Valerie Jarrett speaks onstage during the 4th Annual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit at Hearst Tower on May 9, 2017 in New York City.
Bryan Bedder—Getty Images for Town & Country
By Valerie Jarrett
March 7, 2018

Our country will only achieve gender equality if we, its citizens, insist that it happens. Today, on International Women’s Day, my optimism is fueled by the energy, tenacity, strength, and courage exhibited by the women and girls I have met who are demanding a better, fairer, more equal world.

I am heartened by the diverse range of people making a difference in communities all around the globe, each tackling important issues in their own way. I cheer on the brave high school students who are advocating for gun safety. I support organizations that are encouraging and helping women to stand up and run for office. I see growing ranks of women leaders working together to support each other, and I applaud companies who are recognizing that lifting up women helps their bottom line.

The extraordinary potential of women and girls as advocates is evident all around us, and today reminds us that we are not alone in the fight for equality. Women everywhere stand shoulder to shoulder as we shape our world. Together and in our own ways, we can all speak our truth, make an impassioned case for what we believe, and push for continued progress towards equality. Last year, I met a woman who has started attending city council meetings in her city for the first time to learn about how decisions affecting her life and community are being made. And I met countless women who decided to throw their hat in the ring and run for office themselves, so that they could improve their communities for their families and neighbors.

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We still have a long way to go, which is why I’m proud to be a part of the United State of Women. In 2016, the President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls helped launch the United State of Women at the first United State of Women Summit in 2016. We brought together more than 5,000 women, girls, and allies in Washington, D.C. – and countless more online – to share solutions to the problems we still face. I am proud to have served in the Obama Administration because President Obama prioritized the important goal of achieving gender equality for women and girls around the world.

But the fight continues. And the United State of Women has grown into a national organization that unites and empowers all women to turn their passion into action. We break down intersectional barriers that prevent women from achieving equality, and we provide the tools, access, and connections they need in their communities and nationwide.

We at the United State of Women have spent the last year traveling across the country to cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, San Francisco and Los Angeles, working with local partners to galvanize thousands of women to lead change in their own communities. In every city we visited, we saw energy and passion—and the desire to further organize.

That’s why we’re coming together to support these women again. On May 5 and 6, we’re hosting a second national Summit in Los Angeles—a diverse city with a long history of activism and culture of creativity. The United State of Women Summit will celebrate our great strides toward equality while addressing the challenges that remain. We’re bringing together experts, advocates, grassroots organizers, and business leaders on issues that affect women and girls. We’ll amplify organizations and individuals creating solutions, share best practices, and we will equip them with the tools and resources they need to continue pushing for progress. The lived experiences of women and girls matter, and that’s why we’re excited to convene women from communities across the country, regardless of political affiliation or background, to come together to take action.

Over the last year, women have risen to the forefront of activism and have demanded more from our government, our employers, and our communities. We have been advocating for a range of goals, from fair workplaces to equal pay and reproductive health care. We won’t stop until we achieve the treatment we deserve.

Every citizen can be involved in finding solutions to gender inequity—that’s what civic engagement is all about. Please join us to ensure this moment becomes a movement.

Valerie Jarrett served as the senior advisor and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs in the Obama administration. She currently sits on the boards of education technology company 2U, ride-hailing company Lyft, and Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based asset manager.

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