By Claire Zillman
June 13, 2017

After a day packed with fascinating insight and inspirational messages, Ylva Johansson, Sweden’s minister of employment and integration, helped close out day one of the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London yesterday with an especially memorable set of remarks.

Johansson, speaking to the MPW dinner crowd, recalled a moment that occurred some 23 years ago. She was 30 years old with four-month-old twins when Swedish prime minister asked her to join his Cabinet. “That was a difficult question to answer,” she said. The prime minister, perhaps sensing her hesitancy, sweetened the deal: He told Johansson that he was aiming to form the first Cabinet in the world with gender parity and wanted Johansson to help him show it was possible to be a politician and a parent.

How could she say no?

“I said yes and became education minister with four-month-old twins,” she said.

Making that set-up work was, at times, as unglamorous as you may have guessed. On the first day of her appointment, Johansson—as Swedish tradition dictates—appeared before the king, only to leak breast milk through her shirt. As embarrassing as that moment was, standing before the king in her stained shirt helped her realize that she faced the same challenges as other working women, but was also fortunate enough to be in a position to address them.

“If you have the power,” she said, “you are obliged to use that power to pave the way for others.”

Read on for more highlights from the first day of the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit.



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