Reshma Saujani, Founder, Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, talks about her parents' inspiration, her unexpected career change, and what it was about risk and failure that made her want to start Girls Who Code.
Margaret Cho, Comedian
Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator, Hawaii
Fei-Fei Li, Professor at Stanford University & Chief Technologist at Google Cloud
Maya Lin, Artist, Architect & Memorial Designer
CONNIE CHUNG: The business that I've been in requires sticking your neck out. You can't sit back and wait for the story to come to you. You have to go pursue it. Dig, push, and be bold.
My parents and my four older sisters were all born in China. They arrived in Washington, DC. Less than a year later, I was born. In China, all you want are boys. So when they had yet another girl, it was like, eh, all right. I always wanted to be the son that my father never had. So I was going to make Chung memorable. With five girls, I could never get a word in. So I was the quiet little sister.
I'm Connie Chung.
They couldn't believe it when I got into television news and I had to speak to the world. And my father was such a news buff. We would watch Uncle Walter every night, Walter Cronkite. He was the man. So early on, when you could only see my hand holding a microphone-- that's Connie's hand. He was just eating it all up.
It was a little local station, and the only job they had open was for a secretary. And I thought, oh god, typical. I did that for several months, but they had an opening for a writer. It was the late '60s. The Civil Rights Act had passed in '64. There was a heavy push to hire women and minorities. So I became the writer in charge of the assignment desk.
There was this one reporter who was really lazy. So I'd say, why don't you watch the desk, and I'll do the story? I know you don't want to do it. So then I'd do stories. They finally let me go on the air, and then a short time later, CBS News, the network, was getting such pressure to hire women.
So in 1971, I was hired along with Michele Clark, black, Leslie Stahl, a nice Jewish girl with blond hair, and Sylvia Chase, a shiksa with blonde hair. Everybody was a male. I mean, everybody, the staff, the producers, the executive producers, the Bureau Chief, the people we covered on Capitol Hill, the White House, the State Department, men.
We all went through a very rigorous hazing period. There were camera people who, they didn't want to take orders from us. Or else I'd be covering some senator on Capitol Hill, and he'd say, "Well, sweet little lady, what sweet little question do you have for me?" And I just stuck it to him. They pitted the women against each other. Who would get the woman job? Leslie Stahl and I would frequently be told to go cover the First Lady doing something that we knew would never get on the air.
Ed Bradley would go up to the assignment editor and say no. But I really had a hard time saying no. There is this mentality on my part-- the good little girl, fear of being fired, fear of being uncooperative, fear of being the five-letter B word. Every step of the way, there were issues being a woman. The only way we could move forward was to do our job and do it better than anyone else.
- Here's to Connie Chung.
- (SINGING) Here's to LA. News to LA. And from our newsroom comes the history of the day.
- This is the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung.
DAN RATHER: Good evening, and welcome, Connie.
CONNIE CHUNG: Thank you, Dan. When I was first told that I would be co-anchoring with Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, I couldn't believe it. Walter Cronkite was my idol, and I always wanted to be Walter Cronkite. I didn't think that that would ever happen. There are always these self-doubts, but I felt like I did know how to do the job. But it was very clear from the beginning that Dan Rather didn't want me there. He would not have wanted anyone there. He was very gracious upfront.
DAN RATHER: See you tomorrow.
CONNIE CHUNG: But you ask someone who's been in the job forever to move over and make room for somebody else, it's a recipe for disaster. It was a constant battle. I would have appreciated it if the boss had said, you know, it's over. I want to tell you face-to-face. But that didn't happen. They told my agent, and then he told me.
DAN RATHER: I'd like to take this moment to wish my longtime friend and colleague, Connie Chung, good luck and godspeed.
CONNIE CHUNG: I lost my dream job. It was completely devastating. Remarkably, though, my husband and I had been working on adoption for a couple years. The firing occurred on a Friday. The next day, we get a call that our son was going to be ours. It was, oh my god. My life just went flip. Lose the job, get our son. Woo! I had a baby when I was almost 50. It worked well for me. Everything that happened in my career was meant to be.
One thing that women really need to remember is sing your praises the way the men do. Sing your own praises. I was indispensable. You're welcome.
MARGARET CHO: I would challenge the stereotype and then kind of go and embody that stereotype and use it to my advantage.
