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by Peggy Clark and Anne Mosle, Co-Chairs, Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls 

We don’t have to imagine a future where women are leading. It is happening right now. Across the globe, women are spearheading movements in communities large and small – from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Kigali, Rwanda. The Coronavirus pandemic reminds us that as our world faces new and unimaginable challenges and opportunities, women’s courageous and informed leadership is more important today than ever.

Women lead and advocate for their families and for women and girls in their communities and around the world every day. From championing health equity to educational opportunities for women to advancing economic justice, women have long been a driving force for change and gender equality. Women are diverse, and their unique experiences and backgrounds are vital to changing the landscape on issues important to women and girls.

But we also know that women are still disproportionately underrepresented in positions of power. This year, 2020, marks several important milestones for women, including the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, which is why we are incredibly excited to announce a new Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls initiative at the start of this year’s Women’s History month: the SOAR Initiative.

SOAR is an initiative designed to spark inspirational, bold conversations and to spur action that transforms the lives of women and girls around the world. SOAR’s charge is to build on progress, close gaps, and march boldly into a women-led future. This initiative helps do just that through a public Leadership Series, new SOAR fellowship, and online digital forum and tools to foster community, conversation, and action.

The first conversation in the series featured women actively confronting these barriers with fresh energy and bold ideas and, in the process, changing the rules of the game for women and girls. “Even with broken systems, we can win if we change the culture,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center at the launch conversation, Breaking Barriers. Goss Graves joined an exciting discussion with Piper Kerman, author and activist, and Rohini Anand, former Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo, moderated by award-winning journalist Gloria Riviera, correspondent, ABC News. Along with other key issues, the panel delved into the need to change both systems and cultures and discussed what drives them and what is needed to support more women leaders. As Piper Kerman put it, women must “have the audacity to believe what you have to say is important and worth other people hearing.”

At the first Leadership Series conversation we also announced our 12 inaugural SOAR Fellows: diverse, driven leaders relentlessly committed to the service of others and lifting up other women. From leading organizations dedicated to women’s full civic participation to ensuring that women have expanded job opportunities, the 12 women who make up the 2020 SOAR Fellows are a driving force for change in communities and across the globe.

The SOAR Fellowship will help Fellows thrive, providing a brave space to think boldly and take risks, drive intergenerational mentorships, and access resources to create a ripple effect, enabling more women and girls around the world to benefit. Through this work, we hope we can demonstrate that the world can be a better place when women are among those leading the way.

We are incredibly proud to partner with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to launch this initiative and grateful to William McLaughlin for supporting fellow participation through the David T. McLaughlin Leadership Fund, which allows for young leaders from the public and nonprofit sectors to participate in Institute programming.

SOAR’s vision is to see all women thriving, embracing their powerful roles as leaders, and generating a ripple effect that inspires and supports other women around the world. There’s no time like the present for the Institute to get more involved with this crucial work.

The Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls and SOAR Initiative is a collaboration between two Aspen Institute vice presidents, Peggy Clark and Anne Mosle, who, respectively, lead the Global Innovators Group and Ascend at the Aspen Institute and are inspiring female leaders within and beyond the Aspen Institute. Nikki Pitre, Acting Director of the Center for Native American Youth, has been a critical partner in the program design efforts, and additional female leaders from across the Institute have contributed their expertise.Share