Forbes Power Women’s Summit 2023: Power Rising


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Kim Cattrall and Katie Couric at the Forbes Power Women’s Summit

Jamel Toppin for Forbes

The Next Chapter of Powerful Women

Samantha Bee, Tiffany Haddish, Busy Phillips and Ali Wentworth are in the business of making people laugh. But, in an industry that runs rampant with misogyny, they’re also fighting toward equality in their work.

Being in the public eye, much of what they put out receives real political backlash, Wentworth said.

The panelists, however, don’t let that dictate their advocacy.

Haddish launched the She Ready Foundation which supports emancipated foster youth and children in foster care. And Bee says reproductive rights is something she thinks about every day and even has projects in the work to discuss.

“One of the most incredible things about social media is it’s given us all a platform,” said Phillips, who added that it’s given her a space to build a community of people who share her values. “The line moves when people are willing to put ourselves out there,” Phillips said.

The Record Breaker: Redefining Possibility

Oksana Masters spent much of her childhood in an orphanage in Ukraine. She experienced abuse, mistreatment and hunger.

She moved to the U.S. with her adoptive mother at the age of eight, but a year later her left leg was amputated due to radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear incident in Ukraine in 1986. At the age of 14, she lost her right leg, too.

She didn’t know it at the time, but she was building unsurmountable resilience, she said.

Today, that resilience has turned into countless accolades: Masters is a cross-country skier, cyclist and former competitive rower, and Team USA’s most decorated winter paralympian in history.

“The best way I knew how to process things was through body and through movement,” she said of her start in athletics. “Rowing was what got my foot into the door of sports. But maybe it wasn’t meant to be my forever.”

After breaking her back during a rowing race, she was told she’d not be able to row again. She transitioned to skiing and cycling—which she’s now preparing to race in Paris in 2024.

“I love being a student of something, I love learning,” said Masters, who is now also the author of a memoir. “That first part when you’re starting something new, it’s so exhilarating and exciting.”

The Peacekeeper: Diplomacy in Action

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has a career of international diplomacy to back her up. As a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she’s traveled the world to improve, develop and manage U.S. policy in sub-Saharan Africa. She’s worked with women and girls rights, refugee camps and hospitals full of malnourished children.

Most recently, she returned from a visit to Chad—where more than 90,000 Sudanese refugees have entered since the conflict in their home country began earlier this year.

In this recent trip, her goals included shedding light on the experience of the individuals she met, telling their stories, enforcing accountability on those who were responsible for the atrocities and finding a peaceful solution, she said.

Across all facets of her role today, she feels a responsibility to make the UN more fit for purpose and more relevant for the rest of the world, she said.

“We have to work toward UN reform, we have to be more inclusive,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

As she continues to reform and shape international relations, she hopes today’s young people use their power to make a positive impact, too.

“We have such extraordinary, capable young people who are devoted to changing the world. And that ability to change the world is going to be their power in the future,” she said.

Fighting for the Future of Reproductive Rights

“There are economic and financial impacts to when you ban abortion,” said Forbes’ Maggie McGrath. “Debt goes up, delinquencies goes up, financial stress goes up. Those are the stakes.”

That’s why actress and activist Ariana DeBose never hesitated to speak out about reproductive freedom.

“Many of my fundamental rights are called into question in this country,” DeBose said, adding that if she wants to keep her rights, she needs to care about and speak up about the rights of others.

Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, knows there’s a long way to go. But she’s striving for federal legislation protecting reproductive rights.

It’s not enough for corporations to pay for employees to travel across state lines to access care. That’s the bare minimum, Johnson said, especially as so many claim to be champions of equality.

“The next year is going to be so critical for people who believe in reproductive freedom to show up,” she added.

As an entertainer, DeBose says listening, doing her homework and telling stories to humanize our collective experience is her route forward.

“If you can make it accessible, perhaps you can change hearts and minds,” DeBose said.

Reshaping Industries from the Inside Out

When Laura Miele joined the gaming industry, she was always the only woman in the room, she said. Now, bit by bit, she’s changing that from the inside out.

“I like to look at it as a flywheel,” she said of her role as the president of EA Technology & Entertainment. It’s about pulling in good talent and showing people they belong, she said.

When the employee base is varied, so is the content they create.

With more than 3 billion global gamers and potential customers—with 50% of those players being women—that representation is critical.

Meanwhile, Sandra Douglass Morgan is no stranger to navigating a male-dominated field. She’s the president of the Las Vegas Raiders NFL team. But she tries not to harp on the fact that she’s different from many other executives in the space.

“I try not to focus on that because when we focus on that we aren’t focusing on the job at hand,” Morgan said.

But she knows she has to be intentional about making decisions to change the industry, she said.

“Early on, I thought when people see the data, when they see the information, when they hear that women or people of color are feeling like they aren’t seen or heard, they’ll do the right thing,” Morgan said.

