The New York Times
November 30, 2012
Writer and diplomat, most recently special adviser to Hillary Clinton
I grew up with seven sisters. I tolerated boy bands. I learned to put the seat down. I also witnessed the power of women’s leadership. My childhood dinner-table fights would still be raging without steely negotiation from girls. Years later, watching an argument rage in a dusty Islamic classroom in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I remember seeing that same power. At first, only the men talked. But finally, Nipa Masud, seated in the back with a dangerous glint in her eye, leapt to her feet, unleashed a torrent of critiques. The floodgates open, every girl spoke up, swiftly ending the debate. The girls didn’t speak first, but they spoke loudest. There can be no confronting our challenges without those voices. Countries with more women in their governments are less likely to suffer internal armed conflicts. Goldman Sachs projected that leveling women’s and men’s employment rates would add 9 percent to the United States’ G.D.P., 13 percent to Europe’s, and 16 percent to Japan’s. In some ways, we are closer to securing equal space for women to participate than ever. Gender gaps in primary and secondary education rates are closing. More than half a billion women joined the work force over the last 30 years. But women everywhere still face senseless obstacles. In October, militants in Pakistan gunned down 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai for her activism supporting girls’ education. Countless stories like hers never reach the world. It is up to all of us to protect women, their rights and their opportunities. In a recent McKinsey survey of successful female businesswomen, an overwhelming majority said they don’t aspire to top positions. Women who have made it to the top need to stay there and fight for a world where Nipa, Malala, and countless girls like them are not just able, but expected, to lead.