Pass on the Power: the 2011 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit
By Alyse Nelson
This week, I’ve been in California for the 13th annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. This summit brings together some of the most influential women in the corporate world, along with thought leaders, dignitaries and international advocates, to think about how we can “pass on the power” to women worldwide.
As Warren Buffett said yesterday, “for over half of our countries’ past we tapped only half the talent pool. Imagine what we can do using all the talent.”
At the summit’s opening dinner, Kay Krill, CEO of ANN Inc., announced the ANNPower Vital Voices Initiative, a program empowering young women across the U.S. to complete community projects to affect positive change. I am happy to share with you that our 2011 grantees have been chosen – read about their exciting projects.
It was great to see so many Fortune mentoring alumnae who had participated in this year’s Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. I was especially proud and excited to celebrate with 2007 alumna María Gabriela Hoch (above), president of Voces Vitales Argentina and director of MGH Communication Management, as she was honored by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women as a Global Woman Leader. In her acceptance remarks, María called on women to “face the future together.” As co-founder of Voces Vitales Argentina, María has embraced the power of mentorship in her mission to empower Argentinean women since 2009, working to train thousands of emerging women leaders through partnerships with key organizations and media like the American Chamber of Commerce and Apertura magazine. Voces Vitales Argentina is now one of the most influential women’s organizations in Argentina.
In a moving interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Vital Voices honoree Somaly Mam shared her story of overcoming abduction and slavery to become an advocate for girls who are trafficked into the sex trade in Cambodia. You could sense the solidarity and support for Somaly among those gathered — everyone stood in honor of her work and commitment.
Vital Voices Board Member Baroness Mary Goudie spoke about the new campaign she has co-founded, the 30% Club. This new initiative is focused on increasing the number of women on corporate boards in the U.K. to 30%, ensuring female representation in business. VV Chair Emeritus of the Board of Directors, Amb. Melanne Verveer, also spoke this morning about the recent changes in the Middle East, noting that “women must be factored into the future.”
I was proud to join two amazing innovators — Gerri Elliott from Juniper Networks and Cheryl Fields Tyler of Not For Sale — on Fortune’s Technology & Social Good panel, where we considered the value of networks in promoting ”good work.” There’s no mistaking the significant impact that technology has had in advancing our mission as an organization, and, more broadly, women’s global empowerment. Before we utilized web-based social networks, Vital Voices served as the intermediary for establishing relationships. We would create the space for women from distant regions to come together, share information and find ways to advance their efforts to promote human rights, support economic development or engage civil society. Today, the women’s movement is globalized, and technology is leveraged to expand networks and increase our impact despite geographic limits.
Year after year, Fortune convenes incredible women from diverse sectors who share their experiences, knowledge, advice and commitment. Each is proving the important role that women play as leaders in our world.