TEDxWomen – STRAP IN – For Gender Equality

It was such an honor to be a speaker at TEDxWomen last night in Washington, DC.  I spoke along side a group of amazing women authors, activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the thematic segment  – “Poverty and Plenty.” Here it is on live stream – I think about 40 minutes in.

Preparing for and delivering this speech was truly one of the most challenging things I have ever  done. I have 26 iterations of the speech saved on my computer and  the one I gave looks NOTHING like the one I started with. The one I started with was about MAKING THE CASE FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS. The one I ended with was CASE CLOSED – LET’S JUST DO IT! I came to realize while writing this speech that this was the end of my journey of trying to explain why the world is the way it is, and  it is now ALL about making it what I want it to be. Below please find a brief summary of my 15 minute talk that I somehow managed to completely memorize.  ( despite my 15 year old son’s advice that memorizing is not a good thing!)


My talk used the metaphor of a ROLLER COASTER to describe my journey, my ride, to try to create a more gender balanced world. I explained how I STRAPPED IN, and issued a call to action for others to STRAP IN with me.

It has been 10 years since I left my position as  partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs, where in 1996 I was the youngest women and first female trader to be made partner.  I am so grateful to Goldman for the incredible opportunities they gave me, so grateful, and for helping me to find my life’s passion and purpose. That experience helped me to understand the challenges women face to reaching critical mass in leadership and more broadly.  It also helped me to get the financial grounding I need to be able to think about how we can more fully use all our financial resources to create a more gender balanced world.


In my talk I give FOUR reasons why I think we are about to TAKE OFF for greater gender equality around the world, and  give FOUR things we all can do to  help accelerate this positive change.  I plan on turning my speech in to a book and a web platform so please send comments and ideas related to the below. Feel free to post comments or email me purse pundit@gmail.com. (that is the name of my original blog…)



  1. We now have a critical mass of research, facts, and evidence that narrowing gender gaps is good for business and good for economic growth. Given what trying times we are in we cannot miss the opportunity that comes from investing in women and girls. ( see my resource section)
  2. It is no longer just women who are standing up for our rights, but increasingly men are right there with us. This is about fairness and justice for all.
  3. Technology is allowing us to share information, connect, organize and mobilize more effectively and deliberately than ever in the history of the world. Technology is shifting power from the concentrated few to the masses. Technology is democratizing power and that is a very good thing!
  4.  Increasingly people, and  I hope especially women,  are using all their financial resource- giving dollars,  investing dollars, spending dollars – in greater alignment with their vison to create a more just, equitable and sustainable world. Huge potential!

So what can you do to accelerate change?


INVEST WITH A GENDER LENS: Investing with a gender lens means making investment decisions that benefit women and girls.  Criterion Ventures is leading the way in framing gender lens investing– visit there site “Women Effect Investments” for a plethora of information, resources and guides to get you started.  The Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund , which I am honored to serve on the Advisory Board for,  is a mutual fund that invests in large companies around the globe that are leaders in promoting gender equality and women’s advancement. I am also an investor in  Golden Seeds, which funds women entrepreneurs.  So much more to come on this topic!

GIVING TO WOMEN AND GIRLS (WOMEN’S FOUNDATIONS): Giving to non-profit organizations that work on behalf of women’s and girls is critical and especially consider supporting women’s foundations, who understand that women’s rights are human rights and there is no short term solution or silver bullet that will solve gender inequality. The Women’s Funding Network is a fantastic resource for finding women’s foundations to get involved with and consider supporting THEM as well.  Link to 170 women’s foundations around the globe.  I support so many it is tough to list just a few but my favs – The Global Fund for Women ,  The New York Women’s Foundation, and The Ms. Foundation for Women.  The Half the Sky Movement which includes a documentary film (based on the book ) has partnered with a number of organizations that support the advancement of women’s right world wide (Click here for list of partners).  Also visit Catapult a super cool website that allows people to upload their projects that support women and girls that are in need of funding.

