In Hillary Clinton’s 2017 Hall of Fame speech, she said “I’ve seen over and over again that when women are willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work, we get the job done.”
For Women’s History Month, we have asked IWF members around the world to share a moment when they have rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. Follow along on IWForum.org or @IWFGlobal on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as we share a member’s experience each day of Women’s History Month.
From architects to athletes and activists, a diverse and accomplished group of women will tell their stories.
Day One: The Honorable Barbara Hackman Franklin – IWF Washington DC:
Barbara Franklin served as Special Assistant to U.S. President Richard Nixon and as President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Commerce.
In early 1971, I received a call from the White House of President Richard Nixon, during which I was told that the President wants to bring more women into government. He needs a leader for this effort – would I be interested? I agreed to think about this and consulted with friends and coworkers. Everyone advised, “don’t do this.” It’s an impossible job. This President will not do anything for women, and you will damage your career. But I believed in this mission, became convinced the President was serious, and decided to try.
I determinedly went to Washington. I created this new White House effort, recruited women for top jobs, built a talent bank of women candidates, and worked with the Cabinet departments and agencies on their action plans to advance women. With the help of many others, in the first year we tripled the number of women in the top jobs and brought 1,000 women into the mid-level ranks. Many of these women were in jobs women had never held before. This effort helped to advance equality for women in many areas, and barriers came down and stayed down – to this day.
I am proud of the success of this impossible job!
Day Two: The Honorable Allyson Maynard Gibson – IWF Bahamas, Past President IWF Global:
The initiatives that my team and our consultants undertook enhanced the quality of life and changed the way business is done in The Bahamas – supporting the Smart Island Choice. These initiatives included:
- A system whereby certified copies of birth certificates and other official documents can be obtained across the family of islands.
- A system to register online births in the Family Islands. Previously, to obtain these services people had to fly to Nassau.
- An online system that automatically posts Bahamian law as soon as it is Assented to by the Governor-General. Prior to this initiative, people had to wait 5-10 years for a Consolidation to obtain, in one place, the current Bahamian law. Now, citizens, residents, and the world can immediately access the current Bahamian law.
Together these initiatives that promote E-Government have made government more accommodating while saving Bahamians thousands of dollars. After these improvements, the International Telecommunications Union designated The Bahamas the first Smart Island in the hemisphere.
Day Three: Bonnie St. John – Women’s Forum of New York
Recently, I discovered an alarming trend: industries dominated by female purchasers (healthcare, food, automotive, retail, etc.) are all being disrupted by technology, but women, unfortunately, are not steering these changes. Without advancing to leadership roles in tech, women won’t be shaping the future of business. And who would want to live in a world transformed by technology without women’s voices at the decision table?
I decided to roll up my sleeves and partner with Rachel Cooke, COO of the Brandon Hall Group, on a research project to increase advancement of Women Leaders in both tech companies and tech-divisions of all companies. This January, we kicked off the initiative along with 60 other strong women leaders to share ideas and best practices at the BHG Excellence Conference in Florida.
We want to get ahead of this problem before it’s too late, so we are challenging hundreds of companies to create an open environment for women in tech through workshops, interviews, and a collective survey that anyone can participate in: https://www.research.net/r/VFP822M. Especially since the month of March champions the efforts of all women, we are striving to ensure that more women have the tools to continue the celebration far into the future.
Day Four: Barbara Hosking, CBE – Founding Member, IWF United Kingdom
Barbara Hosking is a retired broadcaster and civil servant. She recently published her memoir, Exceeding My Brief, Memoirs of a Disobedient Civil Servant. She was a 1996 Woman Who Makes a Difference.
When I was young and foolish I went with my old school friend Mary to run the administration on a gold and copper mine near Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. The mine was isolated in the bush, 300 miles from the nearest airstrip.
We faced snakes in the bathrooms and scorpions in the bedrooms with fortitude, but it was almost too much when the mine dam burst and our office was cut off by a racing torrent of deep water. A mining engineer reassured us. “We will put a long plank across the water”, he said. “Look into my eyes,” he commanded. “Do not look down.” For four days we rolled up our sleeves and our trousers and slowly walked the plank twice a day until the water was once more under control. There was no hold up in our work and we helped to keep the mine from losing production.
When the excitement was over we decided that the experience was exceptionally good for our characters.