Maybe someday I could be an extra on "M*A*S*H."
There was a way to acknowledge that there was a lot of racism against Asian-Americans, but there was also an understanding, like, well, I can do those jokes, too, and I could actually do them better, because I have a better take on it.
My family came to the United States in 1964 from Korea. They decided to settle in San Francisco. And in 1968, they had me. They bought a gay bookstore in the '70s, which was very unusual for them, for any immigrants to do, I guess.
So I grew up in the bookstore. It was called Paperback Traffic. It was this kind of place where there was a lot of community events. A lot of artists worked there, showing their art and getting tattooed. And a lot of people did drag.
Everything changed because of AIDS. A lot of the employees died. A lot of people that I grew up with died. It was an incredibly devastating thing to watch the community fading away before our eyes.
There were all of these organizations popping up, different kinds of AIDS activism. That's what made me want to start doing comedy, because there was a need for people to come and do performance. There was a need for people to come and speak. And there was a need to have a voice.
I was probably about 14 when I first started performing. A lot of my first shows were at AIDS fundraising events. I was pretty successful right away. My family didn't really understand it, but I really loved it.
I grow up on the rice paddy.
There was this idea amongst other Asian-American comics that I was around that we're not going to talk about our families. We're not going to talk about their Asianness, because we want to be judged as comics, not as Asian comics.
I walked past this guy, and he goes, me so horny.
But I never saw the value in that. So that set me apart, because I was not afraid to go into areas that were a little bit combative.
I remember just seeing so many Asian driver jokes in a night. So then I would go onstage and say, my name is Margaret Cho and I drive very well. It would just do really well, because people would be so embarrassed that they'd been laughing about these racist jokes all night, and then an acknowledgment that, yeah, that's what happened.
I had sex with a woman on the ship.
You get to a point in your minority status where you do become unassailable.
Am I gay? Am I straight? And I realized I'm just slutty.
Especially for me, because I'm queer, I'm a woman of color, somebody that is normally perceived as policing all the things that people say, whether it's racist or sexist or homophobic, you can go to a more outrageous place because of your identity.
It was so outside of my world. I didn't know how to write jokes for TV. I didn't know how to write jokes for sitcoms. Because this was an ethnic minority, there was this idea that we're being so outlaw by featuring these people who are never on TV that we've got to be incredibly conservative in the way we do it. I knew that certain things weren't right and that I should take over to some extent, but I was empowered enough to do that.
The television people were looking at me on-camera and they were really horrified. They said, we have to do something about the size of your face. You have to lose weight or else we can't have this show on television. They were so alarmed that I was too fat to play the role of myself, and so I just stopped eating.
I remember becoming very sick. I was urinating blood. The whole time I was just scared that I wasn't going to lose enough weight. That, to me, was much more important than my health. I wanted to keep this job.
I felt incredible loss, and that I had failed, and that I kind of couldn't go anywhere beyond that.
--to where I was drinking too much. At some point, I realized I can't live like this. I cleaned up. Was going to try to be healthy and try to enjoy comedy again.
I am not going to die because I failed as someone else. I'm going to succeed as myself. And I'm going to stay here and rock the mic until the next Korean-American fag hag, shit starter, girl comic, trash talker comes up and takes my place!
The story of what happened to me in television gave me a framework to hang my stand-up comedy on. Now I had more of a purpose, maybe prevent other people from going through these really dark, insecure moments by saying, well, this is what happened and I survived it. No matter what happens, I don't have any insecurities that are big enough to stop me from satisfying the goal of doing comedy.
[MUSIC PLAYING] MAZIE HIRONO: I was born in Fukushima, Japan. And for all intents and purposes, I wouldn't be sitting here if my mother hadn't made a decision when I was young that she needed to get is away from an abusive husband. That was my father, and I never got to know him. She had tremendous courage at a time in Japan where women just didn't do this sort of thing.
Just before I was eight years old, we literally got on a boat-- a ship-- and sailed to this place called Hawaii. I remember my grandmother coming to Yokohama Harbor, and how much I cried. I cried every day for days on end on this ship because I missed her so much.
And I had no idea what to expect when we landed. We had literally one suitcase.
When I came here, I spoke no English, and I was totally discouraged from speaking any Japanese. In those days, we were not encouraged to retain our language or particularly our culture.
