Women in the World Speakers
From Queen Rania to Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep, and dozens of activists from around the world, see our complete list of summit speakers and perfomers.
Bios written by The Daily Beast.
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan
An outspoken advocate for women and children’s rights, Queen Rania Al Abdullah is dedicated to improving education opportunities for adolescent girls, who, she writes, “have the power to turn our world around.” She’s also “the globe’s most tech-savvy monarch,” as Forbes dubbed her last year. Indeed, Queen Rania boasts more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter. She nabbed YouTube’s first Visionary Award for a series of online broadcasts aimed at ending negative stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims. In addition to launching local education initiatives in her home country of Jordan—including the Queen Rania Teachers’ Academy and Madrasati, a public-private partnership to renovate 500 needy public schools—she has supported UNESCO’s Education for All campaign, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, among other causes. She is UNICEF’s Eminent Global Advocate for Children, as well as a board member of the United Nations Foundation.
Hafsat Abiola, human-rights activist, founder, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy
The week Hafsat Abiola was to graduate from Harvard in 1996, she learned that her mother had been murdered in Lagos, Nigeria. She had been demonstrating for the release of her father, who had been elected president of Nigeria but was imprisoned. He later died in detention. But Abiola was not scared away from activism. She founded of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy—named for her mother—a nonprofit that provides skills-training and leadership opportunities for young women across Nigeria. She is the founder and CEO of China-Africa Bridge, a company that aids business and cooperation between China and Africa and promotes sustainable development. She is an Ashoka fellow, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and has been in a leader in several of Vital Voices’ Africa Programs. She is portrayed by Stephanie Okereke in The Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Shohreh Aghdashloo, actress
With the country’s airports ordered closed on the eve of the 1979 revolution, Shohreh Aghdashloo fled Iran in the middle of the night, driving seven hours to the border. She was just 25. Aghdashloo was educated in England, where she continued the acting career she began in Iran. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the 2003 film The House of Sand and Fog. Aghdashloo’s film The Stoning of Soraya M. was released as pro-democracy protests were violently crushed in Tehran last summer. The movie follows the story of a young woman who was stoned to death in an Iranian village. In the Women in the World reading of SEVEN, Aghdashloo will portray Farida Azizi, an activist who fought the Taliban’s brutal repression of Afghan women.
Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State; chair of Albright Stonebridge Group
When Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State, she also became the then-highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. government. Serving under President Bill Clinton, Albright advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade and business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. Prior to her appointment in 1997, she served as U.S. representative to the United Nations. Albright currently works as chairman of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and chairman of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She is also a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and serves on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a trustee of the Aspen Institute. She is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, most recently, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN chief international correspondent, anchor, host of Amanpour
In nearly three decades at CNN, Christiane Amanpour has reported on all the world’s major crises. As The New York Times put it in 2008, she has “hopscotched the world, the very model of a foreign correspondent, turning up at seemingly every war, genocide, famine and natural disaster, slipping through previously closed borders and interviewing even the most recalcitrant of foreign leaders.” Her interview credits are vast, including Iranian Presidents Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as the presidents of Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She has earned nine news and documentary Emmy Awards, four George Foster Peabody Awards, two George Polk Awards, three duPont-Columbia Awards, the Courage in Journalism Award, and an Edward R. Murrow Award, as well as numerous honorary degrees. In September 2009, Amanpour launched her eponymous 30-minute nightly interview program on CNN International. A recent interview was with Angelina Jolie, in which the two discussed her charity work and visit to post-earthquake Haiti.
Helen Amdemikael, sociologist and gender activist
Helen Amdemikael is the assistant representative for the United Nations Population Fund at the Ethiopia office. Prior to assuming a management position, Amdemikael was coordinating the gender portfolio of the country office and supporting programs addressing inequalities among young girls and women. Amdemikael has a diverse career background in the development sector, ranging from field research experience with international NGOs, advisory experience in the bilateral sector, and working experience in areas of management and advocacy in the multilateral sector.
Farida Azizi, peace activist
Threats against her life forced Farida Azizi and her family to leave Afghanistan and seek asylum in the U.S. in 2000. Azizi had successfully run a humanitarian aid program for women for five years under Taliban rule. As a peace activist, she has continued to promote the human rights of Afghan women through her advocacy at the international level. While a program officer for the Norwegian Church Aid Afghanistan Program from 1996-2000, Azizi supervised the women’s program, implemented by NCA’s partner organizations. She was one of the founding members of the Cooperation for Peace and Unity, a network committed to developing peace capacities at the grassroots level. Azizi is portrayed by Shohreh Aghdashloo in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Kiran Bedi, India’s first and highest-ranking female police officer
After breaking ground as India’s first female police officer—patrolling the country’s streets for 35 years, until she retired in 2007—Bedi took on the role of police adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, earning her doctorate along the way. Last year, award-winning Australian filmmaker Megan Doneman released Yes Madam, Sir, a documentary about Bedi’s life (narrated by Academy Award winner Helen Mirren) that has been screened at festivals around the world. In a glowing review of the film, The Hollywood Reporter noted that Bedi's achievements include “single-handedly dispersing 200 sword-wielding rioters when her male colleagues [had fled], cleaning up and bringing order and even peace to the notorious Tihar Prisons, and reorganizing New Delhi's woeful police training school.” Her successes don’t stop there: Bedi is the founder of the NGOs Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation, which provide drug-abuse treatment, schooling for children of prisoners, and community-development aid. She is also the recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award (often called the “Asian Nobel Prize”), as well as the author of several books. In a poll conducted by the news magazine The Week, she was voted India’s most admired woman.
Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan correspondent for The Daily Beast, author, activist
Fatima Bhutto’s history of her family and Pakistani politics, Songs of Blood and Sword, will be published this fall, and what a story that history is. Bhutto was born in Kabul in 1982, while her father, Murtaza Bhutto, was in exile from Pakistan. Murtaza Bhutto was the son of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and was killed in 1996 by police in Karachi. Her aunt, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister at the time; she was assassinated in 2007. Fatima Bhutto is also a journalist and has written for The Daily Beast, the New Statesman, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. She has published two other books, Whispers of the Desert and 8:50 a.m. 8 October 2005.
Cherie Blair, founder, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
From 1997 to 2007, Cherie Blair served as first lady of the United Kingdom—yet as Time magazine said in 2008, she “always seemed too vivid and spiky for a supporting role.” A human-rights lawyer and judge, Blair has spent more than three decades fighting for equal rights, particularly for the rights of women and children. She is honorary vice president of U.K. children’s charity Barnado's and president of the Loomba Trust, helping to care for widows around the world. In 2008, she founded the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, aimed at empowering female entrepreneurs in the developing world. She is the author of the memoir Speaking for Myself, touted for its rare honesty and glimpse into life at 10 Downing Street.