Now we could face anything and succeed.
Day Five: Petra Winter – IWF Germany
When I became Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Germany at the age of 29 there was a good bit of skepticism about whether I could do the job. – unfortunately most of it from women.
During my seven year tenure, the longest of all former German Editors, I led the magazine through its most successful period of growth. I orchestrated a partnership with the television show Germany’s Next Topmodel with Heidi Klum and founded the Cosmopolitan Business Academy. It was altogether a great experience and a great time that would have been even better with a bit more support from my peer group and my female supervisor at that time. As I end this story, I’m reminded of the words of Madeline Albright, there’s a “special place” for women who don’t help other women.
Day Six: Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan – IWF Turkey:
I believe the development of a country is directly proportional to the level of education available to its people. In Turkey, many students are forced to go to costly private institutions to prepare for high school and university exams.
In 2007, I founded the ZTV Education Channel with the slogan “Equal Opportunity in Education.” Our mission was to ensure that everyone in our country would have an equal chance to receive an education. ZTV provides 24 hours of free educational programming available to all Turkish students regardless of income or disability.
On 21st of July in 2010, I presented the results and impact of ZTV to an audience of leaders and academics, including Nancy Pelosi, at the Bridging the Global Educational Gap Summit in Washington, DC. Leader Pelosi thought that our model could be repeated around the world particularly in Central American countries. I spoke with her in detail about our experiences with ZTV and the trials and successes we have had through the channel.
Day Seven: Joanne King Herring – IWF Texas – Houston:
My life has consisted of working long and hard. I was often the first woman in the field. I started by establishing “The Woman’s Home” Houston’s first woman’s charity. I was the first woman in Houston TV. I was awful. But, finished #6 in national TV. I was first to serve two Muslim countries as Consul General and advisor to the President of Pakistan and King of Morocco simultaneously, I convinced the Saudi’s to match us dollar for dollar in the war against the Soviets as shown in the movie ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’
Today, our Marshall Plan for Afghanistan charities has provided food, water, education, health care, and jobs simultaneously to eliminate poverty in an Afghan Village. The village has been successful for 9 years. This model can be used to alleviate poverty anywhere. In fact, George Clooney said would he would like to implement it in Sudan.
Today I guarantee you that if the Afghans are strengthened and helped by being given food, water, health care, education, and job training, simultaneously, their success will be inevitable. We did it for half the cost of keeping one American soldier in the field for one year. $450,000. 20,000 people were helped, they flourished. They are now self-supporting and sign their letters GOD BLESS AMERICA.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy-grown.
Day Eight: The Honorable Cari Dominguez – IWF Washington DC:
Cari Dominguez was the Chair of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush. She is the President of IWF Washington D.C.
On July 30, 1990, the front page story of the New York Times read, “Labor Department Wants to Take On Job Bias in the Executive Suite”. And just like that, the whole Nation learned of the “Glass Ceiling Initiative”, a major undertaking I had architected and was leading with the strong support of then Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole and her close advisors. Soon, every news media would cover the story. Congress took notice and quickly introduced the “Glass Ceiling Act of 1991” establishing a Glass Ceiling Commission to further examine those invisible barriers that kept women from reaching the top of their organizations. Lynn Martin, Elizabeth Dole’s successor at the Department of Commerce, further built on this initiative. She asked the Women’s Bureau to work with us on outreach and to fund programs that would promote the advancement of women in the workplace. This series of events led to the seminal funding for the Fellows Leadership Program of the International Women’s Forum! Yes, it was a lot of hard work but, oh boy, no, oh gals, it was so well worth the effort!
Day Nine: Anna Fendi – IWF Italy:
For that reason, I worked alongside my daughters to create a home that could be shared – Villa Laetitia. Today Villa Laetitia welcomes visitors from around the world to enjoy true Italian hospitality. In fact, we recently welcomed the IWF and Leadership Foundation Board of Directors when they were in Rome for their winter meetings.
Today women want to emulate men. They think to be successful they need to act as a man. I totally disagree. A man can do one thing a time, we can do and be many different things at the same time. I have worked hard, and I continue to dedicate my creativity and my passion to new projects, involving young talents. On top of all I am a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, and a wife. Our sensibility, our love, our perseverance are the ingredients of our success. Women, don’t give up. Men must respect us for what we are and not because we are their copy.