I always felt different. I felt much more mature than a lot of kids my age, because I had a mother who was struggling to support all of us.
The expectations for women, when I was going to high school, was that politics was not on the agenda. But during the, you know, time that I was in college, I began to protest the Vietnam War. And that's the first time that I questioned what my country was doing and opened my eyes to politics as a way to make social changes.
It took me 10 years of running other people's campaigns, getting a law degree, before I thought, well, I think I should be a candidate. That's very much in line with the experience of a lot of women, particularly women of my generation. It took us a while to decide that we had something to bring to the table.
And I became the first female, Democratic nominee for governor in Hawaii. My Republican opponent was also a woman, and it's only the second time in the history of our country that the nominees both happened to be women.
I congratulate Linda Lingle. Linda, I know that you're going to do your very best for the people of this state.
It was my first loss, but it was a big one. We were outspent by a lot.
I know how disappointed you are.
I remember that night, I said, I think I have one big race left in me. And I tell people what I learned from that race and that loss was how to win.
I really had to think about, do I want to stay in this relatively safe seat, or do I want to go into the unknown? And of course, I picked the unknown, because that's what I do. [CHUCKLES]
I was very focused on what I needed to do, but I take nothing for granted. And so up to the last day, I'm thinking, OK, let's just win this thing. I never thought that I had it in the bag. I never think that way.
REPORTER: Hawaii elected its first female US senator, Mazie Hirono. She's also the first Asian-American woman to be in the Senate. Hirono won in a landslide victory.
MAZIE HIRONO: At my election night gathering for this Senate race, my mom had had this looked in her face. And I said, Mom, you're thinking about what it was like when you came here many years ago and our struggles. So we both had tears in our eyes.
There's nothing I could do in my life that would be as hard as what she did, bringing us to this country. My mom showed me through her example that one person can make a difference.
ANDREA JUNG: I'm a daughter of two immigrants. So I grew up in a very authentic Chinese household with a lot of traditional values. But they were ahead of their time. I mean, if you got to back to a traditional Chinese heritage or Asian heritage, you know, one might think that this concept, of kind, of women walking a step behind men or not taking important roles. I had grandmother and a mother who used to tell me from when I was extremely young that girls can do anything boys could do.
When I graduated from Princeton, I actually wanted to do something idealistic, like join the Peace Corps. My family didn't have that much money. And so I think they thought, well, that might be nice. But you need to go get a job. I remember through most of my career being either one of or the only woman around an executive table.
My very first interview with Avon was in 1993 with the, then, chairman. His name was Jim Preston. And he had a plaque behind his desk that had four footprints, a bare foot ape and then a barefoot man. And then a wingtip man's shoe. And then a high heel. And it simply said, "The evolution of leadership."
And I asked him before the interview was done, I love that plaque behind your desk. Do you really believe that? And he said Avon is a company that is mostly about women. And we should be one of the first companies someday to have a woman running this company.
The brand at that time was perceived as sort of your grandmother's brand, a little bit of ding dong-- Avon calling. And we did a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to modernize that brand today, from product formulas, product packaging, all the way to some terrific celebrity spokesperson.
I was actually passed over for the job. And I had a life moment-- a career moment If you dive deep in yourself and say, OK, someone else is going to come in and lead the company. And I'll either have to be extraordinarily supportive of that person. Or I can go off and do my own thing. And that decision to stay with a company that I love was probably one of the more important decisions I've made in my life.
About 18 months later it was about 10:00 PM at night. And I got a call from the, then, lead director of the board. And he said, well, congratulations, Madam CEO. And I remember waking my daughter up, who was young at the time, and saying, I've just become the CEO of Avon. And she said, you're joking, right? Go back to sleep. You're dreaming.
Being the first woman CEO, I felt it was a privilege. You know, we have over 6 and 1/2 million independent representatives. And they're mostly women. So I felt the responsibility of showing them that women can make it. I had someone tell me that she was a victim of domestic violence. And that only because of Avon was she able to get her life back together and today can support her children. And today is really a leader in her community.
And every one of those moments. I feel like, wow, I had the chance to be a part of something that actually did something good. There are still fewer women than men in every echelon of business, but it's changing. And it's changing for the positive. And whether it's Meg or whether it's Ginni Rometty at IBM or Ursula at Xerox, some extraordinary women running some very large companies. And that is great, great progress.
