50 Years of the International Women’s Forum (IWF)

At Edelman, diversity, equity and inclusion are deeply valued commitments. Earlier in May, five of our leaders from around the world had the opportunity to attend the 50th celebration of the IWF in New York City and meet with over 1,000 IWF members from over 30 countries. The event was more than just a milestone; it was a moment of reflection, inspiration, and future visioning. Here’s a look at the delegation’s collective takeaways from the Forum on the past, present and future of women's contributions in society and the workplace.

Imagining the IWF as a Woman

A powerful metaphor used throughout the conference was to imagine the IWF as a woman – successful, competent, generous, empathetic, and powerful. Despite these qualities, “she” would still face societal judgments often imposed on women. Listening to one of the IWF's founders share her inspiring story about the foundation's beginnings underscored the importance of unity and perseverance to enact purposeful business and social change.

Fifty years ago, the IWF was created in the US as the female equivalent of a ‘boys’ club’. Women who would come together to discuss ideas, provide mutual support, foster and create connections for each other, and lift each other towards positions of influence to create change. Over time, the IWF started international chapters and became a global community.

We honored the courageous women who paved the way 50 years ago and continue striving for progress. IWF Global President Carolyn Carter said, “We are a community that doesn’t accept limits,” echoing the sentiment of boundless potential. Similarly, Maggie Wilderotter, Chairwoman of DocuSign, beautifully articulated the importance of women’s dual role in advancement, illustrating the need to have one arm outstretched pushing forward for the future while the other arm extends back bringing other women with her. This bridge between the past and the future is where transformation and connection occur, reminding us of the ongoing journey towards equality and empowerment.

Embracing Rapid Change: A Moment of Templosion

The significance of this year's celebration was noted as occurring at a pivotal time for society, with rapid technological transformations affecting jobs, learning, and boardroom dynamics. The term "templosion" aptly captured these rapid and massive changes happening in increasingly shorter timeframes.

Conversations around women changing the world spanned various sectors and emerging themes:

  • Healthcare: The convergence of high-tech and high-touch
  • Innovation: Women achieving more with less funding, while only receiving two percent of venture capital funding
  • Technology: Women are crucial in broadening access to transformative AI, enhancing future models' quality, and ensuring AI's application fosters equity and positive societal impact
  • Media: The persisting need for reliable information and to reframe the value of media, despite the faster spread of misinformation
  • Boardroom: Shifting focus from diversity to commonality
  • Fashion: Addressing the impact of fashion as the third-largest contributor to climate change

Now is the time for women to take the blueprint from previous generations and create a "templosion" version for the next 50 years. The foundation laid by our predecessors has created fertile ground for us to lead, inspire, and compassionately navigate the changes ahead.

From Revolution to Purposeful Advocacy

The shift from revolution to purposeful advocacy for women was summarized as the transition we must make as we look to the next 50 years. The conference inspired a greater appreciation for the work of women before us and encouraged mindfulness on how we can pay it forward for women ahead of us.

Emphasis was placed on supporting women-led initiatives and ideas, connecting, recommending and advocating for women to set them up for success, and providing consistent and direct feedback to younger women.

Our Edelman IWF delegation appreciated the chance to meet and get to know other phenomenal women, and left inspired by the conversations and experiences shared. The event fostered memorable and meaningful dialogues about various personal and professional topics, emphasizing the value of connection and learning from each other.

These collective insights highlight the importance of honoring the past while embracing the future. The stories and lessons from the IWF celebration remind us of the power of connection, courage, and purposeful advocacy. Together, we can continue to build a more inclusive, innovative, and equitable world.

This collaborative post was prompted and edited by this year’s IWF Edelman delegates Karena Crerar, Ana Juliao, Emily Marks, Megan Spoore and Julia Wei, and drafted by ChatGPT.