Friday, September 26, 2014

Feminism 3.0

Feminism—with a small but strident f—is having a cultural moment. From Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg to Beyonce, it is becoming part of the mainstream. And this week, it marched onto center stage in Manhattan, at two of the nation's biggest annual social good gatherings of world leaders, CEOs, cause-wired Millennials, celebrities, and philanthropists: Bill Clinton's invitation-only, 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), and the Social Good Summit, the open-door, Gen Y celebration of grassroots activism sponsored by Mashable, the United Nations Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

CGI's stepped-up focus on women's empowerment this year was not simply a reflection of Hillary Clinton's highly-buzzed consideration of another run for the White House. [The comedian, Seth Meyers, speaking at a pre-CGI awards dinner early in the week, told CGI delegates, "I am so excited to be here with the President—and Bill."]

Feminism for social good programming also loomed large outside the Clintons' orbit. Social Good Summit organizers boasted repeatedly that the conference this year had scheduled as many Main Stage female speakers as men. SGS organizers also took the unusual step of devoting nearly half of its programming this year to gender equity and female empowerment issues.

Across both forums, the push for data-driven activism was strong, and the case for broader, more vigorous and results-oriented feminism was made all the more credible by speakers' frequent references to statistics—some supplied by the UN and some pulled from a year-old Big Data project called No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, led by Hillary Clinton. "Data will help us transform talk into action as never before, and give these issues (of women's empowerment) more credibility going forward," Clinton told a room full of mostly female CEOs, nonprofit executives, NGO leaders and social change activists during a limited-access "women's strategy session" held at CGI early in the week. Similarly, at the Social Good Summit, UN Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin urged Millennial men and women to help start a "gender data revolution." Calvin told Summit attendees that "stronger data will lead to strong opportunities for girls and women everywhere."

[One of the Gen Y activists on the roster was former Apple senior executive Jeff Martin, the Cofounder and CEO of Tribal Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based company that uses big data to predict consumer behavior and interaction. Martin urged gender activists to step up their use of mobile media, to enable more real-time collaboration and coordination of efforts locally and globally. "Often, when you go into village in Africa, or a small town in the United States, health care initiatives often don't connect with education initiatives and female empowerment initiatives," Martin said. "One thing I love about mobile analytics is that it's not only a way to cut out the middlemen and get faster data and more successful results by charities, but it's also a way to thread the needle between health care, education, and causes for women and girls."]

But becoming more data-fluent and data-driven is only part of what is needed, Clinton added. At the women's strategy session, she said, "We also need to put these issues on the political agenda. Sometimes, people in the NGO world and the corporate world are reluctant to engage in politics—and believe me, I know why politics is not for the faint-of-heart. But if you don't move into the political arena with these ideas, it is unlikely you will ever get to scale. I am passionate about the cause for women and have been, my whole life. And I know how important it is to make moral arguments and demands, but it's also important to have a mix of strategies that can get results for women and girls."

Across town, Asha Curran, director of the Center for Innovation and Social Impact at Manhattan's 92nd Street Y, the site of the Social Good Summit, issued a similar call to action. "I feel this year has been a big one for conversations about women—a profound, huge, emotionally confessional conversation and sometimes a conversation that has been very contentious," Curran said. "These very personal conversations are happening now across a huge, huge span and across online networks, and we haven't seen this kind of conversation happening in quite this way before. ...It is time to convert that talk into new strategies and real results."

Among other Cause Week highlights on the topic:

* Hillary Clinton announced CHARGE, a $600 million CGI-No Ceilings collaboration between more than 30 pubic and private partners — including CARE, Facebook, Google, Gucci, Intel, Save the Children, and government leaders from Nepal, Norway, Malawi, and the UK — to insure that 14 million girls over the next five years will receive a quality secondary-school education. While the number of girls attending primary school globally has soared over the past 20 years, Clinton said secondary-school enrollments for girls still lag far behind. The reason: Female students are vulnerable to kidnapping and violence on their way to school and often are can face extreme sexual harassment and inadequate sanitation. Institutions like UNICEF are working with CGI to improve safety in schools and train girls in self-defense, Clinton said, but "it will take governments, civil society leaders, the private sector, multilateral organizations, and the entire international community, all working together, to make sustainable change." In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, there are 1.5 million fewer girls than boys attending secondary school, Clinton said. The hope for CHARGE — an acronym for "Collaborative Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Global Education"— is multi-generational change. "When girls get a quality secondary education," Clinton said, "they are twice as likely to make education a priority for their daughters ... and the glass ceiling gets cracked."