FEI-FEI LI: My role is to be the thought leader of AI and machine learning. One of the most important things for me is not only to advance AI, but also to democratize AI.
My childhood was spent in the southwest of China in villages at the outskirts of the city called Chengdu. So it's a very cloudy city. You don't see starry nights too often, which actually made me really long for those few nights that have clear sky. So I always had that very early sense of wonder of what nature is, who we are. Then as I entered school, just the sheer beauty of math and science just always attracted me.
The transition from China to America was quite a shocker. Typical immigrant story that you have to start from ground zero. And I pretty much learned English from scratch here. One big difference of American school is the books are so much heavier. I had to carry all these, you know, volumetric dictionaries to survive my day.
There was one thing about Princeton that was absolutely my dream is I've always been the nerdy kid. So you know, I would never be so popular because I'm not part of any sports teams. But that intense intellectual environment-- I was like a fish in the water, suddenly.
Visual intelligence is the primary sensory system for humans to use to survive, to work, to communicate. Solving the core fundamental problems of visual intelligence is solving intelligence. If we want to ever make robots do tasks for us or with us, robots need to recognize objects.
Most people were skeptical. So we had pretty scathing reviews for grants to support this project. I didn't spend too much time thinking, oh, my god, these people don't like it. Should I do it or not? Because I know in my mind this will change how we think about machine learning. It was staggering for a while. We ended up employing tens of thousands of online workers across more than 150 countries in the world to help us assemble this data set.
The field of AI, as well as the greater field of STEM, is massively lacking diversity. We need to be mindful that human values define machine values. If our training data misses a big population of our world, that would have grave consequences.
When we have a diverse group of technologists, it's more likely that the technology will reflect our collective values. How do we encourage the future generation of technologists? If we communicate the humanistic value and how it will make our world better, we can hope to encourage more diverse groups of students to feel passionate about AI, then become tomorrow's technology leaders.
- You do a lot of research. You put all that research aside, and you wake up with a moment's inspiration.
- My parents immigrated from China. My mother, she always said in your generation you should do whatever you feel like doing.
- My senior year at Yale, someone saw a poster for a competition for the Vietnam Memorial. And we said, well what a great way to end the class, we'll all design Vietnam memorials for the class, which is what I did. And I saw the site having researched for about six weeks to eight weeks. And the next morning, I thought let's cut open the earth and open it up. That's all it was.
- Some of the highest priced architecture firms in the country did enter this competition, and they all lost.
- I thought that the most insulting and demeaning memorial to our Vietnam experience that was possible. One needs no artistic education to see this memorial design for what it is, a black scar.
- You know, I will never know how much my age, my gender, my race, played into the controversy. We'll never know.
- I knew I was right. It wasn't just about the aesthetics. It was about I knew that if that project was built it would help people. I cannot answer why I knew that. I'd never known anyone who died. All I knew is if we could face death, face it honestly, only then can we get over it.
SHEILA LIRIO MARCELO: Having a child in college was tough. But in comparison to the years when my father had a heart attack, those were probably the most stressful years of my life. That's what gets me through any difficult day. People always say, you look kind of zen, and I'm like, I've been through a lot.
I was born and raised in the Philippines. And I have a very nurturing father, in fact, teddy bear dad. And my mom was the tiger mom, pretty aggressive, pretty assertive.
My mom was always excited about starting new businesses, everything from mangoes to duck farms to rice mills to processing sugar, and always studying how to run businesses in an efficient way.
What was interesting growing up, I think, in an Asian family is that we had designated professions. I had a older brother that was supposed to be doctor, a sister that was supposed to be a dentist. I was supposed to be a lawyer. Even though my parents were entrepreneurs, there was just this expectation that being a professional was more acceptable.
There just weren't many undergrads getting pregnant. It felt a little odd to be on campus. At that point, I started becoming more insecure about the perception of being a young mom, and could I make it, the judgments around, was I ambitious enough. But I think those difficulties actually gave me even more confidence, realizing that perceptions isn't really what matters. It's sort of what's in here.
I had a mentor once say to me, are you in the pain business or the pleasure business? Because I was contemplating joining sort of a hot mobile entertainment company, and I realized I like helping people solve problems, difficult ones. And it's very gratifying to know that you're making a meaningful difference in people's lives.