But that’s not always the case.

“As a female leader, you have to be intentional with what you’re doing.”

When One Opportunity Ends, Recast Your Line

Ty Haney made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Retail & Ecommerce list in 2016 as the founder of Outdoor Voices, an athletics clothing brand.

After getting hundreds of thousand of people to start ‘doing things,’ the company’s tagline, “it all came crashing down,” Haney said.

“I had a very painful and public exit from this company,” Haney added. “In exiting, I had to take a moment with myself and decide what is next.”

She decided to start casting again. Today she’s the founder of Joggy, a clean energy supplements company, and Try Your Best, a web3 company.

The Market Maker: Innovating the NYSE Legacy

Lynn Martin understands the role she plays within the geopolitical and economic spheres. After starting her career as a computer programmer, she made her way to the New York Stock Exchange where she serves as the second ever woman president.

Running a 231 year old brand comes with both challenges and opportunities, she told Forbes’ Steve Bertoni.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about how to modernize it,” she said, adding that doesn’t just mean aesthetics, but also how they talk about the market.

For instance, ICE, the parent company of NYSE, has been using AI for efficiency and regulatory surveillance for around a decade, Martin said.

As far as the future of industry, Martin’s looking at clean energy, green energy and healthcare as some of the most impactful within the stock exchange.

But, she said, “We don’t run to the hot trend in the market, we have to take a more thoughtful approach.”

How Businesses Are Disrupting The Next Era Of Women’s Health

Beatrice Dixon spent years trying to solve a medical mystery that she could not find answers for.

But one night, her grandmother visited her in a dream, and wrote a list of ingredients that would solve her problem. She bought the ingredients from the grocery store, created the formula, and her infection vanished within five days.

From there, she set out to help other women with feminine medical needs. She launched The Honey Pot Company, a company that sells feminine care and sexual wellness products, in 2014.

On another hand, Dr. Asima Ahmad saw a void in the family planning space.

“When we talk about family planning, we talk about contraception,” Dr. Ahmad said. “We aren’t actually talking about family building.”

She launched Carrot Fertility, a fertility care company, in 2016.

“[Fertility] shouldn’t be something that is unattainable because you don’t have the financial means,” she said. It’s particularly important in a country like the U.S. which has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation, Dr. Ahmad said

“If you look at the disparities that exist, Black women have a rate that’s 2.6 times higher than that of white women,” she added.

But while Dixon and Dr. Ahmad are both in it for the benefit of women, they also know there’s a real business opportunity in the women’s health space.

In 2006, venture capitalists invested $143 million in women’s healthcare. In 2022, that number climbed to more than $2 billion, said Forbes’ Maggie McGrath.

Still, Dr. Ahmad, who has raised more than $100 million in funding to date, is hoping to see an increase in funding and investment.

The Icon: Voicing Power

Today, the nine-time Grammy Award winner Mary J. Blige is fighting for herself.

In 2016, Blige realized that she needed to be her best advocate. And “Good Morning Gorgeous,” which later became the title of her fourteenth studio album, started as the mantra she told herself when she woke up every morning.

“This is not even a chapter, this is a totally new book,” Blige told Forbes’ Moira Forbes. “This is a new book that says that I am what I’ve been running from all my life: I’m a queen, I’m a mogul, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m wise, I’m beautiful. I believe those things about myself now.”

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Mary J. Blige is finally moving into self acceptance, she told Forbes.

Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Blige became MCA Records’ youngest and first female artist when she signed at the age of 18. But starting her career so young, Blige never received a high school or college education.

That lack of education sometimes left Blige feeling inadequate when she entered the work world. Yet still, she’s turned her musical talents into countless awards and multiple entrepreneurial ventures—including a production company called Blue Butterfly Productions which she launched in 2019.

“Peace is power,” said Blige on her outlook on life and business today. “Peace of mind, contentment, and remembering that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ you need people to help you with your businesses.”

The Business of Building Community

We all crave community. And bringing community to the business sphere is what led to the success of Bozoma Saint John, who’s held leadership roles across Pepsi, Apple, Uber and now Netflix and Christina Tosi the founder and CEO of Milk Bar.

But there’s also power in disrupting an existing space based on who you are and how you function, the panelists agreed.

“I believe in the science of things and our presence in a place,” Saint John said, adding that “Every time a molecule enters a matter, that matter changes. When I enter a matter, everything should change, and when I leave, it should never be the same.”

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Bozoma Saint John, Christina Tosi and Desiree Gruber.

Jamel Toppin

Similarly, after challenging the strict rules of a uniform in the culinary world, Tosi thought to herself, “If I can challenge that, what else can I challenge?”

She set out to make cookies, cakes, pie and ice cream because it was the most accessible and democratic form of dessert, she said. But she didn’t want to compete with anyone’s “favorite nostalgic moment,” like the classic chocolate chip cookie that made them love baking, so she had to build her own direction.

