'These Are Revolutionary Days'

Tina Brown, Diane von Furstenberg, Mike Bloomberg call for action.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg welcomes the "pioneers" and "revolutionaries" attending the summit. (Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown)

And we're off! Speaking before a packed Times Square theater, Newsweek and Daily Beast Editor in Chief Tina Brown welcomed women leaders from around the world—"freethinking firebrands" and "dangerous rabble-rousers" among them—to the second annual Women in the World summit. "These are revolutionary days," she said, stressing the critical timing of the conference, with women in the Middle East fighting an unprecedented battle for their rights and freedom. "Women are at the forefront of the fight against oppression, affecting hundreds of millions in the region," she said, adding that "the treatment of women in any society is a marker of its civilization."

Brown introduced the co-hosts of the summit, all luminaries in their fields: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former managing director of the World Bank; Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; and fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg all called for change. "We're here because we believe that gender equality is the issue of our era," said Sandberg. She said that her hero was a Cambodian woman who was sold into a brothel when she was 12 or 13, and lived there as a sex slave—until she escaped. Now the woman works to help those in similar situations, dedicating herself, "day in and day out, to saving others from the same fate that she faced." “We believe that justice will prevail over time, because justice has to prevail over time," Sandberg said. "We're here today because we believe in action."New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rounded out the panel, praising the conference's "pioneers" and pointing out that the city is home to more than four million women. "I think it's safe to say they probably do more than half the work," Bloomberg said, adding that three of his deputy mayors are women, and that he goes to his 102-year-old mother when he needs good advice. "Diane [von Furstenberg] told me to say that," he joked.Of the women who will be participating in the Women in World event, he said, "Many of these women are acting locally, but their impact is truly global."