Q: What exactly is the Women in the World summit?
A: It’s a live event unlike any you’ve been to before—three exhilarating days that fuse journalism, enthralling storytelling, networking, activism, and inspiration. You get to hear firsthand from the world’s most accomplished women about their lives, work, struggles, and aspirations—and meet the men who champion them.
Q: How’s it different from other “women’s conferences”?
A: This is not the familiar Pantyhose Power approach. It’s not about corner-office-scrambling or gender bleating. It’s living news from the global frontiers where women are stirring it up and taking risks. The staging is fast-paced with high-impact video, accomplished moderators and discussions fired by breaking news. Last year, for example, Jon Stewart led a crackling debate between four firebrands from the Middle East. And Katie Couric drew out the incredible Chicago den-mother Sally Hazelgrove, who gets troubled inner city boys off the streets to her after school boxing gym.
Q: Why is Women in the World relevant now?
A: The worldwide movement for gender equality is meeting with rising resistance. Sometimes, as in the U.S., the backlash is mostly political. Sometimes, as in countries where the Arab Spring has turned wintry, it is far more oppressive. And sometimes, as in parts of Africa and in territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State, it is horrifyingly deadly.
Q: Where’s the hope?
A: Even in such benighted places, half of humanity cannot be kept down forever. The strength and determination of women, individual and collective, is the greatest underutilized resource on the planet. Women in the World is about liberating that strength and determination to reach our full potential—all of us.
Q: How did Women in the World start?
A: In 2009, when I was editor of The Daily Beast, I went to a retreat in Italy hosted by Vital Voices, which mentors women leaders from emerging countries. I was blown away by the women I met. They were so stirring and courageous and charismatic—yet most of them were unknown in the United States. I was excited by what I saw: the growing energy of a worldwide movement that is galvanizing women who had never before considered freedom and equality an option—a movement that might go beyond the worthy but sometimes narrowly focused feminism manifest in the U.S. The best way to showcase these women, I thought, was to build them a live platform where American influencers could leverage their own celebrity to win them attention.
Q: What was the response?
A: It took off like a rocket. Our first year’s summit in 2010 was at the small Hudson Theatre in midtown Manhattan, executive produced then and subsequently by Kyle Gibson. It immediately won the support of Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Diane Von Furstenberg and Christine Lagarde who all came—and who all have returned in succeeding years. Then there were the activists who brought the house down—the fiery Liberian peacemaker Leymah Gbowee, who went on to win a Nobel prize; Suneitha Krishnan, the mesmerizing Indian campaigner against sexual trafficking; and Molly Melching, an American heroine who has systematically eradicated female genital cutting in villages in Senegal, Everyone was inspired by the fortitude and resilience of these women, who had faced down cultural and political challenges scarcely imaginable in the West.
Q: What’s happened since?
A: Unexpected success. Three hundred people came to that first summit. By 2012 we had to move to Lincoln Center and a 2500-seat theatre. Women in the World became an independent project. Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Condoleezza Rice, Melanne Verveer, and Samantha Power are among the powerful American women who have shared the stage with peers like Uganda’s Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, India’s Asha Kowtal, Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, Burma’s Zing Ma Aung, Egypt’s Dalia Ziada, Libya’s Alaa Murabit, and Israel’s Robi Damelin. One popular feature at the summit is our support of young women who are burgeoning social innovators. Women in the World identifies them and our leadership sponsor provides them with cash grants and logistical support as Toyota Mothers of Invention.
Q: What’s next?
A: We have joined forces with the New York Times for a global and digital expansion. This fall there are summits in London and New Delhi. We’ve hosted forums in Dubai, Washington DC, San Francisco, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Chicago as well. The next Summit is coming up here in New York City on April 22-24. Hillary Clinton, Sister Rosemary Nyiurumbe, director of St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring Centre in Uganda, Jon Krakauer, actress and activist Freida Pinto, Barbra Streisand, Bring Back Our Girls co-founder Obiageli Ezekwesili, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and from the Parents Circle Families Forum, members Robi Damelin and Bushra Awad, among many others. To purchase tickets, click here.
Q: How do we stay connected?
A: As of now, Women in the World has a regular digital presence. This new channel brings you news of all our events and takes you right into the action of our worldwide summits and domestic salons. The channel creates a year-round community for all of us who want to stay in touch with each other—women who make headlines in their own countries, yes, but also women who live behind the lines of the news. Once you meet them, you won’t forget them.
Join us at this year’s New York Summit, April 22-24 at Lincoln Center.