Who runs the world?
Welcome to Issue #7
Hi All -
Today is International Women’s Day, an important holiday that both recognizes the incredible achievements that women have made to advance our society and acknowledges the issues of gender inequality. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge because from challenge comes change! One of the biggest challenges we face is creating more inclusivity and closing the gender gap. This requires support from everyone and acknowledging the positive impact our sisters, mothers, friends, colleagues, and partners have had on our lives and the world around us.
Reflecting has made me not only hopeful but energized! From US Vice President Kamala Harris to Whitney Wolfe (the CEO of Bumble), there are great women blazing new trails and inspiring others to do the same.
This issue is dedicated to the Icons, Changemakers, and Next Generation of unstoppable women. May we be them, see them, and most importantly - celebrate them!
Dolly Parton is an American cultural icon and country music legend. Her personal story, career success, and charitable giving puts her in a league of her own. At 75, she’s experienced a renaissance of sorts and is more relevant than ever. Of the many important causes she’s donated to, her personal $1 million contribution to fund the Moderna vaccine is probably the most impactful. Last week she was finally able to receive her first shot and even rewrote the lyrics of Jolene to “vaccine, vaccine... “ to mark the occasion. The state of Tennessee wanted to erect a statue in her honor, which she graciously declined.
I highly recommend you spend time learning about her story. The podcast “Dolly Parton’s America”, the Netflix documentary Here I Am, and this New York Times article are all good resources to better understand her journey. Here are a few things that stuck out to me:
She grew up in a rural part of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains extremely poor and was one of 12 children. Her parents paid the doctor that delivered her with cornmeal because they didn’t have any money.
She wasn’t exposed to movies or entertainment but learned to sing and play the guitar at church and from family members. She started making up songs before she knew how to write and her mother would write them down for her.
She was thirteen when she first performed at the Grand Ole Opry, music legend Johnny Cash introduced her onstage.
Early in her career, she set up a record company so she could retain the rights to all of her music. This decision gave her unprecedented control of her music and protected her.
She wrote hits “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You”(yes, that Whitney Houston song) on the same night!
Dolly is dedicated to improving early childhood education and literacy programs. Dolly’s Imagination Library donates more than 10 million books each year to children.
What I love the most about Dolly is the visible empathy that she has for others, while staying true to herself and her style. Throughout her career, she’s been able to connect with all different audiences from the religious right to the LGBTQ community because she understands and loves both. In her words “I’m all about acceptance.” Amen to that!
That saying “you play like a girl” - well in Tennis that’s a good thing because no one has done more to change the game of professional tennis than female players. Billie Jean King’s personal experience with the game resulted in a lifelong campaign for gender equality. So much so that she successfully lobbied for equal prize money at the US Open in 1973 and by 2007 all four grand slams had pay parity.
Then there’s the GOAT Serena Williams. She’s been an outcast from the very start of her career, facing horrible racism and sexism. Despite her track record, she’s been criticized for everything from her physique to her fashion choices (I loved her catsuit!). Nevertheless, Serena has proven not only resilient but determined. This year she competed in her 77th grand slam tournament and each season comes back more focused than ever. She has 358 career wins (grand slam matches), four Olympic Gold Medals, and won an Open while pregnant. No one else has ever achieved her level of success and her legacy has shaped the future of tennis for generations of players to come.
Enter Naomi Osaka, the 23-year-old upstart, tennis star, and activist. Naomi infamously beat Serena in 2018 and is the reigning champion of the US Open and Australian Open. She’s also the highest-paid female athlete of all time. Born in Osaka, Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, Naomi spent her formative years growing up in the United States. Her blended background is a blessing, but many (esp the media) have tried to narrow her identity into one tidy box - Black, Asian, Female, etc. Instead, Naomi has found her voice and in emulating Billie Jean King is using her position to get people talking about social injustices. After George Floyd was killed, she went to Minneapolis to protest and penned this opinion piece for Esquire. During the US Open, she further advocated for the Black Lives Matter movement by wearing the names of seven Black Americans, who had been unjustly killed by the police. The conversation she sparked transcended the media, especially in Japan where they have been reluctant to confront racial issues.
So what’s next for Naomi?
“I’m hoping to drive awareness to important humanitarian issues. I see my platform as kind of a vessel for the important messages. I’m not too concerned with how people want to label my actions – I just follow my instinct and what I believe to be right.”
The Future is Female:
From Greta Thunberg to Amanda Gorman, there are so many young women that have found their voices and are speaking out about injustices. For the first time, I believe that women are actually set up for success.
In the words of the badass and queen, Michelle Obama - “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” So what’s stopping you?