* Melinda Gates said her Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is partnering with CGI on its No Ceilings project, and has begun collecting 1.8 million data points from more than 190 countries, which will be used to track the progress of women and girls globally. Gates said there is a need to identify, in measureable data, which policy and philanthropic initiatives to help women and girls have worked over the past 20 years, and which haven't, and why. "We need to replicate the successes and end the failures," she told conference delegates. "...When I was at Microsoft, you didn't do anything without data. Data instructs where you go and how you work. That's why, in this development work or any of this work relative to gender, you have to have data to know where you are making progress or even where you're having unintended consequences." Gates said the data initiative will help guide the gender empowerment movement's priorities locally, nationally, and internationally going forward, and be able to show how gender issues are universal, and how they impact men's lives, as well.

* Public Radio International (PRI) CEO Alisa Miller announced a groundbreaking new multimedia initiative to increase the coverage of gender issues in 2015 and beyond. Called Across Women's Lives, the project will "dramatically increase the level of coverage in the news cycle on global women's health, development and education issues," Miller said. "These issues are very newsworthy," she added, yet they receive little coverage now across the global news cycle. "What we find, on average, is that around 1.5 percent of coverage (by all news institutions) in the broad global news cycle is dedicated to this coverage area, and it's shocking," Miller told CauseGlobal in an interview. She also said that at PRI, only about 35 percent of the people used as sources for stories are female. "This isn't simply about raise the numbers," she said. "It's about ensuring we get all the perspectives we need more fully to cover what is happening in our world." For its part, Miller said, PRI will do 10 times the amount of existing reporting on issues relating to women and girls, focusing on five stages of women's lives: infancy, childhood, adolescence, middle age and old age. "I'm hoping to be imitated, copied, and outdone by other news institutions," she said. "It's important that we reach new levels of understanding. ...We need to change the conversation."

* At the United Nations earlier in the week, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and British actress Emma Watson (Harry Potter series) launched the organization's HeForShe campaign, which urges men and boys to advocate for gender equality. Watson described the the initiative as one that is tring to "end the us vs. them" mentality of traditional feminist movements, and disassociate feminism from "man-hating" stereotypes. "This is the first campaign of its kind at the UN," Watson said. "We want to try to galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates. ...We don't just want to talk about it, but make sure (gender equality) is tangible." The full text of her speech can be found on the UN Women website.

* Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein took the CGI stage to share the results so far of the Wall Street firm's 10,000 Women Initiative, launched in 2008 to provide 10,000 women around the world with access to business and managmeent education, mentoring, and networking. According to an independent assessment by Babson College, the majority of women who have gone through the program have dramatically increased the size of their businesses, with 70 percent growing their revenue and 60 percent adding jobs. "On average," Blankfein said, "graduates of the program grew their revenue by nearly five-fold ... and doubled the size of their workforce." In March, Goldman launched a new $600 million global partnership with the International Finance Corporation to create the first-ever global finance facility dedicated exclusively to women-owned small and medium enterprises, and enable 100,000 women entrepreneurs to access capital. "This is the next chapter of this initiative," Blankfein said. "Our hope is to demonstrate to banks around the world the potential to investing in women-owned businesses."

* Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, who led the women's peace movement in her country that helped to bring an end to Liberia's civil war in 2003, urged global leaders to understand that women's empowerment cannot take root in Africa and in other parts of the world unless local communities are engaged fully in cultural change and learn to value women differently. "Around the world, where resistance to women's empowerment in the strongest," the Nobel laureate to CGI delegates in a panel discussion moderated by Yahoo News Anchor Katie Couric, "there are traditions and cultures that are entrenched in the communities and that make it very difficult for women to excel." She said that when she talks with Liberian men, "many of them say that they think their wives sit at home all day, eating and gossiping. So then I ask them to tell me when their wives get up in the morning. They say 6 a.m. Then I ask them what their wives do next, and they tell me that they feed and take care of the children. I then ask them how much they would have to pay someone to get up early to feed and take care of the children, and they start giving me a monetary figure, and soon, when everything starts to add up against their salaries, they start looking differently at the unpaid work their wives do every day. ... And then I ask the men to see who they know who is enjoying a better lifestyle than they are, and they begin to see that this happens in families where both boys and girls go to school. ...Without full participation of women, we have a world that has one eye covered. It can't see the full picture. Unless we make men see things from new perspectives in very personal ways, then ... Chelsea (Clinton's) soon-to-be born child will be on this stage talking about women's empowerment 20 years from now."

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Photograph, second from top, captures a part of the audience at Day One of the Social Good Summit; Melinda Gates, third from top, poses with Summit attendees at Manhattan's 92nd Streeet Y; Hillary, Chelsea, and Bill Clinton, fourth from top, pose at CGI with the widow of Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel; and at bottom, Hillary Clinton addresses CGI with daughter, Chelsea, looking on. Photographs reprinted here by permission.)

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