Jeff Bolding, founder and director, Sistas of the Flame
Jeff Bolding is a singer, director, arranger, pianist, and actor as well as the 2004 AUDELCO winner for Best Outstanding Ensemble Performance in Great Men of Gospel: Spirit Into Sound. Bolding’s music ministry blends elements from the classical, pop, jazz, and gospel genres. Since 1996, Bolding has been director of the Chancel Choir (renamed The Inspirational Voices of Abyssinian in 2008). Bolding’s work has taken him around the globe, including to Ethiopia with 165 pilgrims from Abyssinian Baptist Church. Bolding is founder and executive director of the Global Community Advisory Resources and Empowerment Project (G-CARE Project), a community and faith-based organization. He will be traveling to Berlin this month, at the invitation of gospel singer Ingrid Arthur.
Marie Brenner, author and writer-at-large, Vanity Fair
Raised in San Antonio, Texas, celebrated author and investigative journalist Marie Brenner has been riveting national audiences since 1985, when she joined the staff of Vanity Fair. Her investigation into Big Tobacco became the basis for the 1999 film The Insider, starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe and nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. She is the author of five books, most recently Apples and Oranges: My Brother and Me, Lost and Found, which Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Alfred Uhry ( Driving Miss Daisy) is adapting for the stage. She is the winner of six Front Page awards for her journalism and the Frank Luther Mott Kappa Tau Alpha Award for research.
Tina Brown, founder, editor in chief, The Daily Beast
Tina Brown was the first woman editor of three leading magazines. At the age of 25, soon after graduating from Oxford University, she edited (and saved) Britain's historic Tatler. She was then invited to the United States to rescue the relaunched Vanity Fair and, after succeeding in that, became the first woman editor of The New Yorker. Subsequently, she hosted the CNBC show Topic A With Tina Brown, and wrote The New York Times No. 1 bestseller The Diana Chronicles. In 2008, she partnered with Barry Diller, chairman and chief executive officer of IAC, in the successful founding of The Daily Beast, a nonpartisan, curated site for news, original reporting, and opinion.
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of
Morning Joe and MSNBC anchor
She’s been a major presence in broadcast news for decades, and currently serves as Joe Scarborough’s sidekick on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. With the publication of her New York Times-bestselling book All Things at Once, Mika Brzezinski has also become a major voice in national discussions on women’s work-life balance. “One of my prevailing messages for girls who want to be in any really highly competitive business is, if you intend to have a family, then don’t forget to have kids,” she told The Daily Beast. “Don’t let the most important choice you might make in life—and that’s a partner and the possibility of having children—pass you by because you’re busy trying to climb the ladder.” That said, Brzezinski has climbed high: Before her current post, she was an anchor of the CBS Evening News Weekend Edition, as well as a CBS News correspondent; she frequently contributed to CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes. A native of New York City, she is the daughter of foreign-policy expert and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Kathy Bushkin Calvin, CEO, the United Nations Foundation
As CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy Bushkin Calvin has worked to combat child mortality, empower women and girls, create a clean-energy future, and improve U.S.-U.N. relations, among many other causes. Previously, Calvin served as president of the AOL Time Warner Foundation and was the chief architect of the company's corporate-responsibility initiatives. She serves on the board of Internews, an international media development organization, and sits on the boards of the International Women's Media Foundation, the United Nations Association of the United States of America, and other philanthropic organizations. She is also the co-founder of the Stargazer Foundation, which provides free online tools for nonprofits.
Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large, Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking
As director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca has the job of battling a scourge that one might think was banished from the U.S. 150 years ago: slavery. Modern slavery is a big, if unseen, business—about 12.5 million people in the world work against their will. CdeBaca pioneered the victim-centered approach to fighting human trafficking, a strategy that focuses on helping victims instead of punishing them for breaking prostitution or immigration laws. CdeBaca has told The Daily Beast that it’s the combination of “hope and spunkiness” of many victims that motivates them to seek out a better life, only to be snared by criminals promising them jobs. It’s the go-getters who are targeted, and they are the people CdeBaca wants to help. “I’ve seen their potential, and once we break the power of the trafficker, I think that’s the thing that drives me.”
Sohini Chakraborty, dance activist, founder, Kolkata Sanved
The best way to heal the wounds of sexual violence, Sohini Chakraborty believes, is through physical expression, because victims of such torture feel negatively about their bodies. She began her work by volunteering with Sanlaap, a nonprofit that aids children forced to work in the sex industry. Chakraborty encouraged girls to perform simple movements, and gradually they opened up about the trauma they’d experienced. She established Kolkata Sanved in 2004, in the belief that the combination of dance and performance would help victims feel comfortable and part of society. Since then, her organization has helped more than 5,000 former child prostitutes rejoin society.
Juju Chang, news anchor, ABC’s Good Morning America
Juju Chang is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and news anchor for Good Morning America. Chang’s most recent Emmy was for breaking-news coverage of California wildfires. She has won Gracies for a 20/20 story on gender equality in the sciences and a Freddie for a PBS series she hosted, The Art of Women’s Health. From 1999 to 2000, she anchored the early-morning newscasts of ABC News’ World News Now and World News This Morning. Chang previously reported primarily for World News Tonight, covering such stories as the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya, Hurricane George, and the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Chang was based in Washington, D.C. from 1996-97 where she covered the White House, Capitol Hill, and the 1996 presidential election for NewsOne, ABC’s affiliate news service. Born in Seoul and raised in California, Chang graduated with honors from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and communication.
Shoma Chaudhury, managing editor, Tehelka
Shoma Chaudhury is the managing editor of the internationally acclaimed Indian news magazine Tehelka. Previously, she worked with several mainstream Indian publications, including The Pioneer, India Today, and Outlook. In 2000, she left Outlook to join Tehelka, and was among the team that launched Tehelka.com. When the nervous government forced Tehelka to shutter its doors after its seminal expose on defense corruption, she was one of four people who stayed on to fight the magazine’s battles and relaunch it as a national newsweekly. Chaudhury has written extensively on urgent contemporary issues in India: religious strife, the Naxal insurgency, and conflicts between the Indian government and its people over land acquisitions.
