Highlights from the Bay Area Women’s Summit

On June 21, 2016, more than 1,000 attendees gathered at the Bay Area Women’s Summit to create meaningful solutions to some of the most critical challenges faced by women in the region. In partnership with the Women’s Foundation of California, San Francisco and Oakland Mayors, Edwin M. Lee and Libby Schaff, welcomed local and national leaders, including Valerie JarrettAnne-Marie SlaughterAngela Glover BlackwellChris JansingAi-Jen Poo, and U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios to discuss women’s economic empowerment, equity, and opportunity.


Foundation Center West joined the conversation to explore topics such as workplace policies and benefits, economic empowerment, implicit bias, education, child care, and organizations that are changing our world for the better.  

Here are 7 Key Themes that Emerged from the Dialogue:

1. Care & Competition Must Be Valued Equally.

In her Keynote Address, Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO of New America, began the conversation by sharing her vision for true equality for women and men, work, and family. She referenced the complicated backlash from both women and men regarding her now infamous article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” (The Atlantic 2012). What emerged was the need to value care of family (both paid and unpaid) as equal to competition and career advancement. Small strides have been made from social justice organizations, policies, and even employers, but there is a long way to go. Gender is inextricably linked to these discussions because care is not always valued or seen. 

2. An Intersectional Approach Matters.

In highlighting gender equity, a common theme echoed throughout the summit: We cannot look at gender in a vacuum. Gender is connected to race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity & expression, immigration status, shared histories, oppression, and many other identities. Without an intersectional approach, true change is impossible.

3. Cross Sector Really Does Mean “Cross Sector.”  


Nonprofits, Government, Corporations, Individuals, Social Entrepreneurs, and the Philanthropic Community all need to be at the table. The Bay Area Women’s Summit  was a convening space that brought all these groups together. It was clear that a siloed sector approach does not work. Cross sector analysis forces communities to think, learn, and challenge each other in the spirit of growth. In fact, it was this cross sector approach that helped San Francisco pass the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance and become the first U.S. city to require six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents.

4. Workplace Equity Must Include a Diversity & Inclusion Lens.

Each workplace has its unique culture, and policies need to address gender equity with diversity and inclusion in mind. A policy of equity does not mean than the equity is practiced. For instance, what are the maternity/paternity leave policies? Is there a space and policy for breastfeeding parents? How does fair pair and compensation work at each level? Does your company have a flexible work schedule, and do your employees get to choose their schedules? Who gets to speak? Which voice is heard? Is representation tokenized or truly embraced as part of the workplace culture? These are all questions each work culture can address.

5. Leadership and Visibility Are Recognized at Every Level Not Just at the Top. 


Often times, equity and conversations about equity in work happen only within the most privileged circles. Recognizing leadership at every level from the most marginalized and disenfranchised to the most privileged helps move everyone forward. Saru Jayaraman, Director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, and Ai-Jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, are making sure the most marginalized voices are heard and have visibility.

6. Embrace Entrepreneurship & Expand Opportunities.

Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board for Kiva shared the powerful work happening in peer to peer lending and entrepreneurship around the world. Supporting one dream, one idea has the power to transform entire communities. This is especially true of support for women entrepreneurs, who transform both their own lives and also the lives of their families.

7. Mentor Your Future.  

Amy Lynch (Comcast), Leah Busque (TaskRabbit), and Marne Levine (Instagram) discussed their unique paths to success and the mentors that helped along the way. Mentorship comes in many forms from leaders in the field pulling others up to individuals seeking out mentorship. Creating true gender equity does involve finding your own mentors and not waiting to be asked about an opportunity. It is also about recognizing positions of power and privilege and using it to change the field and elevate others. Supporting dreams and growth begins with mentorship and building communities of practice together.