I am a 85 years young entrepreneur. I have a lot to learn and many targets to achieve, but I am proud to be a woman in business and I want to shout everyone: go ahead!!!
Day Ten: Major General Linda Singh – Fellow Alumnae, Maryland:
Major General Linda Singh is the Adjutant General of the State of Maryland. In this position, she oversaw the Maryland National Guard’s response to the Baltimore riots in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s shooting:
“When I look back on my career both military and civilian, being part of the team is one of my favorite things about the work that I have done. I have learned what it means to add value at an individual level as well as at the team level. When I think of what it really means to roll up my sleeves, I think about doing whatever it takes for the organization to succeed. What immediately comes to mind is the deployment to Afghanistan. Understanding my own skills and abilities, I was able to work with the Afghan Army to help them prepare for their deployments to field units. Their readiness was critical in their ability to take over combat areas and my support to them was just as critical. Sometimes I would support the outreach teams and go to schools and communities to distribute clothing and supplies for the children. These children touched my heart and reminded me why I was there in the first place.”
Day Eleven: Matilde Burgos – IWF Chile:
Being a journalist and working on news means rolling up your sleeves every day. Daily I get up at 5.30 in the morning to do a radio program. During the day I am connected to everything that is happening to present a three-hour newscast on CNN Chile every afternoon. As a mother, everything must be coordinated so that the family feels that Mom is still present despite her hectic schedule.
Of course, There are situations in which I have to roll my sleeves even higher, such as special coverages. At the beginning of the year, I covered the tour of Pope Francis to Chile and Peru aboard the papal plane. From Chile, I traveled to Rome to board the official flight and accompany him as a CNN Chile envoy throughout his tour of Chile and Peru, returning with him to Italy. For reasons of space inside the papal plane, I traveled alone, so I also had to be my own cameraman and follow the strict discipline of the Vatican, in which the day begins at 4.30 in the morning with no set stop time. The work is so rewarding, that fatigue never matters. Now I prepare for the transmission of presidential command in Chile … Here we go!
Ser periodista y trabajar en noticias, significa arremangarse todos los días. Diariamente me levanto a las 5.30 de la mañana para hacer un programa de radio. Durante la jornada estoy conectada a todo lo que está sucediendo para conducir cada tarde un noticiario de tres horas por CNN Chile. Ya saben, todo coordinado para que la familia sienta que mamá sigue presente. Esa es la rutina. Hay situaciones en que las mangas suben más, como las coberturas especiales. A principios de año por ejemplo, cubrí la gira del Papa Francisco a Chile y Perú a bordo del avión papal. Desde Chile viajé a Roma para abordar el vuelo oficial y acompañarlo como enviada de CNN Chile en toda su gira por Chile y Perú, regresando con él a Italia. Por razones de espacio dentro del avión papal, viajaba sola, por lo que además tuve que ser mi propia camarógrafa y seguir la estricta disciplina del Vaticano, en que el día comienza a las 4.30 de la mañana y no hay hora de término. El trabajo es tan gratificante, que nunca importa el cansancio. Ahora me preparo para la transmisión de mando presidencial en Chile…
Day Twelve: Gale Anne Hurd – IWF Southern California (The Trusteeship) & IWF Georgia:
Gale Anne Hurd is the owner and CEO of Valhalla Entertainment. She is an award-winning film and television producer who has been referred to as the First Lady of Sci-Fi. Her production credits include The Walking Dead, Armageddon, and Aliens. She was inducted into the IWF and Leadership Foundation Hall of Fame in 2014.:
In 1984, Jim Cameron and I collaborated on THE TERMINATOR, which we co-wrote, and he directed and I produced. It was a low budget project, and we had a very small crew, especially given the scope of the vision he wanted to put on screen. At one point, we needed to shoot a Jeep driving in the desert and couldn’t fit it into the shooting schedule as it would require a distant location outside of Los Angeles.
Jim, my assistant and two colleagues filmed the entire sequence by ourselves in a remote desert area, with the unexpected assistance of a police officer who happened by our ‘set’ and assumed we were a student film. I performed the jobs of a camera assistant, location manager, prop master, wardrobe supervisor and production assistant in order to keep the film on schedule and on budget.