Wei Sun Christianson, CEO and managing director, Morgan Stanley China
As head of Morgan Stanley China, Wei Sun Christianson manages all aspects of the firm's China business. Since assuming the role in 2006, she has successfully broadened the firm’s footprint in China and delivered more comprehensive services to clients. Throughout her career, she’s also helped to execute many of landmark privatizations critical to China's economic liberalization process, involving the restructuring and then initial public offerings of state-owned enterprises in New York, London, and Hong Kong. She has been listed on Fortune’s “International Power 50” list of the world’s most powerful women, and the Wall Street Journal’s “50 Women to Watch” List.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State
After nearly four decades as a groundbreaking attorney, first lady, and senator, in January 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in as the country’s third female Secretary of State. Since then, she has risen to become a leading voice in global diplomacy, and she continues to be a passionate advocate for women and children’s rights. During her tenure as first lady, Secretary Clinton became a champion for health-care reform, leading successful bipartisan efforts to improve the country’s adoption and foster-care systems, reduce teen pregnancy, and provide health care to millions of children. Her famous speech in Beijing in 1995—when she declared that “human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights”—helped to galvanize a global movement for women. As first lady, she and then-Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright launched the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative. In 2000, Secretary Clinton became the first first lady elected to the U.S. Senate, and the first female senator to represent New York; in 2007, she began her historic bid for president. She is the author of several bestselling books, including her memoir, Living History and her groundbreaking book on children, It Takes A Village.
Katie Couric, anchor, managing editor, CBS Evening News; correspondent, 60 Minutes
As the first female solo anchor of an American weekday network evening news broadcast, Katie Couric is paving the way for younger generations of women broadcast journalists. Since signing on with CBS Evening News in 2006, she has conducted countless high-profile interviews, including with President Barack Obama. Her 2008 interview series with then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. Prior to joining CBS, Couric spent 15 years as co-anchor of NBC's Today. She has covered nearly every major breaking news event that has taken place during her career, including the 9/11 attacks, the Columbine tragedy, six Olympic Games, and the funeral of Princess Diana. She’s received the George Foster Peabody Award, six Emmy Awards, and the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award, among others. After losing her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer in 1998, Couric helped to launch the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance to fund medical research and to encourage the prevention and early detection of the disease.
Anabella de Léon, member of the Guatemalan parliament
Anabella de León was born into a poor family, worked her way through a prestigious law school, and then assumed a series of increasingly important legal jobs, including chief counsel in Guatemala City, eventually becoming a member of the Guatemalan parliament. De León spent years fighting corruption and advocating for the rights of women and indigenous peoples. Because of her outspoken political activism, the Organization for American States’ Inter-American Human Rights Commission has requested that the government ensure de León’s safety. She has spearheaded Vital Voices programs to identify and train a new generation of female politicians in Guatemala. Lauren Velez will portray her in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Marietou Diarra, Tostan participant and human-rights activist
Marietou Diarra lost a daughter to female genital-cutting more than a decade ago. Then, despite her horror, Diarra’s younger daughter underwent the procedure as well, because the family was afraid of intense social stigma. Those experiences led her to become involved with the Tostan Community Empowerment Program, and since 1998, she’s been working to end genital-cutting in Senegal by sharing her experience with others in neighboring villages. Diarra’s work has helped stop female genital-cutting in more than 60 villages. She also speaks, village-to-village, against child marriage and violence against women and girls.
Ching Eikenberry, strategic communication coordinator, development outreach and communication, USAID/Afghanistan
Ching Eikenberry takes every opportunity to show a different kind of role for women in Afghanistan. She accompanies her husband Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, on every trip. “We want to send a message to the Afghan people that we work together as a team," she told the Seattle Times. Eikenberry works as a strategic communication coordinator for USAID in Kabul. Prior to moving to Afghanistan last year, she was an independent consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, working on environmental issues and disaster management exchange between the U.S. Army and the People’s Liberation Army of China. Eikenberry worked as a reporter for several years and continues to be a freelance journalist.
Nora Ephron, director, author, screenwriter
Nora Ephron, acclaimed essayist, novelist, screenwriter and director, is the author of I Feel Bad About My Neck, Crazy Salad, Scribble Scribble, Wallflower at the Orgy, and Heartburn. She received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally…, Silkwood, and Sleepless in Seattle, which she also directed. Her other credits include the films Michael, You’ve Got Mail, and the play Imaginary Friends. She began her writing career at the New York Post and won acclaim as part of the “New Journalism” movement of the 1960s. In her latest film, she tells the parallel stories of famed food writer Julia Child and of a contemporary Manhattan woman who sets out to cook her way through every recipe in Childs’ classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The film, Julie & Julia opened in 2009 and stars Ephron’s friend and previous collaborator, Meryl Streep, as Julia Child.
Andeisha Farid, founder, AFCECO and one of Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women
After her father taught her to read and write in refugee camps near Afghanistan, Andeisha Farid became determined to teach other Afghan children. At age 11, Farid pursued her dream, and while living in Pakistan, she began working with CharityHelp International. That group helped start a child sponsorship program and named Farid program coordinator. She returned to Kabul in 2007 to found the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization, which runs seven orphanages in Afghanistan, two in Pakistan, a girl’s school, and vocational centers. Farid’s aim is to promote tolerance and the value of education among young Afghans.
Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Thomas Friedman was won the Pulitzer Prize three times for his reporting and commentary for The New York Times. His influential twice-weekly column covering foreign and domestic affairs was awarded in 2002 for “his clarity of vision… in commenting on the worldwide impact of the terrorist threat.” Reporting from Lebanon in 1983 and Israel in 1988 also earned Friedman journalism’s top honor. His 2005 book The World Is Flat is an international bestseller, and President Barack Obama has publicly mentioned reading Friedman’s 2008 bestselling followup, Hot, Flat and Crowded. Friedman has argued for the need to promote women’s rights internationally.
Leymah Gbowee, executive director, Women Peace and Security Network Africa
As war ravaged Liberia, Leymah Gbowee realized it is women who bear the greatest burden in prolonged conflicts. She began organizing Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace. They prayed together for peace and conducted a silent protest outside Monrovia’s presidential palace. Charles Taylor agreed to meet with the group, and then to attend cease-fire talks in Ghana. Gbowee’s group followed him there. She has received many awards, including the Blue Ribbon for Peace from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, which she accepted on behalf of the women of Liberia. Gbowee’s work was featured in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.
Bianna Golodryga, correspondent, ABC News
Bianna Golodryga was named correspondent to ABC News’ Good Morning America in July 2007. Since that time, Golodryga has covered the economy and business beat for all of the network’s broadcasts and platforms, including the weekend editions of World News, Good Morning America, and Nightline. Golodryga was the network’s Facebook correspondent during the recent ABC News/Facebook coverage of the 2008 election. Golodryga began her career in television news in 2001 as a bureau producer from the New York Stock Exchange for CNBC. In 2004, Golodryga became a segment producer for The Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo, the nation’s most-watched financial-news program. In 2004, Golodryga was named one of the top financial journalists under the age of 30 by the NewsBios/TJFR Group.
