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No Ceilings

May 19, 2014

Last week, I attended a meeting of Philanthropy New York that was devoted to a discussion of issues related to the progress of women and girls locally and around the world. Organized in conjunction with Philanthropy New York's annual meeting, the conference focused on issues of human rights, economic progress, gender identity, full participation in all societies, health and access to care, human trafficking, and power and politics as subjects to be explored.

The key note speaker was Secretary Hillary Clinton. She was interviewed by correspondent Robin Roberts ("Good Morning America"), and the focus of many of her remarks was on various initiatives of the Clinton Foundation revolving around women and girls. For example, two initiatives of the Clinton Foundation are "No Ceilings" and "Too Small to Fail."

HIllary Rodham Clinton at Philanthropy New York's Annual Meeting

"No Ceilings" is focused on ensuring that women and girls achieve full participation in the global community from an economic, political and social point of view. The Clinton Foundation is convening various partners in a data-driven evaluation of the gains that women and girls have made and the gaps that remain around the status of women and girls. The Clinton Foundation, in partnership with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is bringing together the best data that is available, and in 2014-2015 the Foundation is planning to present this data to a broad audience to promote awareness of the importance of full participation in the global community.

"Too Small to Fail" is a partnership with Next Generation, which focuses on research that shows that underprivileged children hear roughly 30 million fewer words by age three than children of more affluent parents. This gap in hearing words translates into a gap in acquiring words, and also leads to disparities in achievement and success over time - starting with academic performance and continuing with lower earnings and decreased family stability. The Clinton Foundation is encouraging parents and caregivers to talk and read to their preschoolers early and often, and it hopes to help parents, businesses and communities identify specific actions that they can take to improve the lives of young children.

The rest of the meeting was divided into break-out sessions on topics such as "Women's Economic Security in the United States," "Language and Cultural Understanding: Does Philanthropy Understand the Complexities of Gender?" and "Women and Power Worldwide," and these sessions were moderated by panelists from organizations as diverse as Center for Family Life, A Better Balance, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Ms. Foundation for Women, True Child, Human Rights Watch, and the Carnegie Corporation.

At American Express, we believe that one of the most important ways of promoting solutions to issues surrounding women and girls around the world is the development of more women leaders - particularly in the nonprofit and nongovernmental sectors. This is why we have devoted nearly $40 million toward the development of leaders with a special emphasis on women and leaders of color in the past eight years.

Some of the projects that we supported last year that have a special emphasis on women and leaders of color include leadership development programs at organizations such as Acumen Fund, American Council on Education, Asian American Coalition for Children and Families, Chicago Foundation for Women, Colin Powell Center for Leadership and Service, Compass Point Nonprofit Services, Coro New York Leadership Center, First Peoples Worldwide, Fresh Start Women's Foundation, Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Girls Inc., Latino Policy Forum, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, National Association of Latino Arts & Culture, National Council for Research on Women, National Urban Fellows, National Urban League, Public Allies, and Thunderbird School of Global Management.

For example, our support of the IGNITE Fellowship for Women of Color in the Social Sector at NYU Wagner School's Research Center for Leadership in Action helped develop a highly visible and diverse pool of women leaders for social sector employers. In the months that followed the nine-month leadership institute funded by the program, several recruiters, board leaders and NYU community partners tapped the IGNITE network to find candidates for executive leadership positions for a broad range of social sector institutions. Seven women leaders have transitioned into new and higher level leadership roles, including executive officer positions within nonprofit organizations. All seven cited the IGNITE experience, and specifically the networks and coaching they acquired through the program, as a key component in their successful transitions.

What do you think? Is the development of women leaders a good way to impact issues of women and girls globally? Please let us know by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog with others.

P.S. Did you know that in 1995, 189 nations agreed to an ambitious Platform for Action that calls for "the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life," yet today women remain the majority of the world's unhealthy, unfed, and unpaid?


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