Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose

Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose


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Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose by Melanne Verveer, Kim K. Azzarelli

“Ensuring the full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the twenty-first century. The stories in this book of people making a difference give me hope. We can use our power and purpose to help all women. And once we do, we can fast-forward to a better world for all.” — from the foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton

“[Fast Forward] outlines a female power action plan: how to find yours and use it while supporting other women . . . The book is full of compelling studies and stats.” — Elle

Books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In have helped advance a conversation about women and their careers that has resonated with millions of readers. Fast Forward, by two women leaders whose experience spans corporate America, public service, and global diplomacy, takes the next step. Through interviews with a network of more than seventy trailblazing women, Fast Forward shows women how to accelerate their growing economic power and combine it with purpose to find both success and meaning in their lives.

Companies, countries, and organizations the world over are waking up to today’s new reality. Women control the lion’s share of purchasing power and are increasingly essential to competitiveness. Women are using their power for purpose, redefining what power and success mean in the process. Through clear, practical advice and personal stories of women around the world — including Hillary Clinton, Geena Davis, Christine Lagarde, and Diane von Furstenberg — Fast Forward shows every woman how to know her power, find her purpose, and connect with others to achieve her life’s goals.
“A durable contribution to the continued efforts to effect change for women.” — Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544811850
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 566,103
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 8.90(d)

About the Author

MELANNE VERVEER is a founder of Seneca Women and executive director of Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security. In 2009, President Obama appointed her the first-ever United States ambassador-at-large for global women's issues. She is a cofounder of Vital Voices, an international nonprofit that invests in emerging women leaders.

KIM K. AZZARELLI is a founder of Seneca Women and cofounder and chair of Cornell Law School's Avon Global Center for Women and Justice. She is a legal, corporate, and philanthropic adviser and has held senior positions at companies including Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Goldman Sachs, and Avon.

Read an Excerpt


Why Women, Why Now

IT WAS JUST ANOTHER APPOINTMENT on the calendar for both of us: 2 p.m. on a warm spring day, at Kim's office on the twenty-seventh floor of Avon's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. To Melanne, it was one more meeting on top of dozens she'd already taken to explore private-sector partnerships for Vital Voices, the women's leadership nonprofit she had cofounded eight years earlier and was always working to grow. As far as Kim knew, Vital Voices was just another worthy nonprofit that Avon might consider supporting.

Melanne by then had grown used to the standard corporate position: women were fine as a philanthropic gesture, but not as the active partners she knew they could be. But something was different about this particular meeting. Kim, who then served as vice president, corporate secretary, and associate general counsel, had just taken charge of public affairs at Avon and was ready to use her platform to go beyond traditional corporate social responsibility. As she saw it, companies could join forces with women to both do well and do good, contributing to a company's goals while also advancing the lives of women and girls.

So when Melanne started talking about a potential partnership, Kim jumped in. The traditional approach to corporate charity was often limited. Kim was interested in exploring what she called "next-generation corporate social responsibility" — weaving social impact directly into the business strategy. Melanne did a double take: this was exactly how she envisioned Vital Voices making its impact. She glanced at her deputy, Alyse Nelson (now the president and CEO of Vital Voices), who looked at Kim and said, "You're one of us."

In the near decade since that meeting, wherever we've sat, we have worked together on the basis of the shared conviction that progress for women and girls can fast-forward us to a better world.

The two of us are a generation apart and come from vastly different backgrounds. Melanne, the granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants who settled in the Pennsylvania Coal Belt, has spent much of her professional life advocating for women from within the public sector — from the White House to the villages of India. Born and raised in New York City at a time when the women's movement was gaining a new foothold, Kim, an attorney, has spent much of her career advocating from the private sector, using her legal and deal-making skills to forge partnerships across sectors on behalf of women and girls.

But despite being from different worlds, we share a fundamental understanding: women are critical agents in creating economic growth and social progress. Yet in the circles in which we traveled, it often felt as if few others saw that potential in women.

In our own lifetimes, we have seen women's advocates win major battles, changing laws and putting issues like domestic violence and sexual harassment on the map. But in government and the private sector, where people puzzled endlessly over how to end conflicts and grow new markets, "women" was still, well, if not a taboo word, a largely unspoken one. In our experience, in those environments, arguments about the catalytic role of women did not get the traction they deserved.

Melanne witnessed this from the vantage point of international diplomacy and development, as Hillary Clinton's deputy and chief of staff during the Clinton administration, then as the cofounder of Vital Voices, and later as the first ambassador-at-large for global women's issues at the State Department. She knew how effective a force women could be, even in societies where their worth was devalued, their legal rights circumscribed. Despite these obstacles, women opened small businesses, invested in their children's health and education, and worked across religious and tribal divides to bring peace to conflict-riven nations. They leveraged what power they had for the greater good.

