Activists, artists, and entrepreneurs took to the tenth annual Women in the World Summit to discuss ageism, gun control, and why it’s time for men to ‘get the facts, write a check, and move out of the way.’
“The future is female.” We’ve all seen it on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and travel coffee mugs. But here in the present we face daunting global emergencies: take the rise of neo-Nazi movements, human trafficking, insufficient healthcare, a plastic crisis so bad it’s forming synthetic icebergs. Can women save the world? Tina Brown’s 10th annual Women in the World Summit circled the question, asking powerful women at the forefront of their fields, and the occasional man, what we need to do to arrive at this future foretold on tote bags, the barriers to getting there, and what to do when we do.
The panelists spoke frankly about their anger—arriving to the highest levels of professional achievement to find the same misogyny and lack of representation. Glenda Jackson voiced this frustration from her position of accomplishment in two fields: politics and the theater. Jackson, an acclaimed actor and former Labor Party member of British Parliament, spoke on the current state of British politics ( “They seem to have reverted from adults to over-indulged spoiled babies”) and her iconic tirade against Margaret Thatcher on the Parliament floor. In connection to her performance as King Lear in a Broadway production which opened this month, Jackson also addressed a lack of strong female roles in contemporary theater and sexist ageism in the entertainment industry. “I never understood why you would be deemed ineffective after the age of 65.”
Hillary Clinton and Anna Wintour, who confirmed Donald Trump is still on the blacklist for the Met Gala, praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decisive and empathetic response to the mass shooting in March. “Her reaching out to the Muslim community in New Zealand sent a message about how leaders should behave in the face of horrific violence,” Clinton said. “I think that was as strong a signal we could get that given the chance, many women will govern and lead differently.”
Wintour contrasted the Prime Minister’s decisive and authoritative action with the ever worsening state of American politics. “When we look at the terrifying issues in this country and other countries, and how brilliantly and emotionally she handled it, and how swiftly they moved to correct the situation, it is astonishing to me that we cannot pass the simplest correction in this country.” Wintour also discussed navigating the changing tides in fashion and politics in her role as the creative director of Condé Nast, from the possibility of expanding her recognizable uniform to suits, to the more serious decision to cut ties with photographers accused of sexual assault and misconduct over the course of the #Metoo movement. “These were brilliant photographers,” she said. “But also personal friends. That’s been a very difficult decision, but absolutely the right one.”
The panelists focused heavily on the women, like Prime Minister Arden, who are already leading the way, demonstrating how female leadership, and investing in women, is already shaping up to be a much better alternative. Panelists Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao are in their mid-20s working at the intersection of two heavily male dominated fields: chemical industry and waste. The co-founders of BioCellection are already revolutionizing decades of plastic recycling methods with a chemical decomposition method. Model and activist Adwoa Aboah spoke about how she wants to use her platform Gurls Talk to provide women worldwide with spaces in which to speak openly about mental health, trauma, and self-care.
Melissa Bradley, the managing partner of 1863 Ventures, which invests in underrepresented entrepreneurs, spoke about the perpetual underestimation of the creative power and business acumen of women of color by mainstream investment firms. Whether stepping into a meeting with an investor or a job interview, Bradley advised women to start asking for what they want and what they’re worth, not what they think they can get.
“Come up with the most obnoxious number that you think you are worth, and own it,” she said. “There are guys coming up from Harvard and Stanford who can’t read, who can’t write, who can’t put a deck together, who think they are valued at $50 million. So place your worth at $100 million.”
Her advice for male investors?
“Get the facts, write a check, and move out of the way.”