Eliza Griswold, journalist
Eliza Griswold has reported from around the globe, from the Philippines to Nepal to Pakistan, on the war on terror, human rights and religion. A New America Foundation Fellow, Griswold’s work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. She received the 2010 Rome Prize and her next book, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, will be published this year. Wideawake Field, her first book of poems, was published in 2007.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations
Until June 2003, Richard Haass was director of policy planning for the Department of State as well as U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan and U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process. Previously, Haass was vice president and director of foreign-policy studies at the Brookings Institution. He was also special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council from 1989 to 1993. Haass is the author or editor of 11 books on American foreign policy. A Rhodes Scholar, he holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and both master’s and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Oxford University.
Marcia Gay Harden, actress
Marcia Gay Harden is well-known for her wide range—particularly her ability to submerge into characters that are nothing like her warm Texan personality. It was one such character, Lee Krasner—an artist in her own right and muse to Jackson Pollock—that won Harden a well-deserved Oscar in 2001. Last year she won a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in God of Carnage; she was also seen in the film Whip It and the television series Damages. Harden was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Mystic River and earned an Emmy nomination for her appearance on Law & Order: SVU. In the Women in the World’s opening night production of SEVEN, Harden will play Marina Pisklakova-Parker, who campaigns against domestic violence in Russia.
Edna Adan Ismail, maternal and child-health activist and former foreign-affairs minister of Somaliland
Edna Adan Ismail is a global leader in the fight against female genital mutilation. Born in the British Somaliland Protectorate, Ismail became, in 1954, the first woman from Somaliland to win a scholarship to Great Britain, where she became a registered nurse and midwife. She returned to Somaliland to train nurses before being recruited in 1965 by the World Health Organization to be a nurse and midwife educator in Tripoli. Two years later, her husband, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, became Somaliland’s prime minister, and Ismail returned to her homeland to serve as first lady. She became a political prisoner after her country’s coup d’etat in 1969. She returned to nursing once released, and in 1976 was appointed director in the ministry of health, the first woman to hold that title. There, Ismail began her pioneering work against female genital mutilation. After retiring more than 30 years later as the WHO representative to Djibouti, Ismail built the first charity maternity hospital in Somaliland. From 2003 to 2006, she served as Somaliland’s foreign-affairs minister. She continues to deliver babies and teach.
Lorie D. Jackson, director, Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative, ExxonMobil
Lorie D. Jackson joined ExxonMobil in 1989 and has taken on a variety of responsibilities and challenges. In 1998, she joined ExxonMobil’s public-affairs department, where she served as international representative for Africa, Middle East, and Europe; representative for the U.S. Senate; and most recently, the managedand developed the Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative, a global program that helps women in developing countries fulfill their economic potential. Lorie earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an MBA from Stanford University.
Victoria Jackson, cosmetics entrepreneur and founder of The Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation
Having achieved success as a Hollywood makeup artist, cosmetics entrepreneur, TV infomercial pioneer, and author, Victoria Jackson has worked to improve the self-image of women. When women embrace self-confidence, she says, they learn the key to success, and liking who they see in the mirror is a powerful first step in that transformative process. In addition to her billion-dollar cosmetics brand, Victoria is an active philanthropist. Her current focus is The Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation, which isdedicated to funding research to find a cure for Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disease.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president of the United States
One of Washington’s new power players, Valerie Jarrett is a senior presidential adviser, as well as chairwoman of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She also oversees the offices of Public Engagement, Intergovernmental Affairs, and the White House Office of Urban Affairs and leads the White House’s business outreach efforts. Previously, Jarrett co-chaired the Obama-Biden presidential transition team and served as a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign—during which she earned nicknames ranging from “First Friend” to “the other half of Obama's brain,” Time reported in 2008. Before taking Washington by storm, Jarrett was a leader in the civic and business communities of Chicago, serving as president and CEO of The Habitat Company and director of several corporate and nonprofit boards. She also served as finance chair for President Obama's 2004 run for the U.S. Senate.
Sallie Krawcheck, president, Global Wealth & Investment Management, Bank of America
As head of one of the largest wealth-management businesses in the world, Sallie Krawcheck has risen to nearly unprecedented Wall Street heights. “[Among] career-minded women, Krawcheck stands as one of the few who has genuinely punctured the glass ceiling,” Forbes wrote this year. She’s been featured on so many “most powerful” lists, it’s tough to keep track—though some include Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women” in business (seven times) and Forbes’ “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” Before joining Bank of America last August, Krawcheck served as CEO and chairman for Citi Global Wealth Management, where she was responsible for the Citi Private Bank, Citi Smith Barney, and Citi Investment Research. She sits on the board of BlackRock Inc. and the board of overseers of Columbia Business School, among others.
Sunitha Krishnan, chief functionary, Prajwala
Shocked by the way rape victims were stigmatized in India, Sunitha Krishnan decided to fight sexual violence in one of its most common forms: prostitution. The nonprofit she co-founded, Prajwala, fights sex-trafficking in India, not only by freeing women and children trapped in brothels and providing survivors with crucial social services, but by educating their own children to prevent second-generation prostitution. Prajwala now runs 17 schools in Hyderabad that educate 5,000 children. Krishnan cultivates sex-industry informants and uses their information to raid brothels. More than 2,500 women have been rescued from prostitution and readied for a new, independent life.
Christine Lagarde, French Minister for Economy, Industry, and Employment
The first female finance minister of a G-8 nation, Christine Lagarde is helping to navigate France through one of its worst economic crises since World War II. She has “tirelessly pursued intelligent reforms of the economy with a no-nonsense approach,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote last year in Time. “[Her] lightning-quick wit, genuine warmth and ability to bridge divides while remaining fiercely loyal to French interests have been a source of admiration.” In 2005, after years with the international law firm Baker & McKenzie in Chicago, Lagarde became France’s Minister of Foreign Trade; she also briefly served as its Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. Among Lagarde’s many honors and accolades, she was recently selected as the Financial Times’ top E.U. finance minister and ranked as one of Forbes’ most influential women in the world. In 2000, she was named Chevalier in the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, journalist and researcher
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon covered presidential politics as a producer at ABC News in Washington. Since 2005, she has been reporting on women entrepreneurs starting small and midsize businesses in post-conflict economies such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Rwanda. She is working on a book scheduled for 2010 publication by HarperCollins about a young Afghan entrepreneur whose business supported her family and community during the Taliban years.
Dao Tuyet Lien, businesswoman, former trafficking victim
Born in Hanoi during the tumult of 1974, Dao Tuyet Lien was a victim of human trafficking in Vietnam. She later broke free of this practice and earned two college degrees, in business management and Korean culture and language. She has worked as an interpreter and project executive for several large companies and now runs a business providing wire hangers to dry cleaners. She married in 2006 and has a daughter.
Ann Livermore, executive vice president, HP
Named one of Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women” in 2008, Ann Livermore has been calling shots at HP for more than a decade. She is executive vice president of the company’s Enterprise Business, a $54 billion division serving clients in more than 170 countries. Since 2004, she’s also led its Technology Solutions Group. Livermore joined the company in 1982, climbing the ranks in marketing, sales, research and development, and business management, before ascending to its top echelons. In 1997, she was elected to the board of UPS.