Day Thirteen: Veronica Devine – IWF South Africa:
Veronica Devine is a leading South African entrepreneur. In 1971, she founded Justine Cosmetics, a direct selling skincare company with the goal of making women financially independent, while also educating South African women in skincare. She sold Justine Cosmetics to Avon in 1996 with over 25,000 active consultants. :
During the dark days in the history of our country, when our factory workers and labour force risked their lives in coming to work, townships like Soweto were burning, riots on the streets, cars overturned or torched, people throwing stones and our beloved country was on its knees. An atmosphere of mass insurrection prevailed across the South Africa.
I was determined to make an effort during those troubled times just to keep the wheels turning. I rolled up my sleeves, proceeded onto the factory floor, filling products, packing, wrapping, loading trucks and even delivering stock to our branches to avoid letting our consultants down.
Everyone in Head Office joined in as we toiled into the nights. Some members of the labour force who managed to get to work unharmed could not take the risk of trying to return home so we accommodated everyone in our own homes, having barbeque at the factory on an almost daily basis.
Rolling up my sleeves and working side by side with the team has never been a problem for me and I could cite many examples of this. I love being part of the complete team and doing what is required.
We kept the wheels turning.
Day Fourteen: Sarah Kauss – Women’s Forum of New York:
I first rolled up my sleeves when I launched S’well, and feel like I haven’t rolled them down since! As a new entrepreneur in 2010, I was wearing many hats, figuring out on the job how to be the best manufacturer, designer, marketer and saleswoman that I could be. Despite the intensity, I believed so deeply in what S’well could do to change the world that I was determined to go the extra mile every day to get the job done right.
I’ll never forget S’well’s first holiday season. I hadn’t anticipated how popular our product would be at Christmastime. I was in my “office” (also known as my very small apartment) packaging 1,600 orders to meet shipping deadlines. After a very long and successful day with the help of my parents, we went to celebrate. But mid-celebration, I realized my (used) S’well bottle had made it into the holiday orders.
You can imagine my panic and the fervent search that ensued. I immediately began emailing new customers, apologizing for the mistake and trying to track down my bottle. Luckily, after many phone calls and asks to “please check again,” I was able to locate it, replace it and avoid a mini-holiday disaster. And since then, we’ve sold over 15 million S’well products.
Day Fifteen: Cheong Koon Hean – IWF Singapore:
In 2003, as CEO of the Urban Redevelopment Authority in Singapore, I was in charge of initiating the development of the new city extension at Marina Bay. It required the development of a visionary master plan to develop a 24/7 live, work and play environment to shape a new distinctive CBD area. However, just as the project was about to take off, Singapore was hit by the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pandemic and there was a loss of confidence in the economy. Despite this, we mustered our resolve to invest and build state of the art infrastructure to prepare the entire area for development and marketed the project around the world to potential investors with business friendly incentives. This show of commitment to the project gained investor’s confidence. Within a short span of 7 years, we attracted several billion dollars of investments and today, Marina Bay has become the signature image of Singapore, and a beautiful part of the city.
Day Sixteen: Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison – IWF Dallas:
In 1993, Senator John Danforth was carrying legislation to allow single sex schools and classrooms to be offered in public schools. There was a lot of resistance; a concern that it would cause discrimination against girls. But I felt this should be an option for public school parents, knowing some girls and boys do better in single sex schools especially in middle school and high school. The bill hadn’t passed when Sen. Danforth left the Senate in 1995, so I took the mantle.
As more women came into the Senate, we united across the aisle, rolled up our sleeves, and worked on producing the legislation together. Authored by, myself and Hillary Clinton cosponsored by Barbara Mikulski (D) and Susan Collins (R), the bill finally passed with the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Single sex public schools now number in the thousands across our country. Our expectations have been surpassed.
This success could not have happened without women senators working in a bipartisan unity to say “we know from our experience that this will enhance public education.” This female-led initiative garnered the support of our male colleagues and today is giving public school students more individual choice for their education.
Day Seventeen: Kah Walla – Fellow Alumnae, Cameroon:
As Mothers of this Nation, at this time, we stood up. We stood up and demanded an appointment with President Paul Biya: How do we end this war that you started? How do we organize the new foundation of our country? How do we facilitate a non-violent political transition for Cameroon?
