Malala – Why You Are Never Too Young To Take A Stand

Malala Yousafzai from Women Moving Millions on Vimeo.

Originally posted on LinkedIn Influencers on October 14, 2014.

Last month, Women Moving Millions (WMM) held our annual summit in New York City. It was two action packed days of speakers, panels, discussions, and debate, all revolving around The Story of Power, which was this year’s theme. We were fortunate to have so many incredible speakers and guests in attendance, such as Pat Mitchell, Gloria Feldt, Demi Moore, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Norway Mette-Marit. Michel Kimmel, Barbara Annis and Abigail Disney, but in particular, we were honoured to have Malala Yousafzai be a part of our event. Malala, as many people know, is an extraordinary teenager from Pakistan. She first made headlines around the world in October of 2012 when Taliban gunmen boarded her school bus and shot her in the head at the age of 15. She was targeted because of her advocacy for the right of children, and in particular young girls, to go to school, and the world at large was appalled by the horrific attempt on her life. Miraculously, Malala survived the attack, and in the two years since, she has spoken out for the educational rights of children around the world, set up the Malala Fund to help spur education initiatives, inspired a petition calling for every child in the world to be in school by 2015, released a book titled I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, and in July of 2013, she addressed the United Nations on her 16th birthday and called for universal worldwide access to education. Like I said, she is extraordinary.

Last week, in recognition of her efforts to support the educational rights of children, despite the dangers this advocacy poses, the Nobel Committee awarded Malala the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi of India. At 17, she is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient in history, and only the second recipient from Pakistan, after Abdus Salam won in 1979 for Physics, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. While it took incredible courage and bravery to speak out for girls’ education prior to the attack on her life, it is what she has done in the aftermath that most amazes me. Malala has taken the spotlight that has been thrust upon her and used it to advocate for the right of children to go to school around the world. She was given a platform to speak from, and she has made sure that her voice is being heard, all while remaining incredibly poised, articulate, and self-assured, and when she speaks, she speaks with a wisdom that is way beyond her years.

When I think of Malala and all that she has accomplished, I can’t help but think of what an incredible role model she is for young people around the world. Her story is proof that no matter what your age, you are never too young to take a stand and speak out for what you believe in, and it is my hope that when children and teenagers read about Malala’s journey to where she is today, they will realize that it is never too early to make a difference in this world. It is this inspiration, along with her numerous other accomplishments, that will be Malala’s legacy for decades to come.

With all of the honors, awards, and accolades, not to mention the numerous speaking engagements, appearances, and speeches, it is worth noting that Malala has remained a remarkably grounded teenager through it all, and despite her fame, she is certainly not neglecting her studies. In fact, Malala was not with us in person for the summit last month because she was back at school in England. Instead, she addressed us through a pre-recorded message that can be seen here ( and above) and Shiza Shahid, Executive Director of The Malala Fund addressed the group in person (pictured above). Additionally, it was reported that when news broke last week that Malala had won the Nobel Peace Prize, she had to be pulled from a Chemistry class to be given the good news. Something tells me that after securing a place in history, Malala went right back to her class and to the education that every child in the world deserves. If Malala has anything to say about it, that day will arrive sooner rather than later.

Leadership- You Take It With You

Posted on LinkedIn Influencers on August 14, 2014

Leadership. It’s a very big topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately. One of the main reasons I’ve been giving it a lot of thought is because I was asked to talk about leadership in the context of my career at Goldman Sachs and my current role as CEO of Women Moving Millions by Porsche as part of a series they are doing called, “There is no substitute for….” The videos include profiles of many amazing leaders, including Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder of Indiegogo, Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club, Ruth Zukerman, Founder of Flywheel Sports, Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, and Kenny Dichter, Founder and CEO of Wheels Up. Needless to say, I was beyond honored to be included. The shoot was in July, and the completed video was just released.

