Young women aren’t future women leaders. They are women leaders. Period.

When I first published this blog in 2018, my views were informed by my participation in many events focused on young women and leadership across diverse issues: women’s economic participation, anti-bullying, and public leadership.

Three years later, it is still critical to support and lift up young women. The young women involved in these events — business students at The Wharton School, students at American University School of Public Affairs, and Girls Scouts from across the Washington, DC area — are challenging us all to do better.

We often…


Late last week, Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek announced he would step down, the organization’s latest departure in the wake of an investigation into sexual harassment and workplace misconduct. His departure came one week after the resignation of Nature Conservancy President Brian McPeek amid swirling complaints about workplace culture.

Workplace sexual harassment and assault are wrong. And, they are costly — both to those who experience it and to employers. Between 25 and 80 percent of women in the U.S. will experience workplace sexual harassment in her lifetime. …


Afghan women are leaders. They are central to building strong Afghan institutions and legal frameworks and creating opportunity for all Afghans. The current U.S. peace envoy, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, would be well served to call on them, and their expertise, as he seeks an elusive peace in Afghanistan.

As part of any dialogue and debate about the future of Afghanistan, it is critical that the Afghan government, and Afghan citizens, be genuinely engaged in the process. This is not a process that should be reserved for the United States, some Afghan politicians, and the Taliban.

Broadly speaking, engaging Afghans means…


March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day. During March, we mark the global progress women and girls have made, evaluate challenges and barriers to that progress, and re-dedicate ourselves to a world where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed and to contribute. We celebrate the multitude of achievements of those who have come before us, both famous and not so, and who have had an impact on our world. …


Women’s voices and viewpoints must be part of every conversation. This is true at work, at home, at school, in policy arenas, at peace tables, on panel discussions, and in the corporate boardroom. We must also document the stories of women’s lives and accomplishments. History more often than not reflects men’s stories. We often forget — and then constantly rediscover — the women who have come before us. These are women like Ida B. Wells, Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Rosa Parks, Indira Gandhi, Jeannette Rankin, Gabriela Mistral, and Arabella Mansfield. …


Participants in front of Meridian International Center

52 women (and one man) from 53 countries. 11 cities. 21 days.

Is this a formula for a reality show?

It’s not. It’s a snapshot of the itinerary for a recent U.S. State Department International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), organized by Meridian International Center, to promote women and entrepreneurship. These 53 leaders were from Algeria to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between.

The participants were entrepreneurs, directors of business accelerators and non-governmental organizations supporting women in business, corporate executives, government officials, and academics. …


Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. While voting is a right, for many Americans, exercising their right to vote is challenging and difficult. We need to reframe our approach to voting and structure our electoral systems to make voting easier. As newly elected policy-makers take office, this is a critical issue to address.

We have inconsistent systems that are under-resourced and given scant attention until election years. These systemic issues deter people from voting. In the U.S., we don’t register citizens automatically when they turn 18. Our voter registration lists are clunky and often wrong. Some jurisdictions require a…


Young women aren’t future women leaders. They are women leaders. Period.

Last month, I participated in two events that drove home that point. First, I spoke at the kick-off event for Gender Balance Consulting, a student-led organization at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School founded to increase its clients’ commitment to gender equality. Second, I moderated a panel on pathways to leadership for young women, cosponsored by the Girls Scouts of the Nation’s Capital, American University’s School of Public Affairs, and my firm, Smash Strategies.

The young women involved in these events are engaged across diverse issues: women’s economic participation…


About the Authors: Stephenie Foster is a Co-Founder and Partner at Smash Strategies, Yeva Avakyan is Associate Vice President, Gender Equality at Save the Children, and Kristin Kim Bart is Senior Director, Gender Equality, International Rescue Committee. All three are recognized experts in this field.

We recently participated on a panel marking the launch of Save the Children’s Gender Equality Hub. The Hub is a cross-functional team that has been established to oversee the development and implementation of Save the Children’s Gender Equality Strategy through collaborative, cross divisional efforts.

Each of us brought unique expertise on how to promote gender…


Businesses ignore women — and a focus on gender — at their peril. Everyone from startup founders to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies needs to promote women’s leadership, create safe and fair workplaces, support and engage women in the community, and ensure that their products and services reflect the differential experiences, and needs, of women and men.

When women’s participation in the labor force increases, GDP rises. When women start businesses, communities flourish. When companies have more gender diversity at the top, they are 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profits.

Startups founded by women are more profitable. According…

Stephenie Foster

Partner, Smash Strategies. Recovering diplomat. Work in the US and globally so that women & girls have every opportunity.

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