Katherine Lucey, founder and executive director, Solar Sister
After a 20-year career as an investment banker with expertise in the energy sector, Lucey retired from banking to spend time with her family. In the space that opened up in her life, she turned her attention to finding a sustainable solution to the energy poverty that causes suffering to a quarter of the world’s population. Having seen the inability of large-scale international power projects to address the needs of the rural poor, Lucey determined that a practical, grassroots, locally generated solution was needed. In addition to Solar Sister, she has served as chief of operations for Arzu Inc., a nonprofit organization working to empower women in Afghanistan by providing employment and social benefits. She serves on the board of Solar Light for Africa, a nonprofit that brings solar energy to rural communities in East Africa, as well as several local charitable committees supporting education and the environment. She holds an MBA from Georgia State University and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia.
Susan Lyne, CEO, Gilt Groupe
Susan Lyne was named CEO of luxury goods e-tailer Gilt Groupe in 2008. From 2004 until 2008, she was president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, where she led the company’s recovery and return to profitability. Before joining MSLO, Lyne served eight years as an executive at the Walt Disney Co., principally as president of ABC Entertainment, where she oversaw the development of such hits as Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Grey’s Anatomy. Before joining ABC, she was managing editor of New Times and the Village Voice and, in 1987, created and launched Premiere magazine. Named one of The Wall Street Journal’s 50 Women to Watch, Lyne is a director of AOL.
Mukhtar Mai, women's rights, education activist
When her brother allegedly committed a crime in her Pakistani village in 2002, Mukhtar Mai was punished for it—by gang rape. In Pakistan, a culture of shame hangs over rape victims, but Mai, also known as Mukhtar Bibi, did not hide. She did not kill herself, as was customary. Instead, she turned to the law, suing her attackers. Mai hopes to drive sanctioned violence against women from the country’s laws, and her battle is ongoing. Though she received no formal education as a child, she has become a powerful international voice in support of women’s rights. She was given money by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and used it to build a school, because, as she told The New York Times, ''This way the money is helping all the girls, all the children.'' She has founded Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization to educate Pakistani women and girls and will be portrayed by Archie Panjabi in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Somaly Mam, founder, AFESIP and the Somaly Mam Foundation
Born into the poverty and chaos of Cambodia in the 1970s, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery as a young teenager, forced into the daily humiliation and torture of life as a brothel worker. After witnessing the murder of a close friend, Mam gathered the courage to escape. And while others who have escaped never look back, she has made rescuing other girls and young women from lives of sexual slavery her life’s work. In 1997, she and her ex-husband, Pierre Legros, created the non-governmental organization AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire / “Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances”), which employs holistic victim services and sustained mentorship to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate girls who are forced into prostitution. Mam courageously shares her personal story with the world while advocating for strengthened criminal laws, increased services for survivors, and greater cooperation among advocates and officials. Today, AFESIP has expanded to Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, and in 2007, Mam launched the Somaly Mam Foundation to further advocate for victims on the international stage.
Inez McCormack, Irish social activist
Inez McCormack began organizing Irish women in the 1960s, urging them to unionize at work amid a violent civil war. McCormack became the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and her reputation for crossing sectarian lines and national boundaries was built when she played a critical role in the run-up to the Good Friday Agreements. She told the BBC, "I have had the privilege of spending a lifetime at the service of warm strong women, who challenged injustice not just for themselves but for the people and communities they cared for and whose only affirmation has been that of their own conscience." She helped Vital Voices design the Women Leaders Building Peace & Prosperity program for Northern Irish women, Jewish and Arab women leaders from Israel, and women from South Africa. McCormack will be played by Meryl Streep in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Jane McGonigal, director of games research & development, Institute for the Future
Jane McGonigal is a world-renowned game designer. She is the director of games research & development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, and has created and deployed games and missions in more than 30 countries. She has appeared at The New Yorker Conference and the TED Conference, and keynoted SXSW Interactive, the Game Developers Conference, the Idea Festival, and more. She has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in performance studies, and has consulted and developed internal game workshops for leading technology companies, as well as more than a dozen Fortune Global 500 Companies. Her book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Help Us Change the World, will be published by Penguin Press in January 2011.
Molly Melching, founder, Tostan
Tostan means “breakthrough” in the Wolof language, and Molly Melching’s organization has done just that. Since its founding in 1991, Tostan’s groundbreaking programs in western Africa have helped end female genital mutilation as well as forced and child marriage—more than 4,500 communities have committed to ending the harmful traditions. Melching, who has lived in Senegal since 1974, has also helped reduce the infant mortality rate, increase school and birth registration, and get more women into positions of power. Among many honors, Tostan won the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2007.
Emeline Michel, singer-songwriter
“Queen of Haitian Song” Emeline Michel has been beloved by her countrymen for more than two decades, thanks to her unique combination of traditional rhythms with social and political themes. Michel has performed on three continents and for President Bill Clinton. Her nine albums have brought her international acclaim. The Boston Globe described her as “the elegant, jubilant voice of her island nation, finding the beauty in a country most often characterized by political upheaval and social unrest.” Of her intricate, timely lyrics, Michel said, “'People are attracted to anything that will make them dance. And while they're dancing you can get a message across.”
Anchee Min, memoirist and novelist
Anchee Min is the author of the bestselling memoir Red Azalea, the story of her childhood in communist China. At the age of 17, Min was sent to a labor camp near the East China Sea. She endured mental and physical hardships, which included a severe spinal cord injury. In 1984, with the help of a friend overseas, Min left China for America. She spoke no English when she arrived in Chicago, but within six months had taught herself the language in part by watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Since the completion of Red Azalea, Min has written four works of historical fiction. The books attempt to re-record histories that have been falsely written. Her novel, The Last Empress, was published in April 2007. Her next novel, Pearl of China, will be published in this spring by Bloomsbury; it is a fictional account of the 40 years that writer Pearl S. Buck spent in China.
Dambisa Moyo, economist and author of
Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa
Dambisa Moyo is the author of the bestseller Dead Aid, a book that provoked discussion around the globe about why traditional aid has had limited success in Africa. She has an intimate knowledge of the subject, having been born and raised in Zambia. Moyo holds a Ph.D. in economics from Oxford University and a master’s degree from Harvard. She worked for eight years for Goldman Sachs. Last year, Moyo was nominated to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders Forum and named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Moyo is involved in several charitable organizations, including Room to Read, an international education charity, and Absolute Return for Kids. Her next book, How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly—and the Stark Choices, will be published this year.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, head of the Panzi Hospital of Bukavu
Denis Mukwege decided to become a doctor when he was a child, after seeing bleeding women travel to his father’s clinic on horseback after problematic childbirths. He went to medical school in Angers, France, and now heads the Panzi Hospital of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where each day he treats the wounds of women who’ve been victims of gang rape by Congolese soldiers. In what Dr. Mukwege has described as “ sexual terrorism,” women are raped in front of their families and neighbors, tortured, mutilated, and left for dead. Dr. Mukwege has tended to some 21,000 women and children, but many, many more need medical care. On entering a village, he says, “It is awful to see 300 women in need of help… and you have to take 10 because the ambulance can only take 10.”