 OUR PURCHASING POWER: What we buy and whom we buy from are some of the most important decisions we make every day. Seek out products and services from companies who do more then just make stuff to make money, but who also make a difference. Globally, women control an estimated $20 trillion in consumer spending, so imagine if we used our purchasing power to create the change we want to see in the world. Buy from women owned businesses and especially those that provide financial resources to those MOST in need. Need help finding a woman owned business? Visit feminist.com and see their market place for a huge list of women owned businesses. Prosperity Candles empowers women, from places of conflict, to create independent candle enterprises that enable them to move beyond survival and to thrive. Same Sky   a trade-not aid- jewelry initiative that employs and empowers HIV positive women in Africa as artisans. Plum Alley is a site where you can buy products from female founded companies that represent substance and discipline in creation and beauty. Rising International promotes ownership of craft-based business for women in impoverished areas.Visit my Pinterest page for more women owned businesses, and books written by women.

The ability to use economic rewards ( we buy stuff) and enact economic consequences (we don’t buy stuff) are the most underused tools we have to enact social change. I feel particularly passionate about the issue of women’s representation on corporate boards ( see two blog entries below), and IMAGINE IF we stop buying products and services from companies do not have a critical mass of women!  2020 Women on Boards has a Gender Diversity Directory   which is an extensive database of public and private companies that includes information about board composition. Did you know Urban Outfitters, Inc. does not have a single woman on their board? I REFUSE to shop there and encourage you all to walk in the store, ask for the manager, tell HER why you will not buy anything there, and walk out.  For goodness sake Men’s Warehouse even has one woman on their board… (not good enough to purchase from them but you get the idea). Other companies with just one woman on their board according to the site  –  Bed Bath and Beyond, Zales, and American Eagle. Companies with a critical mass of women on their boards? Macy’s, Coach and Target.  For Ann, Inc. (Ann Taylor) women represent 38% or more of the board.  There are HUNDREDS of companies listed so check out the site and see if your favorite company proportionately represents women on their board and if they are not, make the conscious choice to find a company that does! A recent article on 20 Firsts highlighted 5 CEOs who are making their organizations and leadership teams more gender balanced in a sustainable way. YES we need an AP for that!! Can you do it? If so email me….

STORIES: Stories are one of the most powerful tools we have to change the world. Tell you own story and support all efforts that lift up the stories of women and girls that are too often marginalized and silenced. Here are some GREAT docs to buy or rent!! Preferably – BUY!  Half the Sky  – based on the best selling book. Ready To Fly the story the US women’s ski jumping teaming fighting for parity and to compete in the Olympics and the first film I Executive Produced!! Ms. Representation , which highlights how women in main stream media are underrepresented in positions of power and influence in America. Invisible War a a powerful film about the epidemic of rape with in the US Military that premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival. I am a financial supporter of all these amazing films!   To find more  incredible documentary films that use the power of story to have a social impact check out –  Impact Partners, Chicken and Egg Pictures, and The Fledgling Fund. Also sign up for Women and Hollywood blog to get the most up-to-date news on films produced, directed and written by women.

I must sign off as I am rushing BACK to TED women for DAY two!!! Please excuse typos and more as I was really rushing to get this out for everyone who saw the talk and wants to do something now!!




One thought on “TEDxWomen – STRAP IN – For Gender Equality

  1. Dear Jacki,

    Please note this is the third attempt to send my following comment which hasn’t been acknowledge yet by Tedx Women and has not yet been included on their website, on ‘Ask Jacki Zehner a question’. I’m guessing some technical error must have occurred. I hope this time it will be well received. Thank you again:)
    Such an uplifting talk! Thank you for the positive message sent and the call for the global empowerment of women in the workplace, closing the gap in equality the world over.

    In your talk you covered so many good initiatives and encouraging steps being taken to improving the status quo for women in the 21st century. I’m actually so passionate about the matter that I am currently preparing an MSc degree thesis on existing barriers for professional women in their career progress and advancement into senior positions. I’m very much interested in getting to know more on your views with regard men’s position and current attitude towards supporting and sponsoring proactive initiatives for the sake of reaching a more equitable gender status in business. Do you feel enough is being done and what more can be done equally from men on this, or do we still have a long way before getting our male ‘partners’ dealing with us fair and square?

    Thank you for responding.

    With my Best Wishes:)

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