The Well-Spoken Role Models
From the U.S. Capitol to statehouses nationwide. From Alabama to Virginia. From jammed phone lines to packed town halls. From Hollywood to television studios. Silence breakers, candidates, organizers, and activists are giving voice to the resistance.
Let’s celebrate the stirring words of strong women driving change.
Keynoter Gloria Steinem
National Co-Chair Linda Sarsour
6-year old Sophia Cruz – With her family facing deportation, this activist declared, “We are here today creating a chain of love to protect our families.”
Acting Attorney General Sally Yates refused to defend an executive order banning travelers from majority Muslim countries.
For taking a stand, she was unceremoniously fired.
At the Fortune Most Powerful Women summit, Sally discusses her 10 days as the acting AG and shows what it means to be a true patriot.
In another time, Danica Roem would not have been elected to the Virginia state legislature.
But this is a different time and the 33-year old transgender journalist defeated a man self-described as the state’s “chief homophobe.”
In a post-victory interview Danica was asked about her opponent and said, “Look, next year, Delegate Marshal is going to be my constituent. I’m not trying to make him feel bad.”
A “young lady” who “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.” That is how a white, 84-year old Congressman referred to the first Indian-American member. Rep. Pramila Jayapal immediately objected to the offensive comment and had it stricken from the official record. Seizing the moment, she then tweeted encouragement to others who have been similarly disrespected:
“Here’s a message to women of color out there: stand strong. Refuse to be patronized or minimized. Let the small guys out there be intimidated by you.”
Watch Rep. Jayapal handle the moment.
Rose McGowan wasn’t alone when she took the stage at the 2017 Women’s Convention to share the story of sexual abuse that had haunted her adult life.
On stage, she joined hands with Tarana Burke the women who initiated the #metoo movement 10 years ago to help people who’ve been sexually harassed or abused.
The stories of Rose and Tarana reverberated enabling thousands more to speak up and be heard.
The mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest city was undeterred by repeated attempts to discredit her leadership in the wake of the worst storm to hit the island in 80 years.
When the winds subsided, Mayor Cruz personally led rescue efforts wading through chest high water bullhorn in hand. With little aid reaching the island and thousands without basic necessities of water and electricity, the mayor generated urgency about the tragedy and demanded the federal government fix the logistical delays. The White House’s initial response was to call her a “nasty woman.”
On The Late Show with Steven Colbert, the Mayor speaks out for her constituents.
No one runs out the clock on Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attempted to evade questions during a House Financial Services Committee hearing he hit a wall.
The Congresswoman displayed a command of procedural rules to shut down his insolence. “Reclaiming my time” is an apt metaphor for all who feel there isn’t time to waste.
Photo Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Looking for inspiration? These women will bring you to your feet.
Hillary Clinton – The First
Elizabeth Warren – Be Willing to Consider the Unexpected
Reshma Saujani – Closing the Bravery Deficit
Photo Credit: Photo by Dani Hart from Pexels
Here are standout media and public speaking performances from the Well-Spoken Women of 2015. These role models will make you LOL, misty-eyed, and shout: “Amen, sister!”
Misty Copeland – Principal Ballerina
At 13 years, Misty was told she was too old, her feet were wrong, body too heavy and she was living in a motel with mom and five siblings.
Today she is the first African-American promoted to the top job at the American Ballet Theatre. On The Diane Rehm Show, Misty pulls back the curtain on her ballet journey.
Melinda Gates – A Big Bettor
A Forbes cover story declared that investing in women and girls is “the best idea in the world” to end global poverty.
At The Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Power Women event, Melinda said from what she’s witnessed in Africa “progress is so possible.”
Dr. Dee Boersma – Penguin Expert
2016 Indianapolis Prize for conservation nominee, Dee has devoted her life to studying Magellanic Penguins: “Once you fall in love with them it’s hard to leave them.”
These sentinels of the ocean help us understand the impacts of climate change and overfishing. Travel with Dee to the Galapagos Islands.
Jessica Mendoza – Baseball Analyst
Hell didn’t freeze over when two-time softball Olympian Jessica Mendoza entered the record books as the first woman to call a Major League Baseball playoff game. In fact, Jessica’s performance “drew rave reviews.”
Catch her baseball acumen from the ESPN booth.
Laura Bates – Everyday Sexism Project
In her Tedx Talk, Laura shares how she is making a fuss to stop the abuse.
Lilly Singh – YouTube Superwoman
“I know what it feels like not to laugh, I want to make people laugh.” With over six million followers and a billion views, this millennial comedienne is succeeding.
In a MAKERS interview, Lilly says channeling her creativity into videos helps her cope with depression.
Reese Witherspoon – Producer & Actress
When Hollywood studio heads ignored her question about the paucity of complex women roles, Reese decided to follow her mom’s advice: “If you want something done, honey, do it yourself.”
The result was Gone Girl and Wild the first films from her own production company. At the Glamour Women of the Year gala Reese exhorted the audience to be “a bit more ambitious.”