Kim witnessed the same phenomenon from a different vantage point. In her work with female judges around the world, as cofounder of Cornell Law School's Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, she knew the impact women leaders could make, especially if they were supported and connected. In her corporate and legal career, Kim had also seen women entrepreneurs, often starting with the tiniest amounts of capital, build dynamic businesses. In 2005, she had listened to the economist C. K. Prahalad discuss his thesis that the world's poor were viable business partners, as he laid out in his now classic business book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. "If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up," he wrote. In 2011, Harvard professors Michael Porter and Mark Kramer would coin the concept "creating shared value" to describe how some farsighted companies developed strategies to achieve both business goals and social benefits. Kim quickly saw how these models could apply specifically to women.

But in their rush to partner with those at the base of the pyramid or to create shared value, very few companies envisioned how women fit into the picture. It often seemed that the talent and contributions of women at all levels were being overlooked. This was true in diplomacy and international development as well. Women's potential as full economic participants and agents of change had been undervalued for too long.

In the years since we first met, we noticed a shift in perspective. One by one, leaders from around the globe are beginning to recognize the critical role women can and must play. While this shift is being driven by a number of factors, chief among them are (1) a growing body of empirical evidence demonstrating the impact of investing in women and girls, and (2) a historic and rising number of women in leadership positions.

Today the data is in. Institutions ranging from McKinsey & Company to the World Bank have published research showing that women are one of the most powerful demographic groups the world has ever seen. In 2012, a leading consultancy estimated that as many as a billion women were poised to enter the world economy over the next decade. Their impact could be as great as that of China or India. Women are also a fast-growing entrepreneurial force, creating jobs and fueling economic prosperity. From 1997 to 2014, women-owned businesses in the United States grew one and a half times faster than the national average. As of 2014, the nation had more than 9 million women-owned businesses, which employ almost 7.9 million people and boast over $1.4 trillion in revenues. Women own or lead more than a quarter of private businesses worldwide. Women also wield enormous purchasing power, controlling some $20 trillion in annual consumer spending globally. Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coca-Cola, put it simply: "Women already are the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic force in the world today."

But this story is not just about how much money women have to spend, but how they spend it. Investing in women and girls creates a "double dividend," as women tend to reinvest their earnings in their communities and families, raising the gross domestic product and lowering illiteracy and mortality rates. This "multiplier effect" has made advancing women and girls a primary goal in global development. In 2012, the World Bank's annual World Development Report stressed the promotion of equal education and equal economic opportunities for women and girls. "Greater gender equality," the report's authors wrote, is key to "enhancing productivity and improving other development outcomes, including prospects for the next generation and for the quality of societal policies and institutions."

Women are also driving growth for the companies that appreciate the value they bring to the table. Companies with more women in their top ranks perform better. A 2011 analysis by Catalyst, a nonprofit devoted to expanding opportunities for women in business, found that Fortune 500 companies that consistently had three or more female board directors over a five-year period had nearly a 50 percent higher return on equity than companies with no women on their boards. Credit Suisse has found that companies with more than 15 percent of women in top management have a higher return on equity than companies where women comprise less than 10 percent of top management. A 2015 analysis found that the Fortune 1000 companies with women CEOs performed three times better than the benchmark S&P 500 between 2002 and 2014. In the words of the former president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, "Gender equality is smart economics."

As a result, corporate executives and government leaders alike are waking up to the fact that women are drivers of both economic growth and social progress. Armed with the data, women and men leading communities, nonprofits, companies, and countries are increasingly making the case for putting women at the center of their strategies. From the village to the boardroom we have seen individuals using the data to shift mindsets, changing how we think about the power and role of half the world's population. In some instances, making the case has meant giving families incentives to keep their daughters in school. In others, it has meant lobbying leading CEOs to take a hard look at the correlation between diversity and profitability.

And as more women ascend to senior positions, they are increasingly using their newfound power for a common purpose: to advance other women, to "lift as they climb." They are reaching across sectors, nations, and socioeconomic strata to form networks propelled by a shared belief that women and girls have the potential to ignite change. These are not the old-boys clubs of yesterday where deals got cut in back rooms. Today's women-led networks, purposeful and inclusive, are turning that paradigm on its head.

These purpose-driven partnerships yield their own double dividends for women. In a world where women and men are increasingly suffering from time constraints, being able to make a positive contribution while connecting with others can create both personal satisfaction and professional success.