Alyse Nelson, president and CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership
For more than a decade, Alyse Nelson has empowered women around the globe as a co-founder of Vital Voices—an organization that supports emerging female leaders and social entrepreneurs. Named one of Washingtonian’s “Ten Women to Watch” in 2006, the magazine described her work as providing women with “a kind of bulletproof vest” by giving them “legitimacy in communities where they might be persecuted for running for office or starting a business.” Before taking on her current post as Vital Voices president, Nelson rose through her organization’s ranks: As deputy director of the Vital Voices Global Democracy Initiative at the State Department, she helped then-first lady Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promote women’s rights as a foreign-policy goal. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Davia Nelson, producer, NPR’s Hidden Kitchens
Davia Nelson is one half of The Kitchen Sisters, the producers of the duPont-Columbia Award-winning NPR series Hidden Kitchens, as well as two Peabody Award-winning NPR collaborations, Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project, and the authors of Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More. They are dedicated to creating intimate, provocative, and sound-rich documentaries that bring seldom-heard voices to the air, mentoring young producers, and building community through storytelling. Their new NPR series, premiering this spring, is an international multimedia collaboration exploring the secret life of girls around the world and the women they become.
Jacqueline Novogratz, founder, Acumen Fund
A well-known social investor, Jacqueline Novogratz took the skills she acquired as a Wall Street banker and founded Acumen Fund, which invests in companies that work to alleviate poverty. The nonprofit manages nearly $40 million in investments in South Asia and East Africa, all focused on delivering affordable health care, water, housing, and energy to the poor. She is the author of a bestselling book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. One of Foreign Policy’s “ Top 100 Global Thinkers,” Novogratz is a member of two World Economic Forum Global Agenda Councils, on social entrepreneurship and water. She is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown fellow, a Synergos Institute senior fellow, and was recently honored with the 2009 CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award.
Kakenya Ntaiya, founder, Kakenya’s Center for Excellence
When she was just a girl in a small village in western Kenya, Kakenya Ntaiya rejected an arranged marriage and convinced village elders to instead send her to school in the U.S. Ntaiya then went to college and is now completing her Ph.D., but she has not waited to complete her education before helping young girls get theirs. In 2009, Ntaiya opened Kakenya’s Center for Excellence, the first children’s boarding school in her part of the country, where underprivileged girls from age 8 to 14 will be given more opportunities than are typical for their peers, many of whom undergo genital-cutting and arranged marriage in their preteens. Ntaiya hopes to build a high school and then a university, so other young women can help their Maasai community.
Stephanie Okereke, executive director of Del-York International, filmmaker
Stephanie Okereke won acclaim as one of the best actresses in Nigeria’s Nollywood, but after starring in dozens of films and winning many awards, Okereke was ready to move behind the camera and help create more space in the industry for women. She traveled to the U.S. and studied at the New York Film Academy, creating her own production company, Next Page Productions. The film Through the Glass was truly hers—she served as writer, director, and producer. Okereke will portray fellow Nigerian and human-rights activist Hafsat Abiola in SEVEN.
María Otero, U.S. Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia, María Otero is the first Latina undersecretary in U.S. history, and is the highest-ranking Hispanic official at the State Department. Before taking office, she was lauded for her work as president and CEO of ACCION International, where she became one of the world’s leading experts on microfinance, helping entrepreneurs in 25 countries launch small businesses. In her current role, she oversees and coordinates U.S. foreign relations on issues ranging from development and poverty to the environment and human trafficking. Dubbed one of the country’s “20 most influential women” by Newsweek in 2004, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Maria Pacheco, Founder, Wakami World
Maria Pacheco is the founder of Wakami World, an organization dedicated to linking rural communities to markets as a way to generate prosperity in the remote villages of Guatemala and in other countries in the future. Pacheco co-designed a National Program for Economic Development, which was an IDB/World Bank loan of $60 million for Guatemala. This program is designed to provide 300 rural groups with the assistance and public infrastructure required for national and international success. Maria has also been a consultant for the United Nations Foundation, developing a program to generate sources of income for communities living in or around natural World Heritage Sites. A Fulbright scholar with a masters degree in agriculture from Cornell University, Maria served as co-founder and first female president of the Guatemalan Rural Entrepeneurship Association (AGER), and is part of the Aspen Institute Global Leadership Network. Last June, Maria with other Aspen fellows, launched the Vital Voices Central American Network.
Suraya Pakzad, founder, Voice of Women Organization
Suraya Pakzad managed to keep her women’s rights organization, Voices of Women, running even under the brutal regime of the Taliban. Founded in 1998, the group taught women to read in secret until the Taliban fell, when Pakzad became able to work openly. Voice of Women gives shelter to women fleeing abusive relationships and those who have been released from jail. Her work is dangerous—many female activists have been murdered by extremists in Afghanistan in recent years. Pakzad was honored with the 2008 International Women of Courage Award and was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.
Archie Panjabi, actress
As in-house investigator Kalinda Sharma on the CBS hit drama The Good Wife, Archie Panjabi plays an unpredictable, street-smart woman who’s maybe also a bit of a misanthrope. Sharma is honored to play the complicated character—as she told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s very, very challenging to play her, and I feel quite privileged. It’s tough to get a good role on a good show. They are rare gems.” Panjabi won international attention for her performance in 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham, and her first American role was in the Oscar-winning film The Constant Gardener. Panjabi played a reporter in A Mighty Heart, a film about the disappearance of journalist Daniel Pearl. Her turn in that film nabbed her the Chopard Trophy for Female Revelation of the Year at the Cannes Film Festival. In SEVEN, Panjabi will portray the courageous Pakistani activist for women’s rights Mukhtar Mai.
Marina Pisklakova-Parker, founder, Center ANNA
As the Soviet empire crumbled, Marina Pisklakova-Parker noticed that economic reforms were not stopping the domestic violence that plagued many homes in Russia. So in 1993, she founded Center ANNA, the first Russian domestic-violence hotline and crisis-counseling center. When she began this work, Marina was alone and isolated; Russian law did not prohibit domestic violence. But she created a personal connection with survivors. Beginning in 1999, Vital Voices gave her management training and connections to resources, enabling her to expand ANNA into a network of 170 counseling centers throughout Russia, serving 100,000 women each year. She has authored two books and represents Vital Voices in international coalitions to halt the trafficking of women and girls from Eurasia. She is portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Dina Powell, global head of corporate engagement, Goldman Sachs
Since joining Goldman Sachs in 2007, Dina Powell has helmed its global charity and activist campaigns. As president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and head of corporate engagement, she manages the 10,000 Women program, a global initiative to provide business-school training for women in the developing world. Before joining the firm, Powell served as assistant secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and as deputy undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, as well as assistant to the president for presidential personnel in the White House. She serves as a member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Vital Voices Global Partnership Board, and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.
