Sheryl Sandberg and Malala Yusafzai are telling us the same thing

Malala-Yousafzai-_2693776bIf we listen (and read) closely, Malala and Sheryl are telling us the same thing.

Many of us have read and given as gifts Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean IN published in March of this year. We have followed Ms. Sandberg on (where else) Facebook, as she traverses the world, finding her own voice during meetings with other executives, country leaders such as Angela Merkel, inviting women around the world from Ottawa to Osaka and Palo Alto to Perth to “lean in”, form community groups to find their voice and change their communities, their jobs and their families and their worlds.

Many of us also have read and given as gifts Malala Yousafzai’s book “I am Malala” published in October of this year, and we followed, also mostly on Facebook and the news both her tragedy and her high profile visits with Country Leaders, the Queen of England and speeches and interviews at the United Nations, the World Bank and the 92Y among many others. Malala has been sharing her gruesome story of being shot point blank by the Taliban for wanting to go to school and how girls (and boys) have every right to an education, to find their voice and how the power of one child, one pen, one teacher can change the world.

How is it possible, we can’t help but wonder, that two completely different women from completely different backgrounds, different experiences, different generations, different countries, different life trajectories, different languages, even different religions are telling us, basically, the same thing?

It is possible, because it is has happened:

Here are excerpts from the book cover of each book:

Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can”

I am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world”

But going deeper beyond the book cover, both books are personal, incredible and poignant. Malala and Sheryl have both arrived, via diametrically opposite one may say, journeys to the same conclusion: encouraging us, women and men alike, but mostly women, to not be afraid, to find our own voice and to use it to change the world!

Without wanting to diminish in any way the two authors’ life experiences, trajectories and books, I would like to direct the spotlight on this convergence. If the message is so loud and clear from two notable and diametrically opposite women, what are we going to do about it? How will we operationalize this converging message? What are you and I doing about it, what is our community, our nation and the planet doing about it and how

The focus on gender is not new. It’s actually the third of eight Millennium Challenge Goals and it is the focus of many authors, researchers and professors and has been for several decades. Today, several initiatives and goals already exist and are being worked on by NGOs, Foundations, Multilateral organizations and the United Nations to empower women and girls through education, family planning, vocational training and self actualization. There is even TEDxWomen, which focuses solely on highlighting the women’s perspectives, accomplishments, fears, tragedies and triumphs globally. Renowned investor Warren Buffet shared with us earlier this year his thought along the lines of “we’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. Imagine what the 100% can do.”

While the focus on gender is not new, what is new is the convergence of the message from so many different sources and so loudly at the same time. The message is loud and clear largely through the media and the social media about the importance of empowering women and girls to be heard and contributing successfully at home, at school, in the family, at work, in society. A great term was coined a few years ago by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay for such a broad and wide empowerment effort: “Womenomics”.

This means that universities, foundations corporations and governments need to get even more serious about their “Womenomics” strategy: About focusing on girls and women though their strategic operations, communications plans, products and services. The imperative is for the C-suite executives, the policy makers, the politicians, the Boards of Directors, the community leaders, the not-for profit- leaders, the media, the teachers, the mothers and the fathers and all the purse holders to listen (and read) carefully as Malala and Sheryl and many others encourage us and thousands of women and girls in every corner of the globe to find and raise our voice.

So, what will you do and how, now that women and girls are increasingly no longer afraid?

Marina Theodotou is a Public Private Partnership Strategist, lecturer and blogger with global experience who inspires teams to carve new paths in womenomics, entrepreneurship and sustainability.



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