A substantial cohort of women has reached the upper echelons of government, business, and civil society. Leaders like Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde, and Melinda Gates are using their high visibility to draw attention to the importance of women and girls in today's global economy and development. Women CEOs of DuPont, IBM, Xerox, PepsiCo, Sam's Club, Campbell Soup, and General Motors, to name a few, oversee global companies collectively worth billions of dollars. Women presidents and prime ministers in countries including Germany, Denmark, South Korea, Chile, and Brazil are modeling female leadership and exercising hard power in the global arena. Media stars like Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, and Tina Brown are shaping the discourse around women and power, using their reach to tell women's stories. High-profile business leaders like Diane von Furstenberg and Sheryl Sandberg have made women a central focus of their leadership, using their positions to empower other women. At the same time, women have also entered middle management in large numbers, where they are leveraging their influence and expertise to make the case for women and girls. At the base of the pyramid, too, women are creating inclusive networks that are yielding enormous transformation.

Obstacles to unleashing the potential of women, however, still stand in our way. They range from discrimination to widespread violence against women to the design flaws in the system that make it difficult for women to reconcile today's economic realities with caregiving and other responsibilities. We must continue to work to eradicate these injustices and secure fundamental human rights for women.

But an undeniable momentum is building, as more women ascend to leadership and an increasing number of women and men recognize women's potential to fast-forward us to a better world. We stand today on the cusp of a global power shift, one that has the potential to redefine the way we work and live. What follows is an explanation of what this unprecedented power shift could mean for each of us, and for our global community.

Through the stories and wisdom of women and men we know and admire, hailing from diverse industries, nations, and socioeconomic strata, we show how women's growing economic power is creating social progress. This book lays out the many ways in which women drive the economy — as managers, employees, entrepreneurs, and consumers — and how this is changing the way we do business, define success, and create social impact. You will see how these women are using their power to drive their purpose, building businesses that give back, leveraging resources to empower other women, and engaging in skills-based volunteerism and philanthropy. This is a reference book for those who want to master and disseminate the data on the business case for women, and a how-to manual for those who want to harness their own power and combine it with purpose. To that end, we have included in the appendices a toolkit with some practical advice as well as selected resources that can help you continue on your personal journey. More advice and resources can be found at

Our collective experience spans more than fifty years and one hundred countries. We've met thousands of women, from British parliamentarians to Afghan peace activists, from the most glamorous cities in the world to war-torn villages. We have met with American combat veterans and women who serve in UN peacekeeping missions, with Supreme Court justices and survivors of brutal acid attacks. And we have found that while the stories have a thousand faces, in the end it is the same story being told over and over again. It's the story of women and their aspirations for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. It's the story of how, when given the opportunity, women can fast-forward us to the world we all want to see. This is the story we knew we wanted to share.

What we have learned from our research, from our work, and from speaking to these thousands of women, including more than seventy female leaders and some male champions interviewed for this book, is that advancing and investing in women and girls can unlock the potential of countries, companies, and communities. Doing so can also unlock the potential of individual women too, beginning with the recognition of our own power and potential to lift one another up.

In fact, change always starts with individuals — in this case, people who found their purpose in advancing women and girls. And in speaking to these women and men who share our purpose, we have found that despite the diversity of our experiences, one simple approach holds constant. It's an approach that can also ignite your own potential, transforming the way you think about your life and work. It can be described in three simple steps:

• Know your power.

• Find your purpose.

• Connect with others.

Whether you work in the nonprofit world, log hours as a corporate lawyer, educate the next generation as a teacher, run a business, or raise children full-time — whatever your calling — this approach results in success. It brings success the way we're defining it: a success that includes not only personal achievement but also meaning, impact, and fulfillment.

As you will see, change often begins with a shift in perspective in one individual, which then ripples through her own life, organization, community, and beyond. And just as women are coming to embrace their own power to effect change, men are also expanding their perspectives, to understand that women are true partners in global progress.

Since 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, where more than three hundred participants gathered for the first women's rights convention in the United States, women and men have advocated for women's equal participation. The progress of history, a wealth of new, evidence-based research, and the imperatives of growth have lent stunning velocity to women's advancement in just the past few years. What follows is what that unprecedented power shift could mean for countries, companies, and communities, and what it can mean for you.


Excerpted from "Fast Forward"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Seneca Point Global.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Why Women, Why Now,
Know the Power of Women: Make the Case,
Find Your Purpose,
Connect with Others: Partner for Purpose,
Leadership and Networks at the Top,
Why the Middle Matters,
Power at the Base,
Entrepreneurs and Innovators,
Unfinished Business,
Levers for Change: Technology and Education,
Media Matters,
Moments in History: Our Moment Is Now,
Appendix A: Toolkit,
Appendix B: Research, Nonprofits, Foundations, and Campaigns,
About the Authors,

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