Of course, I tried to prepare for the shoot, but the goal was to not have something scripted out, but rather for it to just be in conversation about the topic. What you see above is a few minutes of a very long conversation. Flying home that night from Los Angeles, I drifted back to so many memories from my time at Goldman, and in particular, to the work I did in those last few years that really ignited my interest in leadership development. I was part of a core team that created the first conferences for women at the firm (1990s), and I obsessively collected and shared the best articles I could find on subjects ranging from creative thinking to team building, facilitation, time management, listening, change management, and much, much more. I still have all of those articles, and I store them in a dedicated file room in my house that continues to expand on a daily basis. I think this shows commitment. My kids call me a hoarder.

photo 2[1]Back then, Goldman noted my obsession with the concept of leadership development, and I was invited to serve on the initial task force that created Pine Street, Goldman’s leadership development effort, as well as helping to hire the firm’s first Chief Learning Officer. During the course of that process, we held endless conversations with experts in the field, and I consumed massive amounts of research on the subject. Not only did I want to be a great leader, but I wanted to understand how to help others become leaders as well. It was that work that helped me to see how connected those two things really are. I don’t think you can truly be a great leader without being a great teacher and a mentor to others as they move through their own leadership journey. Looking back I realize that while doing the best I could at the time, with the knowledge and wisdom I had, I could have been so much better.

What I wish someone would have told me earlier in my career, is that leadership, and management, is something you can truly learn. You need to learn. There are skills involved with both that don’t just ‘happen’ when you get promoted. How you learn it is by watching others’ actions closely, by reading everything you can get your hands on, by putting it all into practice, and intentionally monitoring outcomes and being willing to adjust. Ideally, you put it into practice on behalf of something you are truly passionate about. (If you watch the other Porsche videos you will see some amazing examples of this.) I said in the video that for me, being a leader is not the same thing as having a big title. There were and are a lot of people with big titles who are not strong leaders, or good managers. At In fact, one of the reasons why we created Pine Street was because we realized that there were many senior member of the firm with big titles who were managing lots of people and running big business areas, but did not have the skills they needed to excel in their roles which included developing the talent underneath them. Thankfully, there were a lot of excellent ones as well. We also set up the firm’s first executive coaching program and if you have the resources, there is perhaps no better way to accelerate your development.

photo 3[1]I loved the work I did at that time so much. I could not get enough of it. Though I did not think about it like this at the time, I now see that my life’s work would become centered around helping to develop and advance women’s leadership. In fact, one of the last major projects I did at Goldman was to help launch ASCEND: A Women’s Leadership Exchange, which brought together internal women leaders at the firm with the most senior external women leaders from all areas of business that had touch points to Goldman. The year was 2002. It seems almost silly now, but one of the reasons we did it was to prove just how many women leaders there were out there and how incredible they were as leaders. Because we were inviting only the top women in the areas of money management, corporate CEOs/COOs/CFOs, wealth holders, and such, it was not until we actually put the list together that people came to see the growing power and influence of women. In other words, we were trying to prove the business case for women’s leadership. That event was a game changer for me. I realized that although deeply honored to be a senior woman, I was also tired of often being the only woman in the room, and I wanted to be in places and spaces where I could learn from amazing women leaders.

photo 1[1]When I left Goldman, I did not go on to another paid position, but instead, I began working full time in service of a bigger mission and purpose: to make the world a more just, equitable, and gender balanced place. For a while, it felt really weird to not have a big title and a team of people to work with, but over time, I came to see that you can take your leadership with you. By that, I mean that when you leave a leadership role, you can bring all of the skills and knowledge you have acquired and apply them to your next role. For me, it took a while. It was 10 years later, in 2012, that I became President and Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions. I now lead a small team of amazing staff, partner with an incredible Board of Directors, and I do work that helps to amplify the leadership of over 200 women (and a few men) who have given large gifts in support of girls and women. To do this, I often find myself digging through the piles of books, research, and notes that I was surrounded by 12 years ago, and pulling them out for current use. The great news is that women and men, but according to studies, more women then men, rank making a positive difference in the world very highly in terms of what to do with their time and money.

So I write, give speeches, host events, serve on boards, and do all that I do because I have grabbed hold of a vision for what I want the world to be like, and with everything I have, I will it forward. Does that make me a leader? I hope so. But as I said in the video, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to ever be called one.

