Interview with Co-Founder Pat Mitchell
Connected Women Leaders (CWL) is primarily a resource hub, and in that spirit we want the biographies of our members to be informational about their individual work and the connections that CWL is strengthening for collective problem solving.
Each week, we are posting interviews with our members and the first is an interview with Pat Mitchell, one of the three Connected Women Leader founders and managing partners. Read on to learn more about Pat’s career and why she believes so strongly in the importance of connecting a global community of women leaders to shape paths forward towards a just, sustainable and equitable future.
In the spirit of connected women leaders, how did you all connect with each other prior to creating Connected Women Leaders?
Ronda Carnegie and I were a part of the team that created TEDWomen – an annual TED conference focused on TEDTalks by women – and over the ten years, more than 500 women have given TEDTalks at TEDWomen that have been viewed by more than 300 million people worldwide. We noted the unprecedented impact of this platform and wanted to identify and elevate other opportunities for women to come together to share ideas as transformative leaders. That desire led us to propose the idea of connecting global women leaders in forums that encouraged idea sharing and collective problem solving.
We convened our first forum in 2017, with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, at the Bellagio conference center in Italy. The first cohort of women leaders curated across geographies, generations, and scope of work, and produced real outcomes and strategies for addressing the global challenges of improving access to affordable health, food security, economic inequities, and climate.
What about our present moment requires the launch of Connected Women Leaders? Was there anything specific about our ‘now’ to you that illuminated the need that Connected Women Leaders fills?
Well ‘now’ has been a very dangerous time. We are living with a global pandemic, and many other urgent threats to a safe and sustainable future everywhere. So yes, ‘now’ seems more urgent than ever to have a different kind of leader–more representative leaders, more prepared leaders to bring their unique ‘lived’ experiences forward for new perspectives and ideas.
We’re not saying that women are better at doing this than men are, we are saying that with such enormous challenges, we need everyone engaged in finding solutions. It’s not a winning strategy to leave half the world’s population out of this process. So it’s not a win/lose game here, where women win or move ahead to leadership and men lose power. It’s solving problems together, bringing the relevant experiences of all to the decision making tables–that’s a WIN/WIN GAIN for everyone. And just as importantly for CWL, is our commitment to mentoring and supporting the next generation of women leaders.
Can you speak to the ways that you believe Generation Equality’s gender equality goals lie at the intersection of the issues we’ve been talking about?
Even though nearly 200 country leaders signed a global agreement at the UNWomen’s Conference in Beijing committing to gender equality, there is still no country in the world that has full equality. There are countries that are a lot closer to gender equality than others, but in no country in the world are women fully equal in terms of access and opportunity, in terms of representation in business or government.
Where there is more inclusive representation of a country’s population, there is better governance. There are businesses with more diverse workforces, management, board rooms; businesses that are more successful by every measurement. The data that supports full equality as a win/win is conclusive.
In spite of the facts, we are still facing the challenge of engaging commitments from business leaders, government, and civil society leaders. When they implement policies and programs, it will lead to full equal access and opportunity. These are firm and urgent commitments we are prioritizing to ensure that the next UNWomen’s Conference in Paris this summer leads to Generation Equality.
Looking to the future, can you give some insight into what you believe the lasting impact of Connected Women Leaders will look like?
Our aspiration for Connected Women Leaders is to model a way for women who are in leadership positions across all sectors of life and work to activate and mobilize the various constituencies and networks that each leader represents. That gives scale and greater impact to all our work. This will begin with connecting, sharing, learning and will continue through mentoring, sponsoring, advocating for other women at every opportunity.