Kate McKinnon – AKA Angela Merkel
SNL star Kate hilariously channeled Angela Merkel’s reaction to being named TIME’s Person of the Year.
Hillary Clinton – Debate Crusher
At the last GOP debate there were nine candidates. That’s more than twice the total number of women who have ever participated in a presidential debate.
The Well-Spoken Women of 2014 called it like they saw it. Dared to defy authority. Changed the debate. Broadened the dialogue. Their words and ideas challenge us to think differently and act boldly.
Mo’ne Davis – Little League Star
With a 70 mph fastball, 13-year old Mo’ne is in a league of her own. The pitcher made history becoming the first girl to throw a shutout in a Little League World Series. Equally impressive was the deft handling of her celebrity status. On ESPN, an unflappable Mo’ne says her special weapon for dealing with the media is saying no.”
Kaci Hickox – Ebola Fighting Nurse
While the threat of Ebola caused some politicians to panic, the public health nurse presented a voice of reason. At an impromptu press conference, Kaci calmly responded to critics who vilified her for rejecting a state imposed health quarantine. After serving in Sierra Leone, she voluntarily agreed to a self-monitoring program saying it was scientifically sound and wouldn’t stigmatize aid workers. Kaci hopes to return to Africa to continue her public health service.
Sallie Krawcheck – “Investing in Women is Simply Smart Business”
Sallie is a Wall Street veteran who is putting money where her passion is with the first and only mutual fund which invests in companies that are women-centric. Tons of evidence support Sallie’s assertion that companies with more women in top jobs have higher returns, lower volatility, and increased innovation. During a conversation at the 92nd St. Y, Sallie shares her vision for the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund
Ai-jen Poo – Caring for Our Caregivers
Congratulations to Ai-jen, a 2014 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient for dedicating her life to fighting for some of the hardest working people in America. At the National Domestic Workers Alliance she fights for the women who clean our homes, cook our meals, and care for our children and seniors. In her TEDx Talk Ai-jen, calls on the audience to reflect on the people in their lives who’ve cared for them.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg – A Blistering Dissent
“I certainly respect the belief of the Hobby Lobby owners. But, on the other hand they have no constitutional right to foist that belief on the hundreds and hundreds of women who work for them and who don’t share that belief.” Justice Ginsberg’s 35-page dissent in the case that denies birth control coverage to women on religious grounds ensured women’s voices were not completely silenced. In a Yahoo interview, the Justice discusses the ramifications of the decision made by five male justices.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – Calling Them Out
Talk about a hostile work environment. In her book “Off the Sidelines,” Senator Gillibrand revealed the clueless comments made by male colleagues about her eating habits and appearance. On “The Daily Show,” the Senator says at this point in her career those types of remarks don’t throw her off her game. However, it was a different story when she was a young lawyer.
Anita Sarkeesian – Feminist Frequency Blogger
The threat of a shooting massacre on the campus of Utah State University caused the cancelation of a speech Anita planned on the sexism and misogyny in the gaming industry. But, months of death and rape threats have not prevented the blogger from condemning the industry’s penchant for depicting women as damsels, victims, and hyper-sexualized play things. As a youngster, Anita had begged her parents for a Game Boy. On the “Colbert Report,” she says the industry would benefit from including positive female images and creating a wider range of games.
Emma Watson – UN Women Goodwill Ambassador
The “Harry Potter” actress says when she was 8 she was called bossy for wanting to direct plays. Speaking at the United Nations, the self-proclaimed feminist delivers an eloquent call to action to end gender inequality by inviting men to join the HeForShe campaign.
Photo Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Diana Nyad – World Record Long-Distance Swimmer
After swimming 53-hours nonstop from Cuba, Diana emerged from the ocean on a Key West beach with a message. The 64-year old summed up the three keys to her historic achievement by saying: “One, never, ever give up. Two, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. Three, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”
Debbie Sterling – Engineer & Founder of GoldieBlox
It used to be that girl toys were mostly pink princesses and tiaras. Enter – GoldieBlox – the first ever engineering toy designed especially for girls. It is the brainchild of a woman whose passion is hooking girls on science, technology, and math. Click here to watch Debbie share her story. And, watch budding engineers in action here.
Brittney Griner – Phoenix Mercury All-Star
The WNBA rookie led her basketball team on the court. And off, she had the courage to come out. Brittney empathizes with gay teens who are bullied about their sexuality. For years, she has endured racial and homophobic slurs and the name calling continues on Twitter and Instagram. Now, she’s inspiring others as a spokesperson for the It Gets Better Project and, as she says: “Being proud of who she is.”
Wendy Davis – Texas Governor Candidate
“I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored…” Thirteen hours later after delivering a record-breaking filibuster, State Senator Davis had demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the women of Texas and the men who love them. The unprecedented feat of endurance shows she has the right stuff.
