Last week was a real highlight. A next-level amazing experience that doesn't happen every day.
I was invited by the Foundation for Gender Equality to speak at their annual summit for women's equality at the United Nations (hashtags #womenseconomicempowerment #planet5050.
I believe I manifested this opportunity, as I've become increasingly interested in policy work, and was thinking of starting at a state level. Apparently the Universe got wind of this dream and told me I had to take it global. OK Universe! You're the boss!
In my presentation I spoke about the importance of supporting working moms, abolishing the notion the stay-at-home mom is a better mom, the fact that unmarried mothers will be the majority of families in our lifetime, and how important involved dads are for closing the pay gap, and creating true gender equality in both finances, and family.
The whole day was an unbelievable experience where I sat in a small ballroom feet away from Jewel as she performed with just a mic, a guitar and her voice, told stories about her journey, motherhood and divorce, and looked like an incredible, radiant angle. Actress and activist Maria Bello was so candid and witty as she rallied against sexism in Hollywood, and the lovely U.S. soccer phenomenon Abby Wambach stole the show with her humility and humor, recounting both the Women's National Soccer league's victory in equal pay for equal play (women were for years paid less than their male counterparts, despite the league earning more) and how she was approached post-game by a 15-year-old boy who said: “I want to be a female soccer player when I grow up!”
Academy Award winning documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Pakistani journalist who has committed her career and life to telling the stories of women, was so gorgeous as she talked about her life of challenging social norms, especially and most notably the abuse, murder and humiliation of women in her country (films include Girl in the River and Saving Face. Despite being educated at Smith and Stanford the United States, where she could certainly chose to build a career and life, Chinoy choses the dangers of Pakistan. “It is where I can have the most impact,” she says
Ladies, there is hope. The future for women is amazing. And each of us — you, me, your sister, your friend, neighbor, kids — we all are doing are parts each and every day by being our own amazing, powerful selves.
In her presentation Chinoy showed clips of interviews with Pakistani women, women without formal education, wealth or the support of their cultures, who risk their lives and families in their challenges of abuse and discrimination against women.
During my own presentation I shared the stages with two incredible women changing their world.
Daleela Farina, a Canadian living in New York, six years ago founded Care for Kenya, which every year educates and supports 400 women through teaching them crafts, finance, health, nutrition and other skills that usually results in them becoming their family's breadwinners, using their earnings to educate their children, improve their communities and pay it forward in their own ways. Women, after all, typically give back to their communities 80% of their earnings, while men give back 30%. “These women are the strongest women I've ever met,” Daleela told the audience.
Bo Young Lee arrived in the United States as a young child from Korea, struggling with dyslexia and other disabilities, and attended top universities and worked within corporations challenging their policies and practices on diversity issues. She is on the inside, telling the white rich men why diversity makes good business sense, and how to accomplish it. Today the mom of a 5-year-old is head of Global Diversity & Inclusion for the Risk and Insurance Service for Marsh & McLennan, which touches more than 150 million people around the world every day.
Every single one of these women that either spoke or were spoken about are critical to the mission— whether stopping the sanctioned murders and mutilation of women suspected of flirting with a man who is not her husband, to those who who micro-challenge office politics to be inclusive, to those who who build organizations that help domestic violence victims find financial resources to leave abusers, to the women to use their skills and connections to tell the stories that need to be told, to the moms suffering chronic illness who get out of bed and care for their kids anyway, to the employee who sends that email demanding a raise because she deserves it, too, to women who simply live in their radiance, who harness their talents and gifts to give others a moment of beauty, of grace and peace.
It's all these micro and macro actions that make up a movement — not just the dazzling New York City days at global summits where famous people appear and share. It is the unsung heroes, the everyday, tiny and giant decisions and gestures that each and every one of us are capable of executing their part of the movement that is both minute and giant, like butterfly wings that create the tsunami.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.