You'd think attending a conference about international issues that impact women, where forced marriage and honor killings were discussed, would be depressing, since we still have so far to go. But as the 3rd annual Women in the World summit last weekend, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, wrapped up to the tune of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," I felt uplifted.
Maybe it had something to do with the last speaker U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's words about what it means to be a woman: "It means never giving up," she said. "It means getting up, working hard and putting a country, or a community on your back." From Angelina Jolie to Nancy Pelosi to Clinton herself, prominent women in the worlds of business, politics, journalism and more had such inspiring words about the state of women in the world today that despite all the setbacks — like that only 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women — the event reminded me of the progress we're making.
Why it's great to be a woman today, according to leaders from the Women in the World summit:
1. Teenage girls are doing more than sexting these days (phew). A panel called "Girls in the Digital World" hosted by Chelsea Clinton featured young women who've created positive online spaces to discuss issues like body image and self-esteem. One of them is Emily-Anne Rigal, founder of WeStopHate.org, a movement to help stop teen bullying. Another, Julie Zellinger, founded feminist blog The FBomb when she was 16. "Feminism for my generation is a much more subtle fight than it once was," said Zeilinger, who is now 18. "We still deal with issues that are sexist in nature, but they don't always have a blinking arrow pointed at them."
2. You can feel good about paying on a date. Amanda Steinberg, CEO of women's finance website DailyWorth.com, said: "With my boyfriend recently, when we go out to dinner they always hand him the check, and he says to them, 'Wrong economy,' and hands it to me."
3. You can be feminine and powerful. Some women think starting fashion, beauty or baby-based businesses with Pink or "girly" branding will immediately "ghettoize" them and prevent them from being taken seriously in the business world, but hello!? Money is power, and look at the success of Barbie, the ultimate pink business. As Susan Lyne, chairman of Gilt Groupe, said: "There are millions and millions of women out there who love to shop and who have babies, so why would you not go where the need is? It's just not logical."