Ryan was sort of four or five years old. We juggled quite a bit. And I didn't really have family in the area and my husband's parents were deceased. I begged my parents to come from the Philippines to take care of our little guy.
And within a few months, my father was walking up the stairs and fell backwards because he had gotten a heart attack. And that was really difficult. When you've got a child that you're worried about, whether they're being cared for well, and you've got a father at home struggling to just live, those are the kinds of things that are just true pain points for families, that I realized there's got to be a better solution.
I'm one of the few very first companies in the internet space that's female-founded that is funded. But it was a challenge trying to communicate to often male partners to invest in a business supporting predominantly women.
I was really surprised at our IPO closing dinner. And I had invited our children. And there was an open mic. And my 22-year-old grabbed the microphone. And he spoke up and he just said, I'm going to remember what you do every day for people in helping them in their lives. And here I am in front of bankers, my accountants, and lawyers. I just gushed. And I normally wouldn't.
I felt like my son understood the sacrifices I made, what I was doing in my life. And hopefully I've imparted in some way how he will respect the women in his life beyond me.
RESHMA SAUJANI: Things don't come easily to me. I never get things on the first time or the second time, more like the third or the fourth time.
My parents came here as political refugees from Uganda. My father was watching television, and Idi Amin, who was the dictator there in Uganda, came on and said that all of the Indians in the country had 90 days to leave the country. The United States was the only country that let them in. So my parents are probably the two most patriotic people that you will ever meet.
No matter how tired my father was, every day he would come home, take out a book, put me on his lap, and read to me, books that were about people who were doing good things, Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi or Eleanor Roosevelt, and so these incredible change agents, and I think that that always really stayed with me.
I always wanted to serve.
I was a young woman who always knew what she wanted to do. I always wanted to serve and hopefully run for office. And then I woke up when I was 32 years old and realized that I was on the wrong path. I was really engaged in the 2008 presidential election. And I remember watching Hillary's concession speech, and I felt like she was looking right at me, and she said, just because I failed doesn't mean that you shouldn't try, too. And I just kind of took a really deep look in and said, what am I afraid of?
And it was the best year of my life. Everything was like jumping off a cliff. I remember my first television interview was with Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Her name is Reshma Saujani. She's a lawyer and activist.
RESHMA SAUJANI: I had never been media trained before. I was terrified, but it was incredible.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: What would you cut?
RESHMA SAUJANI: I want to give you an idea. We're proposing what we call a national innovation bank. I believe that New York City has the capacity to become the city of innovation.
And I lost, and lost big. Put myself in debt and maxed out everybody in my life. I felt like I had just let down so many people, and started really thinking about, as women, how do we feel about risk and failure, right? We live in a society that's so ashamed of failure. And so I immediately started talking about how I felt, and that I was going to pick myself right back up and get back out there and meet those commitments that I had made to those constituents.
We focused on teenage girls and girls who didn't have access to technology. That was really important for us. There's going to be 1.4 million jobs that are open in the next 20 years in science, technology, engineering, and math. But right now, only one out of seven engineers is a woman. And Girls Who Code wants to change that.
With girls, there's not an aptitude issue. But when you ask a girl what she wants to do with her life, she says, I want to change the world. And when she closes her eyes and she thinks about what a computer scientist looks like, she sees a guy just kind of at a computer typing away.
So what we do at Girls Who Code is we not only teach them the hard skills, but we expose them to technologists who are changing the world. And when they get exposed to it, they're passionate about it and they're good at it.
One of my young girls, Cora, her father got diagnosed with cancer. So she developed an algorithm that would help detect whether a cancer was benign or malignant. She's 15 years old.
We don't even know what the world would look like if we gave girls the leverage and the power of technology. The ideas that they come up with are so different than if I was teaching a group of 20 boys, right? And all of their ideas are centered around changing the world. We'll do it. I have no doubt.
I have a lot of resilience. Part of it, it's like if you haven't failed yet, you haven't tried anything.
AI-JEN POO: When it comes to human dignity, there is no such thing as an unlikely ally.
There are 2 and 1/2 million women who work as domestic workers in other people's homes every day. They're nannies, they're housekeepers, they're caregivers for the elderly. They do the work that makes all other work possible. And my alliance advocates for their rights and tries to bring respect and dignity to that work, because we do believe it's dignified work, and that all work is dignified work.