Annie Rashidi-Mulumba, consultant on human-rights for the United Nations in Cameroon
Annie Rashidi-Mulumba fights for human rights, political freedom, and refugees in West Africa. Rashidi-Mulumba served as legal officer to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and as situation liaison officer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. In the Congo, she provided legal aid to victims of the devastating civil war. Rashidi-Mulumba graduated from Université Libre de Kinshasa and earned her master’s degree in international human-rights law at Notre Dame. She is a board member of Groupe Lotus, a nonprofit that serves war victims in the northeastern part of Congo, and is a consultant on the human-rights issues involved in the border dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Zainab Salbi, founder and CEO, Women for Women International
Fueled by the belief that “stronger women build stronger nations,” Zainab Salbi has been fighting for women rights for nearly two decades. In 1993, using money intended to pay for a honeymoon, a newly-wed Salbi established Women for Women International to help female survivors of war move “from crisis and instability to self-reliance and active citizenship.” Since then, the organization has served more than 153,000 women in nine countries, providing financial help and jobs skills. A survivor of war herself, Salbi grew up in Baghdad, where her father served as Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot. As a teenager, she was sent to the U.S. to enter into an arranged (and ultimately abusive) marriage. She eventually left the relationship, forging a new life as a public activist. In 1995, then-President Bill Clinton honored Salbi for her work in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She serves as a Young Global Leader for the World Economic Forum; she’s also a member of the International Women's Forum and the Council of Foreign Relations. She’s the author of the memoir Between Two Worlds: Escape From Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam and the book The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope.
Diane Sawyer, ABC News anchor
Diane Sawyer is anchor of ABC News’ flagship World News broadcast. She is also the network’s principal anchor for breaking news, election coverage, and special events. Sawyer has traveled the globe delivering in-depth and breaking-news reports and has conducted interviews with almost every major newsmaker of our time. Prior to joining ABC News, Sawyer spent nine years at CBS News. There she made history as the first female correspondent of 60 Minutes. Sawyer’s reporting has been recognized with numerous awards, including Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody Awards, the grand prize of the premier Investigative Reporters and Editors Association, an IRTS Lifetime Achievement Award, and the USC Distinguished Achievement in Journalism Award. In 1997, she was inducted into the Television Academy of Hall of Fame.
Nikki Silva, Producer, NPR’s Hidden Kitchens
Nikki Silva is one half of The Kitchen Sisters, the producers of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award-winning NPR series, Hidden Kitchens, as well as two Peabody Award-winning NPR collaborations, Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project, and authors of the New York Times Notable Book, Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More. They are dedicated to creating intimate, provocative, and sound-rich documentaries that bring seldom heard voices to the air, mentoring young producers, and building community through storytelling. Their new NPR series is an international multimedia collaboration exploring the secret life of girls around the world. It will premiere on NPR this spring.
Mu Sochua, member of Cambodian parliament and human-rights advocate
After 18 years of exile and a successful career in the U.S. as a social worker, Sochua returned to Cambodia in 1989, finding that her country had been transformed into what Time magazine called “ a pervert’s paradise.” Working in the sex industry had become common for women and girls, but Sochua has been working to reverse that. She has been called “one of Cambodia’s “ precious gems” by the Jakarta Post, and as Cambodia’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, Sochua negotiated an agreement with Thailand allowing Cambodian women trafficked as sex workers there to return to their home country in lieu of being jailed. She pioneered the use of frank television commercials to spread the word about trafficking to vulnerable children. When Vital Voices honored her in Washington, Sochua called for more international attention on government corruption and human-rights abuses in her home country, conditions she says create a climate where traffickers flourish. She is portrayed in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN by Julyana Soelistyo.
Julyana Soelistyo, actress
Julyana Soelistyo was nominated for a Tony Award for her 1998 performance—described as “magical” by The New York Times and “luminous” by the San Francisco Chronicle—in Golden Child on Broadway, for which she was also honored with a Clarence Derwent Award. The Sumatra-born actress played the title roles in three plays for the Seattle Children’s Theatre from 1995 to 1997. Among Soelistyo’s many credits include appearances in On the Town, The Glorious Ones, All’s Well that Ends Well, and the Martin Scorsese film Bringing Out the Dead. Soelistyo will perform in the reading of SEVEN on Friday evening of the Women in the World summit, in which she plays Mu Sochua, the opposition member of the Cambodian parliament and grassroots organizer for women’s rights.
Jane Spencer, managing editor of The Daily Beast
Jane Spencer has been managing editor of The Daily Beast since its launch in 2008. Previously, she was a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in Hong Kong, covering environmental issues and technology in Asia. She was part of a team of reporters that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for coverage of China’s “Naked Capitalism,” a series looking at the devastating health, social, and environmental consequences of China’s rapid economic growth. Before joining the Journal in 2002, she worked for Newsweek, The Nation, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. She graduated from Brown University in 1999, and is originally from Portland, Maine.
Lesley Stahl, correspondent, 60 Minutes
Lesley Stahl has been co-editor of CBS’s 60 Minutes since March 1991. This season marks her 19th on the broadcast. Prior to joining 60 Minutes, Stahl served as CBS News White House correspondent during the Carter and Reagan presidencies and part of the term of George H.W. Bush. Her reports appeared frequently on the CBS Evening News and on other CBS News broadcasts. She also served as moderator of Face the Nation, CBS News’ Sunday public-affairs broadcast (September 1983-May 1991). She has been honored by the Radio-Television News Directors Association with an Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence in Television and received a Matrix Award for Broadcasting, presented by New York Women in Communications Inc. She was also the recipient of the Dennis Kauff Journalism Award for lifetime achievement in the news profession. She serves on the board of the New York City Ballet.
Meryl Streep, actress
Since her first nomination for The Deer Hunter in 1979, Meryl Streep has been nominated for 16 Oscars, including her portrayal last year of Julia Child in Julie & Julia. “It is barely an exaggeration to say that you can’t have an awards season without Ms. Streep,” The New York Times raved this year. Streep is not just respected, but beloved as one of the best screen actresses in the world. She’s been honored for both her dramatic and comedic turns, for roles in films as diverse as Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, Heartburn, Out of Africa, The Devil Wears Prada, and Julie & Julia. Streep will portray Irish civil-rights activist Inez McCormack in the Women in the World reading of SEVEN.