For making this demand, 21 of us were arrested. We smiled and laughed as we were carried from one dirty police station to another. We joked and teased with the policemen and women who escorted and questioned us. They too are our children… Except when one or two lacked respect and threatened brutality. Faced with this, we showed strength and fearlessness. Reprimanding and correcting them. After all, we are mothers.
After a ridiculous charade, they released us. No accusation, no reason given for the arrest, no apologies either. Highlighting for us the necessity and the importance of what we did earlier in the day. We must take a stand as women. We must say STOP! We must demand that the nation be healed.
We are Mothers of this Nation. We are Women. We are Standing Up For Cameroon and we will not sit down again, until we achieve results.
Day Eighteen: Kay Koplovitz – Women’s Forum of New York:
It was 1999. Venture capital was pouring over the transom. Over $100 billion was being invested in venture backed companies, but nary a women entrepreneur to be found. “Where are they?” I wondered.
That’s when Amy Millman, Director of the National Women’s Business Counsel, and I rolled up our sleeves, headed out to Silicon Valley to find out. Where are the women? Nowhere to be found, people told us. They aren’t building scalable venture-backed companies.
With help from our friends in the Valley, we decided the only way to answer our question, was to go out and look for them.
To our surprise, 350 women submitted applications for our boot camp to train them how to raise venture capital, admittedly, something I was learning on the job myself. We ultimately chose 26 for our first boot camp and presented them on January 27, 2000. I dare say, of the 300 or so people who came to hear them pitch, probably none had ever heard women pitch for venture capital. Twenty-two of them raised capital, two merged their companies, one sold her company and one wasn’t funded. That was the liftoff of Springboard Enterprises.
We’ve been at it ever since. Seventeen years and 685 entrepreneurs later, 84% of our alums raise capital, 80% are in business today. Collectively they have raised over $8 billion in equity capital. There have been 179 liquidity events and 15 IPO’s.
Day Nineteen: Fernanda Familiar – IWF Mexico:
I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years. Waking up every morning sometimes in the middle of the night just like millions of Mexican people do because, we believe in a better country where honest work shows that good people are the majority.
For the past 18 years, I have had the privilege of hosting ¡Qué tal Fernanda!, a radio show sharing stories of every day Mexican people doing extraordinary things. Each day we reach millions of homes in México and around the world.
Whether in front of a camera or a mic, I take great joy in the faces and voices of the people. I have helped people share their story after natural disasters and personal tragedies. People have turned to me after a hurricane and said: “Fernanda, please tell Mexican people that we need help to rebuild our homes.” It is work like this that keeps me going.
At times, this work has put me in dangerous situations. Once I had to broadcast from an oil platform in the middle of the sea. Suddenly a huge storm came out of nowhere. I cannot say that I had no fear of mother nature but when it comes to shining light on the truth I am not and will never be afraid.
Day Twenty: Carolyn Miles – IWF Connecticut:
My most recent “roll up the sleeves” moment came this past Fall when Save the Children responded to 3 major hurricanes hitting the U.S. in 6 weeks, beginning with Hurricane Harvey in September. I visited Houston shortly after, and met families who had lost everything – their homes, their possessions, their pets. But they were grateful to be alive and working hard to rebuild their lives, especially for their children.
I went to Houston to ensure that Save the Children was doing all we could to help with supplies for moms and babies, spaces inside shelters for kids to play with caring, trained adults and support for kids to get back to school as soon as possible. We do this work in emergencies all around the world and this past year kids here in the U.S – in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico – needed our help.
Many of our team members are women who leave their own families to go and work around the world in times of crisis. I could not be prouder to be among them.
Day Twenty One: Susana Malcorra – IWF Argentina:
Susana Malcorra served Argentina’s Foreign Minister from 2015-2017. Prior to that she was the Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Field Support and Chief Operating Officer of the World Food Programme. She was inducted into the IWF and Leadership Foundation Hall of Fame in 2016.
My professional career has followed an unusual path. I have held senior corporate positions, served as my country’s Foreign Minister and worked at the highest levels of the United Nations and the World Food Programme.
I am frequently asked about the motivations behind these transitions. The answer to that question is that I have a passion for the bottom line and creating diverse teams. Too often we think about the bottom line as a financial result. However, this is a very narrow view in my opinion. An organization’s bottom line changes based on its purpose. At the World Food Programme (WFP) the bottom line was the number of rations deliver to people in desperate need for food.
