WELCOME LETTER FROM MARIANNE SCHNALL
Back in 2008, after Barack Obama was elected president and we were celebrating the historic milestone of our first African American president, my then 8-year-old daughter Lotus asked me this seemingly simple question: “Why haven’t we ever had a woman president?” Her question stuck with me. Many other nations have elected women presidents, so why not the U.S.? What will it take to chart the conditions to achieve that milestone and to generally get more women in positions of leadership in our society? So I set out to try to find the answers, through speaking to some of the most influential journalists, activists, politicians and thought leaders of today for my book, What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership & Power. While my interviews probed what it would take to finally elect a woman to the Oval Office, it also covered why it is important that we have more women in positions of leadership in all sectors of society, how we can encourage women and girls to see themselves as leaders, and also examined the cultural and structural obstacles that can often hold them back.
It has been an enlightening, inspiring and thought-provoking journey. The book, and my efforts around it, has taken on many forms. I organized several high profile events in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., featuring panels of book contributors in partnership with other organizations. I held an internal think tank session in New York City to which I invited leaders in the movement to come together to discuss innovative strategies and how we could better coordinate, collaborate and unify messaging. I spoke at colleges across the country and was inspired by the energy of the young women (and the increasing numbers of men) at these events—all looking for encouragement, guidance and resources to get involved. I did a range of media appearances, as well as additional interviews on the themes in the book, which became very topical again after Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy (I have a letter from her about my book framed on my wall), and then once again when Beyoncé recommended the book to her fans in an interview last year, saying “It will inspire you to become a better leader.”
All the while, I was listening and learning, and also beginning to sense a need for a focused platform to connect women with inspiring stories and guidance, and support them in being leaders in their own lives—not just in politics but in their respective fields and in their activism toward helping women in this country achieve parity.
So last year, on International Women’s Day 2017, I launched this What Will It Take movement. In the months since then, I have been so heartened to see the revitalized energy and engagement of women everywhere raising their voices, stepping up to run for office, organizing, and speaking their truth as part of the #MeToo movement—all hopeful trends which I highlighted in a recent article I wrote for CNN: 2018 Will Be the Year of Women.
To help amplify this wave of women rising, What Will It Take has many exciting things in store this coming year, including partnering on The Year of Women, a new movement that will create inspiring media and a series of nationwide events that will facilitate the necessary dialogue regarding how to empower and elevate women in business, politics, media, finance, and more. We hope to foster important conversations, uplift important issues and voices, and offer concrete resources and actions. Sign up to our mailing list to keep informed about events near you and for more ways you can get involved!
This What Will It Take platform will be evolving based on input from you on what you need most. I look forward to hearing from you about what you care about and what would help you to better support women leaders, or to be one yourself. Because the need is timely and urgent. There are so many serious problems we face in the world, and we need women’s voices, visions, and perspectives in order to arrive at the best solutions. My ultimate wish is to use this platform to amplify the collective energy and power of the many voices and organizations that make up this movement in the most impactful way that I can. I thank you for your interest and look forward to being on this journey with you!