Council of Women World Leaders Members at the Social Good Summit

As an intern for the Council of Women World Leaders, you could say that my excitement level was high when four Council members took over the stage at the Social Good Summit this past week in New York City. All of these exceptional leaders have paved the way for other women to find voices in the political process and create greater gender equality around the world.

Council of Women World Leaders At the Social Good Summit:

  • Gro Harlem Brundtland – Former Prime Minister of Norway, (1981, 1986-89 and 1990-96)
  • Mary Robinson – Former President of Ireland (1990-1997)
  • Helen Clark – Former Prime Minister of New Zealand (1990 – 1997)
  • Joyce Banda – Former President of Malawi (2012-2014)

It was an honor to learn about the different causes they represented and how we could all contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It generated a spark inside of me to really fulfill the Council’s goal of using the symbolic importance of women leaders and the substantive experience of its members to support women’s full participation and representation in the political process at the highest levels. With the upcoming U.S. presidential election, it is important that we all find our own voices, no matter what candidate or causes we support. To learn more about the Council, please visit:

“There’s no such thing as a glass ceiling for women. It’s just a thick layer of men.” -Laura Liswood, Co-Founder & Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders

“I love being a woman and I was not one of these women who rose through professional life by wearing men’s clothes or looking masculine. I loved wearing bright colors and being who I am.” -Madeleine Albright, Council of Women World Leaders Member

Takeway #1: Everyone should be engaged in the universal healthcare discussion.

During a panel titled, “The Universal Pursuit towards Health & Well-Being,” Former Prime Minister Brundtland advocated for an investment in health for women, children and adolescents. Brundtland also urged everyone, rather than solely political leaders, to contribute to the universal healthcare conversation. The Former Prime Minister is a member of The Elders, an international non-governmental organization of public figures initiated by Nelson Mandela in 2007. The group launched a universal healthcare initiative earlier this year as a pledge to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. At the Summit, Brundtland said, “the Elders focus on universal healthcare because its the most important element of health.”


Gro Harlem Brundtland @TheElders

Takeway #2: El Niño is a serious climate issue.

The former President of Ireland spoke about her work with the United Nations on El Niño and climate. El Niño is the warming of sea surface temperatures from 1-3°F in the Pacific Ocean that occurs every 2 to 7 years. Robinson said that the last El Niño affected more than 60 million people in dozens of countries. During the panel discussion, the former President proposed a global movement for climate justice and stated that when El Niño becomes a humanitarian problem, it will mean that there was failed preparation. This climate event changes weather patterns across the globe, leading to more rain in some places and none in others – ultimately causing food insecurity. Robinson encouraged a different approach to addressing this crisis, such as early preparedness.

Mary Robinson @MRFCJ

Takeway #3: Women can do anything and should be ambitious.

As the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, candidate in the current United Nations Secretary General election and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark discussed a topic close to her heart: women in leadership roles. She gave a powerful speech at the Summit and declared that women have been cracking their way through glass ceilings to show that they can be in positions of power. While a recent poll has revealed that Clark is not the favorite to win the election, there has never been a female UN Secretary General, showing that Clark is the epitome of a woman cracking glass ceilings. One of the audience’s favorite parts of the panel included Clark offering compelling advice for young women to “look straight ahead, put your earplugs in, and tell yourself – I can do this.”

Helen Clark @HelenClarkUNDP

Takeway #4: Women at the top need to help other women succeed.

Banda asked a head-scratching question to the Summit audience – “How is it that America lectures Africa on women’s rights when we had 2 women presidents in 12 years and they haven’t had 1?” As the first female President of Malawi, Banda is a testament to the fact that the United States is behind the rest of the world in electing women as leaders. One issue, the former President said, is that women are being elected and not hiring other women. During the panel, Banda stated, “When you get to the top don’t drop the ladder, allow other women to climb.” She is the founder of the National Association of Business Women in Malawi and Young Women Leaders Network, served as Minister of Gender and Child Welfare, and has held numerous other roles in professional women’s organizations in Africa. Banda is definitely holding tight to the ladder.

Joyce Banda @DrJoyceBanda



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