An integral role of working to reach your shared bottom line, is creating a team. I have been privileged to work with some amazing people who shared my urge to “get things done.” People who understood the meaning of decision-making and implementation. I have found that, as challenging as it is sometimes to create your team, the reality is that to accomplish your objectives you also need to work with those who do not share your goals, those who oppose your views or your urgency. It is fundamental to understanding the perspective of those who may appear as your opponents and to develop the capacity to build the bridges to work together.
As I see the world we live in today, I am more convinced than ever that we are in desperate need of people with a passion for a bottom line that can only be achieved by solving our inequalities in order to not leave anyone behind.
Anything else will increase our differences and deepen our divide. No matter what we do and where we do it, making a real and lasting impact is in our hands.
Day Twenty Two: Gert Boyle – IWF Oregon:
In 1938, after moving to Portland, Oregon, my dad bought the Rosenfeld Hat Company, which eventually became Columbia Sportswear. After I got married, my father gave my husband Neal a job at the company, and I raised our three kids and took care of everything at home. When Neal took the helm of the business after my father passed away, we took out a sizeable business loan to continue our growth. Three months later, Neal died suddenly of a heart attack. My son Tim was in college at the time, and without hesitation, he came back to help with the company. Three days after Neal’s death, we met with all 40 of Columbia’s employees. I told them that I would be running the business going forward, but that I couldn’t do it alone. I’ll never forget the way that Tim and the rest of the company rallied around me. Sure, we made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we learned from them. And most importantly, we learned from each other. I smile when I think back to those early days with a few dozen employees. Today, I’m proud to say we have over 6,000 employees who continue to inspire me every day.
Day Twenty Three: The Right Honorable Kim Campbell – IWF Canada & Southern California (The Trusteeship):
In 2014, I was appointed the Founding Principal of the Peter Lougheed Leadership College at the University of Alberta. I relished the opportunity to apply my experience as a leader and academic to creating this interdisciplinary, undergraduate program established in honour of an accomplished and revered Canadian Premier. There were several challenges. Prior to my arrival, there had been a profound misconception about the program being exclusive and only benefitting a few students. So, we worked tirelessly… drawing on the expertise of dozens of faculty members as contributors to our curriculum. We established an administrative structure across faculties, no small feat, to further ingrain the principle of diversity into the program. We consulted with world-class leadership studies educators. We scaled up the program to accommodate more students, and established a lecture series open to the public so anyone could benefit from the insight of the remarkable speakers we contracted. We were proud to graduate our first class of “Lougheed Scholars” in 2017. Please visit ualberta.ca/lougheed-leadership-college to learn more about what I am happy to report has become a life-changing experience for extraordinary young leaders who will help us take on the challenges of tomorrow.
Day Twenty-Four: Julie Smolyansky – IWF Chicago:
Julie Smolyansky became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she took over Lifeway Foods at the age of 27 in 2002.
The sudden and early death of my father was the saddest, most traumatic and difficult time in my life; experiencing it publicly made it all the more painful. It hurts to even look at the corporate photo of myself that was taken days afterwards. I put my grief and energy into making my parents’ dream of Lifeway Kefir being a household name come true. I suppose I could have laid in bed with the blankets over my head but instead I repeated, like a mantra, “Failure is not an option.” Anything but continued growth and implementation on the strategy we outlined years prior to my father’s death would jeopardize not only the company but what the family had already sacrificed. Privately, I found comfort in running along the lakefront and reading the incredibly supportive letters and emails from random strangers and customers. The collective spirit of all these amazing people urging us to keep going has always inspired me. It took me years to feel like I was among the living, to ground myself in my new life, one in which I had to take it upon myself to lead Lifeway forward. That’s why I wrote The Kefir Cookbook: to share my journey and the journeys of other strong women and men who have inspired me, lifted me up, and helped make my family’s dream of bringing the healing properties of kefir to the world possible.
Day Twenty-Five: Nikki Symmons – WABN Alumnae, Ireland:
Nikki Symmons is a retired professional field hockey player and the first Irish athlete to reach a record 200 caps. In 2014, she became Ireland’s first female athlete to speak openly about being gay. She is a member of the 2017 Cohort of EY WABN Mentees.
