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In this Fireside Chat, Valerie Jarrett (Senior Advisor to the Obama Foundation) and CNBC’s Karen Tso discussed the current landscape of women’s rights and the recent political landscape in the United States.

Women’s rights is a global conversation from Argentina to Poland where women are fighting for social causes such as abortion rights and healthcare access. According to Valérie Jarrett “Women are finding their voices across the world” and she cites an example that in the United States, more women are running for office than ever before, the greatest number of women won seats in Congress in history, and Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President. However, there hasn’t been enough progress in female leadership in the corporate world although major American companies have recognized that diversity is “a business imperative and not just the right thing to do.”

The pandemic has highlighted the societal inequities that women must shoulder. Studies showed that the pandemic has discouraged female entrepreneurs from pursuing their goals due to lack of access to capital in an unstable economy and that women working from home end up working an extra 14 hours a week on average as they hold the disproportionate responsibility of keeping their households in order and overseeing home schooling. In American society, working women are even more vulnerable as it’s the only developed country that hasn’t put paid leave into law. 

Corporate leadership must figure out what the cultural and structural impediments are for unequal pay. Workplace flexibility, quality affordable childcare, permeating a working culture wherein women are advancing and one that is free from sexual harassment have to be reinforced throughout organizations. 

Barack Obama’s latest book was discussed where he was quoted saying President Trump’s election “was a backlash of a black man inhabiting the White House and an ode to some of the racism that still exists across America.” Valerie Jarrett claims that as the first African American first family, the Obama’s strived to hold themselves to a higher standard and was satisfied that they delivered to set an example to youths of color. Since the 2016 elections, the Obamas have championed initiatives towards civic engagement, activism, and voting, which have been successful since the 2020 elections had the highest voter turnout in history.

By Francesca Limjuco

As part of our efforts to engage young and emerging leaders, students and alumni from HEC attended and reflected on sessions over the course of the three-day Women’s Forum Global Meeting. Opinions expressed are solely writers’ own and do not express the views or opinions of the Women’s Forum.