She Persisted: Women, Politics & Power in the New Media World
February 6, 2020
Tonight's program included a panel discussion featuring Lucina Di Meco's groundbreaking report, She Persisted: Women, Politics and Power in the New Media World. In this discussion, women in politics, journalism, and tech explored how traditional and digital media impact women in politics, and called for all relevant actors to do their part to end media bias and online violence against women in politics.
Introduced by Stephenie Foster, Founding Partner, Smash Strategies, Alyse Nelson, President of Vital Voices, moderate the panel discussion that included Lucina Di Meco, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center, Farahnaz Ispahani, Author and Former Member of Parliament in Pakistan, Soraya Chemaly, Director of the Women's Media Center Speech Project, Laura Liswood, Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, and Moira Whelan, Founding Partner at Blue Dot Strategies; Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab.
This event was held in partnership with Vital Voices, the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, RepresentWomen, and Smash Strategies.
Please note that this program may have been filmed and/or photographed.
Soraya Chemaly, Director, Women's Media Center Speech Project
Soraya Chemaly is an award-winning writer and media critic whose writing appears regularly in national and international media including The Atlantic, The Nation, Verge, Quartz, TIME, Salon, The Guardian and The New Statesman. She speaks frequently on topics related to inclusivity, free speech, sexualized violence, data and technology. She is the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition, an international civil society network dedicated to expanding women’s civic and political participation. She currently serves on the national boards of the Women's Media Center and Women, Action and the Media, as well as on the advisory councils of the Center for Democracy and Technology, VIDA, and Common Sense Media. As an activist, Ms. Chemaly has spear-headed multiple successful campaigns challenging corporations to address online harassment and abuse, restrictive content moderation and censorship, and institutional biases that affect free speech.
Prior to 2010, Ms. Chemaly spent more than fifteen years as a market development executive and consultant in the media and data technology industries. In the early 1990s, after several years at the Gannett Corporation, where she was involved in establishing the newspaper industry’s first subscriber and advertisers databases, she moved into the datatech sector with Claritas Inc. These work experiences give her unique insights into internet data development, leading her to fight vigorously again their abuses.
In 2013, Soraya won the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC)'s Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy and the Secular Woman Feminist Activism Award. In 2014, she was named one of Elle Magazine's 25 Inspiring Women to Follow in social media. In 2016, Soraya was the recipient of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press’s Women and Media Award. In 2017, she was the co-recipient of the Newhouse Mirror Award for Best Single Feature of 2016 for an in-depth investigative report on free speech and online content moderation, The Secrets of The Internet, and a Wikipedia Distinguished Service Award, for exemplary contributions to the advancement of public knowledge and the collection, development, and dissemination of educational content. She is the author of the book, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger.
Stephenie Foster, Founding Partner, Smash Strategies
Stephenie Foster is an inclusive leader, who brings together vision and pragmatism to get results and meet client needs. Based on her unique experiences, she understands the political and policy landscapes relevant to empowering women and girls, and increasing their opportunities for leadership and opportunity. She has deep and broad expertise in women’s economic and political empowerment, and decades of experience in government, the non-profit sector, and law.
Stephenie is able to translate complex issues into concepts that are easily understood and actionable. She is a sought after public speaker, having presented before multiple international and domestic audiences on women’s leadership, politics, women’s role in peace and security, economic empowerment, and international women’s rights.
For the last five years, Stephenie served at the U.S. Department of State, most recently as a Senior Advisor and Counselor to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. As a member of the office’s leadership team, she coordinated, managed and implemented a wide range of policies and programs central to the work of the office. This included the women, peace and security initiative, women’s political participation and women’s economic empowerment. She has represented the United States in various multilateral and bilateral forums. Examples include the G7 Gender Working Group; managing the Equal Futures Partnership, a 32 country initiative focused on decreasing barriers to women’s economic and political participation; and leading efforts on the Accountability Initiative, which seeks to strengthen the ability of post-conflict countries to address rule of law and conflict related sexual violence. Stephenie also served at the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, focusing on women and civil society, travelling extensively throughout the country to work with individuals and organizations advancing the role of women in Afghan society.
Stephenie served as Chief of Staff to two United States Senators (Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT)) and was appointed by President Clinton as General Counsel of the U. S. General Services Administration. She ran her own consulting business and was Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at Legacy, where she was widely credited with building a strong and effective government affairs presence.
Stephenie has published multiple articles on women’s global engagement in politics, the economy and society. She is an attorney and was a litigation partner in San Francisco, California. She received a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.R.P. from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of California. She has also been a Professorial Lecturer at the Women & Politics Institute at American University in Washington, DC.