Being a dual-career athlete, you have no choice but to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. Training everyday, sometimes twice a day, while holding down a traditional job requires you to be determined, vigilant, persistent and not afraid of working hard. I always set high standards for myself and goals and, even though I did not reach some of those goals when I finished my sporting career, I never gave up. I pushed all the way until my final game. My 13-yearlong elite hockey career has made me the person I am and now gives me the ability, the experience, the strength and the endurance to get the job done in my new career. #SportsMadeMe
Day Twenty-Six: Rosabeth Moss Kanter – Founding Member, Women’s Forum of Massachusetts:
Dr. Moss Kanter is the founding Chair and Director, Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative; Arbuckle Professor, Harvard Business School: award-winning, and a best-selling author. She has given TEDx Talks on Six Keys To Leading Positive Change and The Only Three Career Steps That Matter. She was a 1996 IWF Woman Who Makes A Difference.
Idea people don’t exactly roll up our sleeves; we are more likely to dream things up, create agendas, and empower other people to do it, writing the book and moving on. Although I’ve held leadership positions, co-founded a few things, worked with Presidential candidates, and stimulated innovations over many years, my stock in trade has been engaging the brain. But in 2005, some sleeve-rolling was necessary when two (male) Harvard colleagues and I hatched the idea for a totally new stage of higher education and a new leadership force for the world. The men looked to me to make it happen. Gulp. Was I up for the seemingly endless door-knocking, selling, cajoling, convening, and detail work to go from grand vision to Harvard innovation, requiring change in a 380-year-old institution? For the coalition-building that seemed unnecessary at the beginning, but saved us in the darkest days of the Great Recession? Many sleeve-rollups later, the university-wide Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative has made a difference in millions of lives worldwide and become a model for other institutions. Keys to success were my perennial favorites: showing up (to even be in the conversation); a big, inspiring mission with values and purpose; imagination, creativity, and flexibility; great colleagues and partners devoted to the cause; and the stamina, tenacity, and perseverance to never give up.
Day Twenty-Seven: The Honorable Mrs. Anson Chan GBM GCMG CBE JP – IWF Hong Kong:
Anson Chan is a Hong Kong politician and civil servant who served as Chief Secretary in both the British colonial government of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government under the Chinese sovereignty.
I joined the Hong Kong Government in 1962. At that time, married women did not enjoy equal fringe benefits (such as education allowance and housing allowance) with their male counterparts. The Government’s excuse was that these benefits were the responsibility of one’s husband. For a few years, we waited for the main staff union to take action to address this inequality but the union had other priorities. In 1975, I decided together with 11 other female colleagues that we had to take matters into our own hands if we wanted to see action. We set up a trade union specifically to address this issue. We recruited members service wide, went public on our cause, enlisted the support of leading members of our community (both male and female) and pressed our case with the top echelons of the Hong Kong Government. Society was clearly ready to move towards greater gender equality. Within a few years of our formation, we won our case through persuasion, persistence and a firm belief in our cause. In 1982, all married women within the Hong Kong Government at long last received equal pay and equal fringe benefits with our male colleagues. It would have taken far longer to achieve parity if we had not decided to take the initiative.
Day Twenty-Eight: Lucy Jarvis – Women’s Forum of New York:
I spent my life defying the odds and successfully producing films in places I was told were impossible. The Kremlin, The Louvre, The Forbidden City in China, etc. I had always made it my mission to bring about an understanding of people whom we considered to be our enemy…
So when Bill Clinton began making rumblings about his desire to end the embargo in Cuba, I thought that should be my next project. My associate, Scott McArthur, had been working with an American dance company with Latin roots and ties to Cuba so we decided to create a tour of Cuba for them and film it to show American’s Cuban culture through the eyes of these American dancers.
Alicia Alonzo happened to be in New York for the 50th anniversary of George Balanchine so Scott and I made it our business to meet with her and get the ball rolling. That meeting culminated with Ms. Alonzo asking, “When are you coming to Cuba?” Not wanting to lose the opportunity I responded, “Next Week.”
The next morning I called the US Treasury Department and made my request for two visas to Cuba, one for me and one for Mr. McArthur… and I wanted them within 48 hours. They stammered that such papers required at least six weeks to process. Now, understand that my Washington contacts go back 40 years so I began working the phones. Needless to say, they didn’t know me very well and one week later Scott and I were on a plane to Havana.
