What an amazing day at the White House United #StateofWomen Summit! Twelve hours of inspirational leaders across every single sector - government, business, media, military, and more. The IGNITE team and I were so lucky to have joined thousands of activists from across the country to hear President Obama, VP Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffet, and Amy Poehler, founder of IGNITE partner @SmartGirls, and more at this watershed event! I'm still reeling from the sheer volume of information and thoughtful conversations, but here are three big takeaways I left with.
1. Male allies advance the cause for political parity
The greatest highlight of my day was hearing President Barack Obama say, "I may be a little grayer than I was 8 years ago but this is what a feminist looks like." Until women own their fair share of political power in this country (and even after) we need male allies who will step up and proudly proclaim that they are equally invested in gender parity at every level of society. Yes, it's great that the President of the United States can call himself a feminist, but we also need young men on college campuses to stand up against rape, we need male business leaders to hire and elevate their excellent women employees, we need fathers to encourage their daughters to embrace their leadership and celebrate their drive and ambition! As Michelle Obama said, men need to “Be better!” Gender equality benefits everyone, and we'll get there faster when men are fighting for equality alongside of us.
2. So many of the challenges facing women have legislative and policy solutions.
Economic empowerment, violence against women, education opportunity, women's health... These were just some of the issues we discussed at the summit. And each and every one of these issues have legislative solutions. But to create those solutions we need more women in office - at the federal level, in states legislatures, and in local city and county offices across America. Political power is the lever by which social change happens. Women need to access political power and we must use it!
3. Young women need to step into their political power
The most energizing moment of my day was hearing the President's assessment of young women today: "This is the future that we're building...a future where women make of half of Congress. Where our girls know they can hold any job, and run any company, and compete on any field, and perform on any stage... And the good news is this is the future my daughter's generation already believes in. They believe every door is open to them... They're not going to hold themselves back. It couldn't occur to them that they couldn't rise to the top of whatever field they choose. They think it's weird that we haven't already had a woman President. They expect the world to catch up to them."
I couldn't agree more: young women today are less stymied by self-doubt, are more engaged and empowered than ever before. Now is the time for young women across the country to step into their power and pledge to become the next generation of political leaders.
That's why IGNITE is launching #DeclareYourAmbition. To reach political parity in the US, to rise from 95th in the world to 1st in the world, we need 140,000 more women in office across the United States. A substantial share of those women will be our daughters and grand-daughters, our students, our friends, the girls and young women in our lives who are defining what they can and should be. IGNITE thinks all these young women should lead. #DeclareYourAmbition and pledge to run for office or encourage a young women to run.
I come back from the #StateofWomen Summit even more committed to the mission of IGNITE. This is our chance to completely shift political power. With the leadership of young women we will achieve parity in this lifetime. Join us- #DeclareYourAmbition today!
Anne Moses, Ph.D.
IGNITE President & Founder