I remember spending time with both my mother and my grandmother growing up, and I remember both of them taking care of a lot of different people. My mother had two kids, she went to school, she worked, and she one day decided she wanted to be a doctor. And so she went to medical school with two kids, and English was her second language, and she just did it. And I just grew up with this notion that I could do anything that I wanted to do.
When I was volunteering at the New York Asian Women's Center, which is a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in the Asian community, one of the things that I saw was how difficult it was for women to break cycles of violence if they didn't have economic opportunity. And there was this organization in the Asian community that was just starting a project to empower women who are working in low-wage service jobs.
We started out with organizing Filipino domestic workers, and that opened up into organizing Domestic Workers United, which is an organization for all domestic workers here in New York City. That led to the formation of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which now organizes domestic workers in 19 cities and 11 states around the country.
We often call the domestic work industry the wild west, because there's no guidelines. Domestic workers are explicitly excluded from almost every major labor law. And so, you have a situation where workers are isolated and they just never know what they're going to get in any given situation.
They might have a wonderful employer who wants to do the right thing and pay the living wage, or you might have the other end of the spectrum. I've worked on a case where a woman wasn't paid for 15 years. There's just nothing mediating that relationship, which is why things like the domestic workers' bill of rights are so important.
When we were organizing to try to win the first state law to protect the rights of domestic workers-- called the domestic workers' bill of rights-- we must have done dozens of marches and advocacy days in Albany. And they just completely moved a legislature over the course of six years to being willing to take the risk to be the first state in the country to pass this law.
And a pivotal moment for me was this march that we did called the Children and Families March, and it was led by children of domestic workers and the children that they take care of.
I do feel like because this organizing is relatively new, and a lot of what we do is just innovate and create out of very little, that it feels like we're making history every day. And that feels great.
- A little bit colorful sort of woman in an iconic US based company that's gone global, that's always been run by white males, and you've got the beginnings of a juicy story.
- I grew up in Madras, in the south of India, in a very rigid, strict upbringing, and as a kid, I was a tomboy, I was a girl when I needed to be, I was a student, I was a daughter, I was everything. One of the most complex personalities.
- It's a unacceptable age to graduate from business school. People don't even finish undergraduate before they're 21 or 22, and so, even though I worked in India for two years, I found that I didn't have a lot of the expertise, the deep knowledge, the business acumen, and I just loved looking at everything end-to-end, and looking at the interdependents of every discipline
- So the letter comes that I've gotten into the Yale School of Management. I go to my parents and say, "Can I go?" and they go, "Absolutely not." My mom says, "I'm going to get you married off." I said, "What do you mean, married off?" She said, "Yeah. "You're now 22 years old. "High time to get married. "No single woman's going to go off "alone to the United States." My dad says, "We're not going to discriminate "between the boys and the girls in the family. "She should have an equal chance "in doing whatever she wants."
- The intellect is one part, but there's this time, there's a fit, there's a culture issue, I mean, so many things, you know, I had to learn. The time comes to interview for summer jobs, and I only had saris, or jeans, both of which were quite unacceptable. I had 50 bucks saved, so I went to the local Kmart and got a bright blue polyester pantsuit. Not the best clothes for an interview, but that's all I could afford. I was very proud of it. I ran out of money to buy shoes, so I had these big orange snow boots. The words of my mother kept coming back. She said, "Always buy clothes two sizes "bigger because you'll grow into it." I forgot that I'd already fully grown. I walk into the interview hall, and all the other students are sort of laughing at me, and I can feel it. I hold my head up high, conduct the interview, but herein lies the irony. Maybe 25 students interviewed. They hired two. I was one of them. In spite of the lousy outfit.
- I think I've given seven days a week, 20 hours a day, kind of workload to Pepsi Co. Being a parent and doing well in both. It's just, there's not enough hours in the day. Your biological clock and your career clock are in conflict with each other. You have to give up something. So what do you do? But you know what? At the end of the day, I look at my kids and I go, "Everything was worth it."
- We have, in the United States, a meritocracy, which we should never lose. I've always focused on doing a damn good job, and just hoping the rest of it takes care of itself. I got a call from the CEO then,, and he said, "The board is going to, "in all likelihood, vote you in as CEO." And I was like, "Oh my god, I'm going to be CEO!" And that's a pretty big shock.
