By Marian Salzman, Senior Vice President, Global Communications, Philip Morris International
While the 2022 passing of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright saddened me, I am glad to have had the opportunity to hear her speak—in the media, at public events, and even on Zoom calls at the height of the pandemic. Whatever the focus of her talk, I was invariably struck by how she managed to simultaneously convey a piercing intelligence, warmth, and humor.
Political analysts have used the term Albright Doctrine to describe the former Secretary’s “assertive multilateralism” and “tough-talking, semi-muscular interventionism.” But when I think of Albright, my mind first goes to another “doctrine,” her oft-quoted line shared in a 2006 keynote speech: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Given how many years I spent earlier in my career as the only—or one of very few—women “in the room,” that sentiment strikes a chord with me. And I think of it often in professional interactions.
Senior Vice President, Global Communications, Philip Morris International
Women at the vanguard of change
In several meaningful ways, the status of women has advanced since Albright was in office. In equally significant ways, it has regressed. Globally, according to the UN, women still have only three-quarters of the legal rights afforded men. In recent years, we’ve seen what some have termed a war on women, with attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the U.S., efforts to exclude girls from education in Afghanistan and other countries, and eruptions of gender-based violence pretty much everywhere. And if you don’t think incels are a serious problem, I’m guessing you don’t spend much time as a female on social media.
As I search for good news regarding the state of women in society, I often find it in a somewhat unexpected place: the world of sports. Professional athletics are increasingly at the cutting edge of culture and social change, and it’s been fascinating to watch that evolution.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team waged a highly public six-year fight to earn equal pay with male players. (We even saw the usual chant of “USA! USA!” replaced with “Equal pay! Equal pay!” when the women won the 2019 World Cup.) In 2022, U.S. Soccer agreed to a landmark USD 24 million settlement, ensuring women will now be paid on par with men. More than a decade earlier, Wimbledon had similarly acceded to pressure—spearheaded by Venus Williams—to confer equal prize money to male and female players.
And it’s not just female athletes championing progress. If you watched this year’s Super Bowl, you saw the first all-female team of pilots in the traditional pregame flyover. The National Football League (NFL) touted it as a celebration of 50 years of women aviators in the U.S. Navy, demonstrating that even a men’s league is keen to be seen as an ally of women.
“Every little helps”
With all the plusses and minuses regarding progress, where do women stand? I address this in my latest book, The New Megatrends: Seeing Clearly in the Age of Disruption. In a chapter titled “Is the Future Really Female?” I conclude that it is not, but, for the first time, neither is it male. And that will be due to all the women out there and their male and nonbinary allies—business leaders, athletes, policymakers, community activists, and more—who do whatever is in their power to support the women seeking to make a difference.
I read an article recently that showcased what can be achieved when women extend to one another their full support. The piece spotlighted the enduring friendship of two powerhouses, Mandy Ginsberg and Shar Dubey. Over two decades, the women have supported each other through business and personal challenges, with Ginsberg even handing over the CEO reins of Match Group to Dubey when the former needed to step back for health reasons. Now, the two are operating partners at global private equity firm Advent International. So often, when a woman reaches a certain level of seniority, she finds herself intentionally or subconsciously pitted against other women at that level. What a difference it makes when women instead have each other’s backs and work in unison to ensure all excel.
Women supporting women? That’s a doctrine I can get behind.
At PMI, we’ve just been recertified by the EQUAL-SALARY Foundation, confirming that our company continues to pay women and men equally for equal work wherever in the world we operate. We’ve also achieved our 2022 target of having at least 40 percent of managerial roles filled by women and set a new target: to have 35 percent of senior roles held by women by the end of 2025. These are steps in the right direction, but the journey continues.
As a U.K. supermarket chain so persistently reminds shoppers, “Every little helps.”