As an end note, one of the reasons that I chose this story was because the IWF was holding their annual meeting in Nassau at the time. So Scott completed the paperwork with Washington and met me in the Bahamas where we then flew to Cuba. There were no direct flights from the US.
Day Twenty-Nine: Ann Medina – IWF Canada:
A few years back the major Ontario Universities held a ‘Summit’ to decide what to do about possible government cut-backs and I was asked to moderate. When I arrived I saw this gigantic 40 foot square table set-up with mikes and large place cards at each seat. It resembled a wannabe UN instead of a place for any real discussion!
The participants were the Who’s Who of Canadian business. They were the Chairs and CEO’s of all the major banks and Corporations who were Chancellors or served on University Boards and, of course, the institutions’ top guns. It was a roomful of P-O-W-E-R! and all men.
Less than a minute into the Chair’s opening comments, the doors burst open and a large group of students entered with a bullhorn emitting an ear-splitting siren. There would be no meeting with that! What to do. Immediately, a few men insisted on calling the police. “Get them OUT” one huffed and puffed. Well, picturing front page photos of police v. students, I didn’t think that a very wise move. So – I calmly told the Chair (I didn’t ask, I ‘told’ him) we would quietly just leave the room and he should get one of his ass’ts to find us a place to re-group.
Despite some grumblings, a line of ‘Power-Men’ soon followed a small, diminutive woman out the door past the demonstrators and into a room down the hall.
Our new ‘home’ had multiple round tables, no mikes, and no place cards…and you could instantly feel the tension evaporate. Also gone would be the posturing and prepared speeches that naturally accompany large square tables! Instead, the men, finally, got down to business.
To this day, I am often thanked for taking charge that morning. No. I was just doing what needed to be done!
Day Thirty: Susan Peterson – IWF Washington DC:
When I was a CBS News correspondent in the 1970s and 1980s, “getting the job done” applied to every story– as it meant researching, interviewing, writing and capturing visuals– all under strict deadlines.
When I became the network’s first female foreign correspondent, one of my assignments was Egypt. At that time, the “hot” story was following Elizabeth Taylor & Frank Sinatra around Cairo– until BBC Radio announced the first year anniversary of the Camp David Accords.
The accords were the first permanent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel after decades of hostilities. For months, our news anchor Walter Cronkite, had followed the intense negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Manachem Begin.
My crew & I raced to the President’s vacation home outside Cairo to get an interview with President Sadat. We weren’t the only ones. There was a mob of journalists outside the Palace gates making innumerable interview requests through security guards. All were turned down.
Our colleagues left to follow the more newsworthy Elizabeth Taylor but we remained. I knew we couldn’t give up. So we waited for hours and in true Middle Eastern tradition, we drank lots of tea as we chatted with the guards. Every so often, they would take another request which was refused. Near the end of the day, I sent in my business card with a note: “On this historic day, Walter Cronkite wants me to do an interview with you.”
Suddenly, the gates opened. We were led into the grounds on the banks of the Suez Canal where Sadat joined us. Looking back, I don’t remember what I asked or even what he answered –except the one moment when he dramatically looked across the canal and said: “Is it not a miracle that we are sitting here today looking across at the Sinai and there is peace….”
My exclusive interview led the CBS Evening News that night. I got the job done.
Day Thirty-One: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – IWF South Africa:
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is an Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women. She was inducted into the IWF and Leadership Foundation Hall of Fame in 2016.
The fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment is built on the strength of multigenerational activists who connect grassroots mobilization all the way up to government leadership. Civil society and women’s movements are our vital partners in advocating for change and holding governments to account. These are the women who are rolling their sleeves up and getting the job done. I have seen this firsthand through my early work with groups such as the YWCA, and I see it every day through our strong civil society partners at UN Women.
We must continue to build feminist solidarity movements and to address the shrinking spaces for civil society in countries around the world. Along with this, it is essential that the feminist movement continues to increase the diversity and the number of people working on gender equality, bringing in individuals and groups – such as men and boys, young people and faith-based organizations – to support and shape the agenda.
When we conceptualized and launched HeforShe, we crossed the line of activism to engage men and boys. I reached out to men and boys to become part of the fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and we now have engaged male leaders in the private sector, Heads of State, presidents of universities and students who are actively and accountably taking up issues such as gender-based violence, equal pay, gender parity, child marriage and cyberbullying.