- When you actually ascend to the top, it's a whole different ballgame, because you're it, and now, amplify that with the fact that you're foreign born, from an emerging market, so diversity itself is taking on a richer meaning, but clearly, gender diversity has to be embraced as the only way for a company to be successful. I don't think we have a choice.
SHERYL WUDUNN: The moral challenge of this century, of our time, is the gender inequity, the brutality that so many girls and women face in the world because of their gender.
My husband and I got married, and he was posted, of all places, in China. Everybody thought, wow, wouldn't it be great to be a journalist and write about China? But China is a hard place to cover. I mean, there's no transparency. You have to be extremely careful, specifically when you were writing about the democracy movement, when you were talking to, quote unquote, "dissidents."
Nick was actually on the Square. I remember the foreign editor calling me up, and I said to him, oh my god, Nick's out on the Square. And he said to me, Sheryl, calm down and do me a favor. Start counting the dead. Thank goodness I did that because I got to the hospitals before other people did. And that ended up becoming one of the most pivotal pieces of data throughout the crackdown is how many people did they kill.
The day after, there was one military unit that somehow still felt that they hadn't demonstrated their power, marching down right past our compound where we lived. And they just sprayed the entire compound with bullets, machine guns all the way down. I have never been so terrified in my life. It just felt that you had no place to hide.
When we started roaming the countryside, and we were finding out that there were 30 million missing baby girls in the Chinese population and not a word had been written about it, we started thinking, my goodness, this is this uncovered horror. But, you know, we thought this is just discrimination peculiar to China. And then Nick started traveling to Cambodia, where he looked into the sex trafficking trade and found some horrific things there. I mean, I saw someone at 13 years old. She was kidnapped and taken to a brothel, forced to work there seven days a week. She wasn't paid a dime. The brothel owner gouged out her eye. Is that slavery? I mean, what else do you call slavery?
If you just forget about the morality of it all, if you just look at the most practical ways of trying to fight poverty, and even fight terrorism, educating girls and bringing women into the formal labor force is one of the most effective ways of accomplishing that. It's a really dramatic effect.
The brutality that goes on against women in the developing world and other parts of the world, when I see with my own eyes and when I hear with my own ears, you just can't turn away, and you just can't walk away.
- One of the things I did learn from my parents was you should be involved in your community, you should care about what's going on around you, in the world, and, if you see something that troubles you, you should get involved in it.
- My parents were Chinese immigrants. They came as young, recent college graduates from China in 1949. My dad didn't have any sons, but he poured all of the ambition and all of his hopes and dreams into his two daughters. And, my sister and I, I think, grew up really wanting to meet those aspirations. My mother was trained as a chemist, but became a stay at home mom, as so many moms did in the '50 and '60s. When they had kids, she got really involved in trying to make the community that we lived in a better place. And, I think, watching her do that made me want to do the same. It's a value that, I think, is pretty deeply embedded in me.
- I became an officer in the National Organization for Women. We organized marches, we were doing phone banking. I really learned how to do political organizing. I liked being a litigator. I loved being able to help people with their problems. Probably liked it because I like to argue. One of the things I was lucky enough to do throughout my career was what I used to call extracurriculars. I was always involved in women's politics, and a lot of not for profit organizations, which, along the way, I happened to meet a guy who was an up and coming organizer, and his name was Barack Obama.
- Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
- So help you God?
- So help me God.
- Congratulations, Mr. President.
- First of all, if the President of the United States asks you to come serve, you go serve, because it doesn't happen very often, and it is a really rare opportunity to come to Washington and do things on a scale that will affect the entire country. And, really be part of history. So, I was thrilled to be able to do it. We created a council that involved all of the federal agencies to really make sure that, not only are we addressing the issues that affect women and girls in a central way, on key issues, like violence against women, and women's economic security, and STEM education for girls, but that each individual agency always bears in mind that whatever they do may affect women and girls, and to pay special attention to that.
- To be able to promote the First Lady's agenda, and really bring some national awareness to caring for our kids has been an amazing opportunity to bring a lot of my personal history to bear to the passion I've had for women's issues throughout my career. I think that women are able to see all sides, and we're able to bring those perspectives to a decision-making process in a way that, I think, is collaborative and creative.