International Women’s Day may have come and gone, but if the buzz you saw on March 8 conveyed anything, it was probably that the premise of this “holiday” is one we should be discussing every day of the year. Indeed, that sentiment was palpable at the UN Women’s launch of the She Innovates Global Program, an event held this past Friday in Manhattan.
The program — whose slate of speakers included entrepreneur and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons; two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup Champion Abby Wambach; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women; and Fairygodboss Co-Founder Georgene Huang — celebrated individuals and activists who are finding innovative ways to advance gender equality.
Wambach, who played on the U.S. women’s national soccer team from 2003 to 2015, spoke about how her former team had, just hours earlier, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation to fight for equal pay. Wambach, who has retired from her soccer career, is still deeply committed to advocating for her former teammates and for all women in the workplace.
She described how her retirement has pushed her to become even more involved as an activist: “When you’re inside the institution, it is much harder to make change because you’re cashing those checks,” she said. “These women who filed this lawsuit today...I’m texting them to find out what they can’t say because they fear retribution. I will be [their] advocate,” she said.
Wambach also shared her take on how companies should be approaching the fight for gender equality. “Women haven’t had as long as men to evolve and adapt to a workplace,” she pointed out. “Women are not finding themselves in the boardrooms, so when the company is sending things out into the world, women are not part of the representation.
“Men have had hundreds and hundreds of years to create a culture inside of the corporate world that serves them,” Wambach continued. “Women don’t have that same space. You have to create and cultivate an environment for women to open up their doors to each other, because when you have women all working toward the same thing, you have a recipe for success.”
Claudia Chan, CEO of S.H.E. Media and S.H.E Summit, also argued that the idea that the adversity we face can be a catalyst for positive change. “Your pain is your positive impact,” she said, adding that in the fight for gender equality, involving men should be a priority. “Gender equality is not a conversation without [thinking about] how we are empowering men and boys. Systems and structures at home are changing, and we need a new men’s movement, starting to solve what they’ve struggled with.”
Joanne Lipman, author of “That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together,” agreed. “We really need men to join us to close the gap,” she said.
Lee Simmons acknowledged that achieving gender parity is no small task. “Big problems like the fight for gender equality can be daunting,” she said. But she added that all women — not just those in the public eye — have a responsibility to champion other women: “I have no doubt that women will prevail and that no fight is insurmountable when we work together.”