Malala Yousufzai – Education Advocate
On her 16th birthday, Malala delivered her first public address at the United Nations since the Taliban tried to assassinate her and end her campaign to send girls to school. The Nobel Peace Prize nominee continues her advocacy in her homeland of Pakistan and around the globe. Read her memoir I Am Malala and visit: www.malalafund.org to learn about girl-centric approaches to creating a world where every girl reaches her full potential.
Janet Yellen – Federal Reserve Chair Nominee
With her low-key style, Janet more than held her ground while being grilled by Senate Republicans who challenged her nomination to head one of the most important unelected offices. The people who know better – over 350 economists – signed a letter to the President stating she’s the best person to take over the position which wields enormous influence over the health and wealth of the nation, indeed the world. When confirmed, Janet will bring much needed diversity to the top hierarchy of economic advisors.
Alison Bechdel – American Cartoonist
Alison is the originator of the Bechdel test which has just been adopted by the Swedish Film Institute to add a gender bias rating to movies alongside the more familiar violence and profanity ratings. The Lord of Rings trilogy and the Star Wars series fail the test because they don’t meet the criteria of having two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. The gold standard – Thelma & Louise – depicts two women who decide not to settle for less, instead choose to be free.
Amy Cuddy – Power Poser Extraordinaire
We all know that strong nonverbal skills can help you project with confidence before an audience. Now, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy reveals that what you do with your body before you hit the stage can determine whether or not you “wow” them. Amy’s Ted Talk on the benefits of Power Posing is must see viewing for anyone but especially women who want to improve their public speaking skills click here.
Hillary Clinton – TBD
If “Wife, mom, lawyer, women and kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD…” weren’t enough, add anti-poaching advocate. Hillary joined with Presidents of African nations and wildlife preservationists to announce a global effort to protect wild elephants from ivory traffickers.
There’s nothing these women can’t do!
Photo Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
2012’s Well-Spoken Women
Give well-spoken women their due for a year filled with remarkable performances. They delivered rousing words. Called it as they saw it. Rose above scathing scrutiny. And, one brave girl is still recovering from attack. Their collective voices signal progress for women in the public square.
Malala Yousufzai | Education Advocate
The acceptance speech of this Nobel Peace Prize nominee is eagerly anticipated, let’s hope she wins. The courageous teen was shot by the Taliban for wanting all girls to go to school. Yousufzai’s BBC blog “The Diary of a Pakistani School Girl” was a voice for a generation that deserves and needs an education.
Sandra Fluke | Attorney
Nasty name calling and a cold shoulder on Capitol Hill didn’t silence this forceful champion for equality. The demeaning treatment was ever more shameful in contrast to Fluke’s grace, grit, and good humor. Fluke told Parade Magazine: “2012 is ending up a little better than it started off. I wasn’t planning on having a major career moment based on being called a prostitute but in reflection, Julia Roberts did it very well…”
Michelle Obama | First Lady
The job of a surrogate speaker is never an easy one. You are expected to do your best but never outshine the principal. The First Lady hit it just right before the crowd at the Democratic convention: “Barack knows the American dream because he has lived it.” We welcome four more years of watching her own the room.
Elizabeth Warren | U.S. Senator-Elect
When Ms. Warren goes to Washington, consumers will have a reform advocate on the Senate banking committee. The big money interests may have blocked her from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but they couldn’t defeat her at the polls. Now, the powerful on Wall Street and her soon-to-be Senate colleagues will contend with a people-backed fighter for oversight and accountability.
Kathryn Bigelow | Director, Zero Dark Thirty
The first ever woman Academy Award honoree for best director is back with another war story. Now she is telling of the woman at the center of the CIA’s hunt to bring down Osama bin Laden. The film’s provocative subject has generated partisan sniping across the ideological spectrum. What is Oscar worthy, is this director’s POV. Her sensibility speaks volumes about the value of powerful woman in Hollywood.
Marissa Mayer | Yahoo CEO
Mayer’s wince inducing comment that having a baby was “easy” caused consternation especially for those lacking her executive pay scale. At a minimum, the new mom generated a dialogue albeit a searing one about parenting and the workplace. If having the baby wasn’t easy would she have been able to share that?
Gabby Douglas | Olympic Gold Medalist
With head held high, the first African-American to win gold in the gymnastics individual all-around ignored the bizarre references to her hair that went viral during the London Games. As Douglas will tell you, there’s no primping in gymnastics. No amount of Internet chatter about hair gel could break her performance focus.
Julia Gillard | Australian Prime Minister
In a shot at “old fashioned and closed-mind attitudes” Australia’s first woman Prime Minister didn’t mince words in what has become known as her “misogyny speech.” Calling out a legislator for a track record of sexism, Gillard said: “If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror.” This is the speech everyone should see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihd7ofrwQX0.
Hillary Clinton | Secretary of State
Will she or won’t she, not even her hair dresser knows. Whatever the decision, Madam Secretary has nailed the champion stance of an international stateswoman. Her commanding presence was center stage whether conferring with NATO foreign ministers, toasting presidents and prime ministers, or talking democracy with Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photo Credit: Photo by Dani Hart from Pexels