Farahnaz Ispahani, Author and Former Member of Parliament, Pakistan
Farahnaz Ispahani is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, author of “Purifying The Land of the Pure; Pakistan’s Religious Minorities, Senior Fellow at Religious Freedom Institute. She is Foreign Policy Global Thinker. In 2015, she was a Reagan-Fascell Scholar at the National Endowment for Democracy, in Washington, DC. Ispahani was a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center from 2013-2014. A Pakistani politician, Ispahani served as a Member of Parliament and Media Advisor to the President of Pakistan from 2008-2012.
Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders; Former Managing Director and Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs
Laura Liswood is an international, award-winning speaker who conveys her insights regarding leadership, diversity, women in politics, and business to both large and small audiences. In her speeches, she explores the questions surrounding myths of leadership and lessons of leaders. She looks at best practices of excellent leaders drawing upon the interviews she has conducted with women heads of state and heads of government. She shares insights on how to enhance opportunities to lead and shape one's career successfully. Liswood is an expert on diversity and unconscious bias and why they matter.
Liswood is the Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, located in Washington, DC, which is composed of women presidents, prime ministers, and heads of government. The work of the Council expands the understanding of leadership, establishes a network of resources for high-level women leaders, and provides a forum for the group to contribute input and shape the international issues important to all people. Liswood co-founded the Council with President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland. It is the only organization in the world dedicated to women heads of state and government.
From 2002 to 2015, Liswood held the position of Senior Advisor at Goldman Sachs, a global investment bank. She was previously Managing Director, Global Leadership and Diversity for Goldman Sachs.
Liswood holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.A. from California State University, San Diego. She holds a J.D. degree from the University of California, Davis, School of Law, and is admitted to practice law in California and Massachusetts.
Alyse Nelson, President & CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership
Alyse Nelson is president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership. A cofounder of Vital Voices, Alyse has worked for the organization for more than 20 years, serving as vice president and senior director of programs before assuming her current role in 2009. Under her leadership, Vital Voices has expanded its reach to serve over 16,000 women leaders in 181 countries.
Previously, Alyse served as deputy director of the State Department’s Vital Voices Global Democracy Initiative and worked with the President’s Interagency Council on Women at the White House. Alyse is a Member in the Council on Foreign Relations, serves on the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society and is a Board member of Running Start. Alyse is a part of the Expert Group for the B Team and is on the Advisory Board of Chime for Change. Fortune Magazine named Alyse one of the 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter. Alyse was honored with a Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award.
Alyse is the author of the best-selling book Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World and has been featured in various international and national media. She completed her graduate degree work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Moira Whelan, Founding Partner, Blue Dot Strategies; Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab
Moira Whelan is a founding partner of BlueDot Strategies and specializes in international engagement and technology. Moira has more than 15 years in senior positions at the forefront of building and executing communications strategies in the nonprofit and national security community.
Moira served as the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy under President Obama, where she oversaw the flagship social media platforms to engage U.S. and international audiences and led multiple teams to guide the communications approach on major U.S. initiatives.
Before joining USAID, Moira worked at the Department of Homeland Security where she directed the National Joint Information Center and also served as Chief of Staff in the Office of Gulf Coast Rebuilding.
Moira was a founding member of the the National Security Network, a nonprofit advocacy organization. She has held the position of communications director both at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and, prior to that, on the House Committee on Homeland Security Democratic Staff. Moira started her career in editorial and legislative outreach roles at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Moira is a graduate of Regis University in Denver, Colorado, and completed her coursework for a master’s degree in international relations at Old Dominion University. Moira is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She volunteers as a board member for the Digital Diplomacy Coalition, and she likes to help out at her children’s schools as often as she can.
Lucina Di Meco, Global Fellow, Wilson Center
Lucina Di Meco is a senior gender expert with more than 15 years of experience in the design, management and implementation of international development programs empowering women and girls worldwide. Lucina started her career at the United Nations Development Program in Mexico and has since worked in various capacities for a wide range of international nonprofits, including Vital Voices, the International Women’s Health Coalition and Women’s World Banking, as well as consulted for UN Women, UNIDO, International IDEA and the OECD, among others.
Lucina has a Master Degree in Development Economics from the University of East Anglia (UK) and a Diploma in Gender Studies from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Mexico.
In December of 2016, Lucina has joined Room to Read as Global Director of Girls’ Education, where she leads a program helping thousands of girls in Asia and Africa stay in school longer and acquire the skills they need to make informed choices about their lives and realize their potential. Lucina has a life-time passion for women’s political participation and a history of political activism in Italy. In 2016, Lucina published the paper “Women’s Political Networks: Defining Leadership, Breaking Barriers, and Fostering Change”, comprising a toolkit and resource guide, is available on the 50x50 Movement website.