Diana Taylor, managing director, Wolfensohn & Co.
As New York state superintendent of banks from 2003 to 2007, Diana Taylor overhauled the State Banking Department and cracked down on check-cashing companies that preyed on low-income New Yorkers. Taylor is also half of one of the most prominent power couples in New York City—thanks to her relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she’s known as the unofficial first lady of the city. Taylor joined Wolfensohn & Co. in 2007 after working for several Wall Street banks. She also served as chief financial officer of the Long Island Power Authority. She sits on the board of many charitable organizations, including the microfinance-focused ACCION International, which she chairs, and the New York Women's Foundation, which she vice-chairs.
Julie Taymor, director
Julie Taymor is the first woman to win the Tony Award for directing a musical— The Lion King—for which she also won Best Costume Design. She has directed the feature films Titus, Frida, and Across the Universe. Her next film, The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren, will be released this year. Her next next project is a Broadway musical of Spiderm-man: Turn off The Dark, with music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge. Taymor lived in Indonesia in the 1970s, an experience that significantly shaped her view of art and its place in the world. She received a Genius Award from the MacArthur Foundation in 1991.
Frances Townsend, former assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Possessing “a tough efficiency” and “a bit of a swagger”—Frances Townsend has been lauded for her “meteoric” rise to become, in 2005, President George W. Bush’s adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism and chair of the Homeland Security Council. A former mob prosecutor and the first person in her family to graduate high school, Townsend bridged party lines in ascending to the role—morphing from confidante of Democratic Attorney General Janet Reno to valued adviser to the 43rd president, a Republican. From 2003 to 2004, Townsend served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy National Security Adviser for combating terrorism, before becoming Bush’s assistant, a position she held until 2008. Today, Townsend is a partner at the law firm Baker Botts, as well as an expert contributor to CNN and other cable and network television outlets.
Lauren Vélez, actress
Lauren Vélez stars as Lt. Maria Laguerta in Showtime’s Dexter, but she began her career in a more humble role: as the titular character in a Groundhog Day play for her Queens elementary school. Vélez has had roles in Ugly Betty, Oz, and New York Undercover. Her late father served in the NYPD for 13 years, perhaps inspiring her portrayal of police characters. Vélez has been nominated for eight ALMA awards and won a Vision Award in 2007 for her role in Dexter. In the Women in the World reading of SEVEN, Vélez will perform as Anabella de León, who advocates for the rights of women and indigenous peoples in Guatemala.
Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, U.S. Department of State
For more than three decades, Melanne Verveer has pioneered women’s initiatives around the world. Last year, President Barack Obama named her the country’s first-ever ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and director of the newly formed U.S. Office of Global Women’s Issues—tasking her with coordinating efforts to advance women’s political, economic, and social status worldwide. Since taking office, she’s worked to improve women’s and girls’ access to education and health care, and to combat violence, among other issues. Prior to becoming ambassador, Verveer served as chair and co-CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, and as assistant to former President Bill Clinton and chief of staff to then-first lady Hillary Clinton. She also led the effort to establish the President’s Interagency Council on Women. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Women’s Foreign Policy Group, and numerous other organizations.
Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer and philanthropist
Born in Belgium, Diane von Furstenberg arrived in New York in 1972 with a suitcase full of wrap dresses—the seed of what is today a fashion house of international renown. By 1976, von Furstenberg had sold millions of her iconic dresses, and her name had become synonymous with feminine confidence and freedom. Over the next decade, von Furstenberg built and sold a cosmetics company, launched a home collection, and received the New York Mayor’s Liberty Medal for citizens of the world who have achieved the American dream. Today, with headquarters in New York’s Meatpacking District, she runs what has become a global lifestyle luxury brand, with 32 freestanding Diane von Furstenberg boutiques in major cities around the world. In June 2005, von Furstenberg was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America for her impact on fashion, and a year later, was elected the CFDA’s president. She sits on the board of Vital Voices, and she was actively involved in the campaign to refurbish New York’s historical High Line as a public park. She is a director of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation and recently created the first DVF Awards to honor female social activists in America and around the world. Each winner received $50,000 to continue their work on issues ranging from fighting sex trafficking to providing education for girls in Afghanistan.
Barbara Walters, creator, co-host, and executive producer, ABC’s The View; correspondent, ABC News
The first woman to co-host network news, Barbara Walters is a broadcast-journalism legend. Since taking up her post at ABC News in 1976, she has interviewed every American president and first lady since Richard Nixon’s administration. For 25 years, she co-hosted ABC News’ 20/20, and since 1993 her Barbara Walters Specials have brought in top ratings. Prior to joining ABC, she appeared on NBC’s Today show for 15 years, eventually becoming the program’s first female co-host. In 1997, she created and became co-host and co-executive producer of the award-winning daytime talk show The View. Some of Walters’ many honors include lifetime achievement awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the International Women’s Media Foundation; a Daytime Emmy award; and the Overseas Press Club’s highest honor, the President’s Award. She has been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame and the Museum of Television and Radio in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of several honorary degrees. She is the author of a memoir, Audition.
Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; president of TripleEdge social investing firm; co-author of
Half the Sky
Sheryl WuDunn is the first Asian American to win a Pulitzer Prize, as well as a bestselling author and business executive. She’s president of TripleEdge, a social investing firm. With her husband, Nicholas D. Kristof, she is co-author most recently of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a New York Times bestseller about the challenges women face around the globe. WuDunn also leads the Half the Sky multimedia effort, which includes which includes a documentary series and TV special. Previously, she worked at The New York Times as an executive, editor, and foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Beijing. WuDunn is the recipient of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Lifetime Achievement and several journalism prizes, including the George Polk Award and Overseas Press Club awards.
Lauren Zalaznick, president, NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks
A still-rising titan in cable television, Lauren Zalaznick has spent the past decade revolutionizing women’s programming. In her current role, she oversees Bravo Media, Oxygen Media, iVillage, as well as NBC Universal’s health and wellness program. Under her watch, Bravo has become the top-ranked entertainment cable network for “upscale, educated, and engaged television viewers.” It’s also claimed numerous records and “firsts,” including several consecutive best years ever and the most critical recognition in the history of the channel, including the most Emmy Award nominations ever in 2008 and a Peabody Award. Zalaznick is co-chair of Peacock Equity, a joint investment fund of GE Capital's Media, Communications & Entertainment business and NBC Universal. She also chairs the Women@NBCU advisory board, made up of senior executive women across the advertising, finance, fashion, digital, sports, media, and entertainment businesses. In 2009, Zalaznick was named one of Time magazine's 100 World’s Most Influential people, Vanity Fair chose her for its “New Establishment” list, and Fortune included her in its “50 Most Powerful Women” issue.