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Sunday, February 1

Women are from Venus

Quite astonishing, and in lots of ways refreshing, report from Davos by Arianna Huffington:

My night started with a really special all-women's dinner on top of the Davos mountain, hosted by Wendi Murdoch and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, to raise awareness, pledges, and support for improving maternal health and infant mortality around the world.

I walked to take the funicular up to the mountain with Baroness Shriti Vadera, the Business Minister in Gordon Brown's government. I noticed that one of her fingers was bandaged, and asked her what had happened. "I cut it," she said, "and then did nothing about it for ten days, until it got really bad."

"Wasn't it hurting?"

"In what I'm doing," she replied, "I'm dealing with so much pain every day that I didn't notice mine." Maybe because we were going to an all-women's dinner, I wondered if that was a comment that would only be made by a woman business minister! In fact, the whole evening had a confessional air, mixing the personal and the political -- including the CEO of Pepsi tossing her prepared remarks and talking about how haunted she has been by the image she had seen of a hungry child rummaging for food. And that came after she had confessed that after years of always wearing the same suit in different fabrics and colors, she got out of her comfort zone for the first time as she was dressing for the dinner and wore something completely different that she had bought years ago and had left languishing in her closet. To much appreciative applause, she did a turn to show us her sleek black-and-white dress and coat. Then she went on to tell us what Pepsi is doing to alleviate hunger.

Sarah Brown, Britain's first lady, who spoke, called it the "new face of feminism," while Melinda Gates spoke passionately about the fact that "at the end of the day, what matters is not how much money I gave, or how much I cared but what kind of impact I had... how many lives did I lift up?"

The evening, which began on a personal note from Wendi Murdoch, recounting how her grandmother had died while giving birth to her mother, ended on another personal note when Sarah Brown turned to Cheri Blair and, from the podium, lauded the work and example set by the woman she succeeded at Downing Street. There was a hush in the room, as many of those present were aware of how the two women had barely been on speaking terms. So altogether a great evening, demonstrating both the need to take action to help women around the world and the value of setting aside grudges closer to home.
"Institutional sexism"? Whassat?


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