From there, she grew her cult-favorite brand on the simple ideology that “It can and should be so much more,” she said.

Prioritising Pay Parity

Pay parity remains a touchy subject across multiple sectors of the business industry. Women earn 82 cents to the man’s dollar, and that gap widens even more when talking about women of color or mothers.

When Reshma Saujani left Girls Who Code, which she cofounded in 2012, she ensured the next CEO was paid more than she was.

“That is the point,” she said. “We have to come from that position that is actually a point of power to elevate somebody.”

Meanwhile, as the Chief People Officer at UKG, Pat Wadors is on a similar mission. She’s working to change policy inside of her company by redefining family.

Both Saujani and Wadors see personal and professional growth inevitably coinciding with family. But they want both to be possible.

“If we were constantly having to choose between our jobs and our children, we were never going to be free,” Saujani said.

Revolutionising the Future of Women’s Sports

The women’s sports world is booming: Last month the University of Nebraska Women’s Volleyball team set a record for attendees at a women’s sporting event at 92,000 fans and the 2023 Women’s World Cup generated more than $570 million in revenue.

Despite this recent growth, women’s athletics still lacks the coverage and financial support it deserves. That’s why Sue Bird and Jessica Robertson—along with their cofounders and Under 30 list alumni Chloe Kim, Alex Morgan and Simone Manuel— launched TOGETHXR, a media and commerce company, in 2021.

“People tend to treat women’s sports almost like a charity,” Robertson said.

But TOGETHXR wants to tell multidimensional stories of women athletes that make people think and feel in order to move the needle toward equality.

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Sue Bird and Jessica Robertson cofounded TOGETHXR to share stories of women’s sports.

Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Today, that equality—gender, racial, and otherwise—still doesn’t exist, the cofounders said.

Much of Bird’s career was about combatting the fact that she was winning gold medals, with being told by social media, society, and the sports landscape that she didn’t have value, she said.

The cofounders agreed that with TOGETHXR, they hope to make an impact far beyond what any of the founders could have done in their respective arenas.

“We want the next generation to watch, view, participate and see themselves reflected back,” Robertson said.

Leading By Example to Effect Change

It took firefighter Regina Wilson a while to find her own power.

At the age of 16 she knew it was time to start planning for the future. She joined a program to start working and find stability, and that led her to fire school.

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Regina Wilson is a New York-based firefighter and a 9/11 first responder.

Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Throughout those early years, she was used to being the only woman out of hundreds of men. And the fire industry, like many industries, remains the same today.

“I want you all to be able to know that if no one in the room looks like you, who cares,” she said. “If you have power, sit in your power.”

The Original: Owning Your Power

Kim Cattrall assumed the role of Samantha Jones in Sex and the City in 1998, after she’d already been acting for two decades.

“When they offered me the role, I’d just turned 40, and this was in 1997,” Cattrall told interviewer Katie Couric, adding that “40 in 1997 was not 40 today. You were kind of over.”

But she and Couric, who appeared on the 50 Over 50 Lifestyle list in 2023, said a lot has changed in Hollywood since then.

For instance, Couric noted that more and more women are refusing to fade into the background as they age. And they spoke to the challenges and decisions that women face as they grow.

“The life of an actor is you’re all over the place. So decisions like having a family or being a mom take on a different meaning than I think other professions can,” Cattrall said. “If I was going to continue to do the work that I was going to do, I was not able to be a mom.”

And that’s a decision she doesn’t regret, she added.

Today, as many in Hollywood—both young and old—are navigating the strike, Cattrall spoke to the importance of a cohesive industry: “If production companies want happy, creative actors and writers, it’s got to end. There’s a whole audience out there waiting.”

Welcome to the Forbes Power Women’s Summit at Jazz at Lincoln Center

Attendees gathered at Jazz at Lincoln Center, based in the heart of New York City, for the 11th annual Forbes Power Women’s Summit.

Guests readied themselves for a day full of discussions on women-led businesses, breaking down barriers and deciding their next chapters.

Chloe Flower, a composer and classical pianist, welcomed the crowd by performing two original works.

Flower, who is also an artist ambassador at the United Nations fighting against human trafficking, released her debut album in 2021.

It was not until after Flower had finished her conservatory studies that she realized she’d never been given a piece of music to learn that was not written by a man, she said. Now, she’s here to change that.

Following Flower’s performance, Forbes’ Executive Vice President Moira Forbes took the stage to share her opening remarks.

“What I’m so excited about today is the women on this stage and the women in this room—no one is waiting,” Forbes said. “They are using their power to do extraordinary things in this world.”

The event’s lineup of speakers reign from a multitude of industries like entertainment, politics, healthcare, finance and more. They’ve cofounded companies, run sports teams and led national political communications.

“When women ascend, they elevate others with them,” Forbes said. “When women are lifted, the world is lifted.”

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