Equality Can’t Wait: Women, Power and Progress

Back in 1997, Ted Turner gave a gift of $1 billion to create the UN Foundation. At the time, he also advocated banning men from public office.

“Men should be barred from public office for 100 years in every part of the world,” he declared. “The men have had millions of years where we’ve been running things. We’ve screwed it up hopelessly. Let’s give it to the women.”

We don’t have 100 years to have equality given to us. Equality can’t wait!

So wrote Melinda Gates in TIME last week, sharing that her own decision to commit $1 billion—to women’s rights—was based on a mixture of outrage, optimism and impatience. She’s outraged that in 2018, “there were more men named James running Fortune 500 companies than there were women. This year, only one CEO on that list of 500 is a woman of color. Women are 51 percent of the population but hold only 24 percent of the seats in Congress.” And she’s optimistic that this is the right moment for rapid change—because of the groundswell of the women’s marches, the #MeToo movement and the record number of women running for office around the country in 2018 and 2020.

I share her optimism. In my new book, Becoming a Dangerous Woman, I deliver a call to action for all women and our allies to be braver and bolder, embrace more risks and become more impatient. Equality can’t wait—and we can’t play our part from the sidelines.

One of the ways I play my part is participating in women’s gatherings. This past weekend, at the Omega Institute’s Women & Power conference, themed “Gathering Our Strength,” I had the privilege of listening to and speaking with hundreds of women who have committed to #DoPowerDifferently, one of the themes of this year’s gathering. I shared the stage with the inspiring duo, T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, founders of GirlTrek; Tarana Burke, leader of #MeToo; writer Roxane Gay, and other dangerous women committed to the work of shaping a world where women are equal, safe, free and heard.

(Pat Michell / Instagram)

Throughout the weekend on the beautiful Omega campus, drawing strength from the curriculum of the Omega Women’s Leadership Institute and from one other, I believe, and new research supports this, that we return to our lives better prepared to step into our power, use it and share it. I witness this every year at the many women’s gatherings I attend—including TEDWomen (Dec. 4-6, 2019), which I’m privileged to have helped create and continue to co-curate and host. It’s a privilege I have to offer that platform each year to women with transformative ideas, and it’s a shared responsibility, in my opinion, for all of us to show up for one another whenever and however we can—in every room where equality can be advanced. It is in those rooms together that we do, in fact, gather our strengthen, connect our experiences, share our learnings, problem solve and explore the ways we can use our power, individually and collectively, to advance equality.

#EqualityCantWait, declared Melinda Gates—as she put her very significant resources forward today, challenging all of us, at every gathering and with every opportunity, to elevate, activate, motivate and gather our strength, individually and collectively as a global sisterhood, for the often dangerous but absolutely necessary work to move towards true equality in every aspect of our lives and work—not for ourselves alone.

No one can be left out or behind if true equality is the goal and it must be… Now! With gratitude to Melinda and to all my sisters who commit their talents, ideas, time and resources—sometimes at great risk—and are stepping up and showing up for each other in altogether new and transformative ways.

This piece originally appeared on Pat Mitchell’s blog. Republished with author permission.


Pat Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen. Throughout her career as a journalist, Emmy-winning producer and pioneering executive, she has focused on sharing women’s stories. She is chair of the Sundance Institute Board, the chair emerita of the Women’s Media Center board, and a trustee of the VDAY movement, the Skoll Foundation and The Woodruff Arts Center. She is an advisor to Participant Media and served as a congressional appointment to the American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council.