I am feeling this leadership theme and will do some other posts on this topic including my favorite leadership books, articles and quotes. If you have suggestions for topics, please let me know.

2012 Women in the World Conference Round Up

A few weeks have passed since I attended the Women in the World Conference in New York City, an event hosted by Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, but many of the things I heard, saw and experienced are staying with me.   The line up was extensive, from Angelina Jolie to Hillary Clinton, Oprah to Meryl Streep and so many more.  It would be impossible to give a synopsis of every performance, speaker, and story told at the conference (see  agenda) but I wanted to share just a few thoughts as it was truly an incredible few days.  On the DAILY BEAST site they have a lot of content from the conference and I would encourage you to make yourself a cup of tea, and cruise through it.

I embraced the whole TWITTER thing during the conference, which was fascinating.  I have to say I did not really ‘get it’ until this event.  I TWEETED realtime, mainly just great quotes from the speakers, and by adding the hashtag for the event I could follow along and pick up what many in the audience felt were the big take aways as it was happening.  (you can check out all the tweets here).  To see what I tweeted (like you care I know…) go to my twitter home page. It was just really cool and in the future I will most certainly check out the TWEETS for events I cannot attend in person.

In general the best sessions, in my opinion, featured women from outside the United States. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate, was absolutely incredible.  Not only was the content of what she was saying amazing, but also how she shared it.  When asked a question, she answered with a story.  The importance of storytelling was a HUGE take-away for me. She said American women must “get up” if they want to affect change. ( a write up on the session can be found here – Daily Beast) As it relates to women and men she says,  “as long as we continue to engage from a position of weakness, they will never respect us. It is time for women to stop being politely angry.” Leymah schooled us in how to use power to affect positive change in the world.  She rocked.

I contrast the above with the session called “Where are the women at the top?”  hosted by the amazing Sheryl Sandbery, COO of Facebook. The panel featured fabulous women including Jill Abramson, Shelby Knox, Anne Kornblut, Cheryl Mills, and Gloria Steinem but the discussion fell short.  The key question asked was “has the definition – or importance- of professional success changed since the dawn of feminism?” What ????? I don’t even know what that means nor do I think it is current and relevant.  It felt like a conversation we have had over and over and over and over.  I sat there thinking that if Leymah had only gone FIRST, this panel could have taken a whole other direction. Instead of asking where are the women, answer: virtually nowhere, we could have been talking about concrete actions to get them there.  Opportunity missed in my opinion.

A completely fascinating panel was “Changing The Minds of Men” moderated by Christiane Amanpour featuring Bibi Hokmina, Mohammad Nasib, and Zainab Salbi. Bibi is a woman who has for a long time dressed as a man.  She is an elected official in Eastern Afghanistan and it was so interesting to listen to a woman, dressed as a man, talk about women power and potential. Bottom line, she is very worried that with the US pulling out of Afghanistan, there will be a tremendous roll back of the gains made by women in her country.  I certainly share her concern.  Click here to watch.

In the closing session, Hillary Clinton asks the question, “‘Why do extremists—in every country—want to control women?’ The Secretary of State said that even the U.S. ought to live its own values because ‘America needs to set an example for the entire world.'” ( another AMEN!!!!!)  The video posted by The Daily Beast can be found above, as well as many others on The Daily Beast Website.

Some of the great quotes I found on twitter:

“When you play a great world leader, you get an Oscar. And when you get a true world leader, you get Hillary Clinton” Meryl Streep

“Women should have the right to make their own decisions, in every country.” – Hillary Clinton

“Until we get political power, we can’t make giant strides. And every woman in here needs to help get a woman elected.” -Kah Walla

“I feel like I’ve been plugged into an energy source: it’s bigger than oil, coal — it’s girls!” –Meryl Streep

“Women’s rights are human rights. Hillary is making those words a lynch pin of political policy.” –Meryl Streep

“Being a woman in the world means never giving up on yourself, on your potential, on your future. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.” Hillary Clinton

“Somebody can imprison your body, but not your mind.” – Zin Mar Aung, #Burmese activist imprisoned for 11 years

Insider also posted 9 of the best quotes from the 2012 Women in the World Conference.