigail Disney, Eve Ensler; the list goes on and on. And yes, me, I would very much like to sit in on one of those meetings too.

Above all else, please do this right and honor the fact that you are not just making another movie; you are creating a film that could change the world. Wonder Woman changed mine.

May this closing quote serve as your inspiration:

“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

Now thatʼs superpower! Respectfully yours,

Jacki Zehner

A Passionate Wonder Woman Fan

2017. The Year of Wonder Women.

wwAs published on LinkedIn Influencers on December 31st, 2016.

I believe in the story of Wonder Woman. I always have. Not the literal baby being made from clay story, but the metaphorical one. I believe in a story where a woman is the hero and not the victim. I believe in a story where a woman is strong and not weak. Where a woman can fall in love with a man, but she doesn’t need a man. Where a woman can stand on her own two feet. And above all else, I believe in a story where a woman has superpowers that she uses to help others, and yes, I believe that a woman can help save the world.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Wonder Woman in DC’s All Star Comics #8 in December, 1941. She was introduced as an Amazon warrior who was sent to the world of men to fight against the biggest threat facing the world at that time; the Nazi party in World War II. Since her debut, Wonder Woman has come to stand for justice, progress, equality, and fiercely strong women the world over, and she has inspired me countless times in my life and career. I constantly tell myself to strive to be a superhero, and when times get tough, I ask myself, “What would Wonder Woman do?”

In 1972, the premiere issue of Ms. magazine put Wonder Woman on its cover and boldly proclaimed, “Wonder Woman for President!” Obviously, a fictional character cannot be president of the United States (nor can she be an Ambassador for the United Nations it seems), but I had, however, hoped that when celebrating 75 years of Wonder Woman, I would also be celebrating many other big wins for women in leadership. Additionally, I desperately wanted to see Wonder Woman on the big screen, and three years ago I published a 60 page report to that end. With Spider Man already at three incarnations in just 15 years, I figured it was time for Wonder Woman to get her due.

Incidentally, in 2002, I left my job at Goldman Sachs in no small part because I had an idea for a screenplay about Wonder Woman, and I had decided that I was the one to write it. The narrative was that one woman, no matter what kind of powers she had, could not on her own save the world. Anything she could do alone would always be a drop in the bucket, and she learned this the hard way. Yes, she may have saved one woman from sexual assault, but what about the other 1 in 5 women who were likely to experience sexual violence in their lifetimes? So what my character decided to do was to develop a plan to help all women by focusing on the world’s most powerful and influential people and tap into their own unique superpowers. Her job was to recruit them, take them to an island (think Maui), and run a superhero bootcamp. The ultimate goal? To help get the most awesome, incredible, brilliant, qualified, kind woman possible elected to our world’s highest office: President of the United States of America. What was going to be the main dramatic tension of the film? That our ‘perfect’ candidate would not win, but instead would lose to a man who was going to turn the earth over to alien, and very dark, forces. What you did not know at the beginning of the film was that our female presidential candidate was actually delivered to earth at her birth, and was actually was our Wonder Woman character’s sister. Remember this was 2002. No joke.

I never did write that screenplay, but so many elements of that story have since played out in real life. Beyond the narrative around a possible female president, there is the bigger one about women using their powers for good. My life’s work as a speaker, blogger, and Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions has been about championing for women to use their resources, time, treasure, and talent to not only support women and girls around the world, but to help create a more safe, just, and equitable world in the process. It is only when all of us more fully embrace our power to help and serve others that the dream of a brighter future might finally be realized.

In the meantime, Wonder Woman is FINALLY coming to the big screen in her own film on June 2nd, 2017, and I will be there on opening day for the first possible screening. The trailers that have been released so far show the Wonder Woman that I know and love; a fierce warrior who comes to the world of man to take a stand and fight against injustice. She is strong, capable, and puts those bullet deflecting bracelets to good use on more than one occasion, and makes it abundantly clear that she will do the right thing, even if no one else will.

Young girls need to see more incredible women in positions of leadership. They need to see women who can stand up against injustice. In the absence of a female president, I’ll take a fictional hero who will remind our young girls and daughters that women are powerful agents of change who will not sit idly by. They will march into battle, at times armed only with a shield, bullet-deflecting bracelets, and a lasso of truth, and fight evil in whatever form it may come.

It’s been 75 years since Wonder Woman first entered pop culture, and she’s been an inspiration to millions ever since. In the coming year, I hope she continues to inspire and motivate all of us, and helps to make 2017 the tipping point for women’s leadership, starting with the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st. Later, on June 2nd, 2017, I hope you all go out and support this film and what it stands for. And if you are going through difficult times tell yourself to be a superhero, and ask yourself, “What Would Wonder Woman do?”

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!