Women in the World Summit 2011: Most Memorable Quotes

News editor Andrea Newell reports from the Women in the World Summit.

I was pleased to be invited to cover the exclusive Women in the World Summit (#WiW11) in New York March 10-12 at the Hudson Theater. It is the second annual summit hosted by Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and it brings together women from around the world to discuss issues affecting women both in the U.S. and abroad. The agenda included speakers such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, moderators such as Christiane Amanpour, Juju Chang, Mika Brzezinski, and Lesley Stahl, and panels with guests like Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Ashley Judd, Lydia Cacho, Diane von Furstenberg, Sheryl Sandberg, John Donahoe, Amy Chua, and more.

Considering the host, the powerhouse speaker lineup, and the topic, I expected the summit to be bigger, but there weren’t more than 200 attendees. Although Newsweek and The Daily Beast had a significant news presence, I only met four writers from other online news outlets beside ours. I’m sure there were more, but we commented amongst ourselves about the lack of outside coverage. Indeed, it was puzzling. These women, many prominent ones among them, came from all over the world to tell their stories, but who’s listening?

Although the subject matter was, at times, heavy on the heart, the Hudson Theater is a stunning venue. The theater lobby was full of men and women in business suits interspersed with women in their colorful, native garb. A sea of dark grays, blues and black punctuated by vivid colors and metallic sparkle. The ornate carving is beautiful, the lighting is dramatic and it is an intimate setting to listen to these women and their amazing stories.

Although all the sessions are now available online, there was something magical about these moments “in real life”. Being there was to see Ashley Judd nearly dissolve into tears when she talked about her friend’s daughter, to feel her anguish from 75 feet away. Being there made women’s issues all the more real – walking past the women in their bright colors, hearing their beads clink, and listening to their lyrical voices as they connected with members of the audience in the lobby during the breaks.

At EcoSalon, we believe that women and green go hand and hand. We are concerned with all that is conscious, which means not only being concerned about the environment, but about how people are treated. We simply cannot have progress of a piece; you cannot have one conscious world without the other. That’s why we wouldn’t have missed the Women in the World 2011 summit and the opportunity to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing women – and men – right now. While all of these quotes have been captured in streaming video, the ones that left the strongest impression on me are the ones shared here.

“If you knew them, you’d care.”

Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO of Women for Women International, talking about the women she met and photographed on her trip to Congo

“The role of women in the democracy movement is hammering home the point that the treatment of women in any society is a marker of its civilization, and its respect for the human dignity of every individual – in fact the very measure of democracy itself.”

Tina Brown, Editor-in-Chief, Newsweek and The Daily Beast

“We’re here because we believe. We believe in ourselves and we believe in our fellow human beings. We believe that justice will prevail over time, because justice has to prevail over time…Most of all, we’re all here because we believe in action.”

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

“I’m here to say that women matter.”

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank

“We arrest the girl. We criminalize the girl. This is the only situation of child abuse where we put the child behind bars.”

Malika Saada Saar, Founder and Executive Director, The Rebecca Project for Human Rights, talking about child sex trafficking

“Women and girls around the world taught me this lesson: If you do not have real opportunities to exercise your rights, how can you choose freely? I know my rights. I have survived rape, incarceration, and an assassination attempt for exercising my freedom to be an echoer of other women’s voices. And here I am, making a free choice that millions of our sisters cannot make. Until we walk the path together, I’ll keep writing.”

Lydia Cacho, Journalist and Author, reading from her book, Slaves of Power: A Journey to the Heart of World Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls

“I design, but more importantly, I decide. I am a job creator.”

Divya Keshav, Owner, Krishna International, talking about the opportunity to own her own business

“A female college graduate earns $1.2 million less than her male counterpart.”

Statistic from The Marzipan Layer session

“[Marketers have learned that] girls really make a lot of buying decisions…so not only are we marketing more to girls, but we are sending messages to girls about what power really looks like…so what’s often being sold to girls is that power is about being sexual and looking sexy…Clearly this is a time where girls have more opportunity than they’ve ever had before, but at the same time, the messages they’re getting are deeply confusing.”

Rachel Simmons, Author and Co-Founder, Girls Leadership Institute

“Where women do not have the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential, it is far less likely that democracy and prosperity go hand in hand. It is far less likely that peace and security are present.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

In the coming days, I will be sharing more about the summit, its topics and what we can take away from it. It’s not just about the hardships of women and girls in developing countries, but about identifying girls at risk in the U.S., encouraging all girls to be leaders, and becoming aware of the plight of women and girls everywhere. It’s about seeing our many similarities, rather than focusing on our differences. It’s not about being up with women (and down with men) but about recognizing how much women have to offer the world, yet how often they are not empowered to contribute.

From my vantage point in the press balcony before a session.

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.