Yes, the Future is Still Female: A Reflection of the Women in the World Summit

womensummit

womensummitBy Diana Matthews

As I walked up to Lincoln Center in New York City, I could feel butterflies in my stomach. A cocktail of excitement, nervousness, and yes, a little bit of fear started to creep up with every step I took toward the David H. Koch theatre.

I was attending the Women in the World Summit, an annual conference, hosted by media mogul Tina Brown that brings the boldest and brightest leaders from the political, economic, and social spaces on the global stage together in conversation for three power-packed days.

One of our screening hosts invited our team to attend and represent Gender Fair, a new company she was helping launch that creates a designation similar to fair trade for companies that promote and actively engage with gender equity in their workplace and corporate culture.

With Erin in L.A. for Oprah’s SuperSoul Sessions and Kylie in Ottawa, I was so excited for the opportunity to represent Gender Fair and our team in such an inspiring room.

The list of speakers was staggering – Hillary Clinton, Scarlett Johannson, Cecile Richards, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Tracee Ellis Ross, Diane von Furstenburg – just to name a few. With topics ranging from the Syrian refugee crisis to meaningful representation in the media, it was an insane amount of information delivered by some of the most knowledgeable influencers in the world.

To say I was a little anxious would’ve been the understatement of the century.

As I settled into the space, connected with the incredible women from Gender Fair and the other volunteers, I felt a sense of security wash over me. Was it intimidating? Yes. Did I feel like an imposter? Absolutely. But ultimately it came down to being present and honouring the opportunity I had been given.

The conversations in the theatre were intense, honest, and served as a rock-solid foundation with which the next generation of leaders could build upon to create visceral, meaningful and long-lasting change in their communities. It wasn’t about networking, it was about altering the path forward and visualizing a future free of persecution, misogyny, racism, and injustice in all forms.

And then there was Hillary.

The room was packed and buzzing with anticipation to see Secretary Clinton give her first interview since the election. People were doubled up on seats, sitting in the aisles and standing along the sides, brimming with anticipation and electrified energy.

There was something almost surreal about seeing her walk on stage, smiling and waving in her usual way to the cheering audience. “What a room!” she exclaimed as she took her seat opposite Nicholas Kristof, an award-winning journalist for the New York Times who wrote Half the Sky with his partner and acclaimed journalist, Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky changed my trajectory in life and was central in the formation of my early feminist identity (a must-read if you haven’t already).

The conversation was powerful, searingly focused and moved at a razor-sharp pace only achieved by two pros. Hillary was candid and authentic, talking about how hard she found it to get out of bed some days and shared the deep concern she has for the future of the country. It was a true privilege to see her speak so openly and see her more relaxed than she had publicly been in well over a year.

As women, our capacity to empathize and hold space with each other is our collective superpower. Whether it’s in a living room over tea with our best friend or in a 700-seat theatre with Hillary Clinton, the compassion, patience and engagement at the Summit was palpable. And it was generated by us.

We are the answer. We are the future.

Whether it’s running for office, asking for the raise you’ve been scared to talk to your boss about, or taking a leap to start something you’ve always wanted to create, know that we have your back – we’re your sisters and we stand with you in solidarity.

See the path you want to blaze for yourself and bring your tribe with you on the journey.

As Meryl Streep said during last year’s Summit, “None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something.”

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