Women and Power: Live Updates From the New Rules Summit


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The New Rules Summit, an annual New York Times conference, started Wednesday night in Brooklyn and continues on Thursday.CreditSean Smith for The New York Times

Despite the rise of the #MeToo movement and gains by women in many aspects of society, women’s progress in many workplaces appears to have stalled.

Dozens of the most powerful and successful leaders across business, politics and culture are gathered at the New Rules Summit, an annual New York Times conference, which kicks off in full this morning in Brooklyn. They will explore some of the challenges faced by women in the workplace and talk about bringing about change.

Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest names you can expect to hear from over the course of the day.

  • Anita Hill: Nearly three decades after Ms. Hill testified against Clarence Thomas, she is once again at the center of the conversation around sexual harassment and gender equality. She will reflect on the legacy of that watershed moment and give her assessment of progress.

  • Susan Zirinsky: Early this year, Ms. Zirinsky became the first woman to lead CBS News, as the division’s president. She took over a group rocked by a string of executive changes and unsavory revelations about the network’s broader corporate culture.

  • Valerie Jarrett and Sally Yates: Ms. Jarrett, who was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, and Ms. Yates, a former United States deputy attorney general, will talk about the critical role of women in politics today.

  • Adam Grant: The organizational psychologist from the Wharton School will address the gender gap, with girls taught to be likable, perfect and pleasing while boys are encouraged to be strong, confident and brave. What psychological barriers does this messaging create, and how can women overcome them and realize their full potential?

The conference kicked off on Wednesday night with a panel with Fatima Goss Graves and Mira Sorvino, who spoke about the world after #MeToo; a panel with Padma Lakshmi, best known as the author, host and executive producer of “Top Chef,” who is also a passionate voice for women and a women’s health advocate; and a conversation with Marin Alsop, the first woman to lead a major orchestra in the United States.

Fatima Goss Graves, center, spoke of some of the victories since #MeToo.CreditSean Smith for The New York Times

Since #MeToo went viral a year and a half ago, victories have spanned the cultural and the concrete, and “that’s exciting,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center and a founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

“Over 10 states have passed new laws in different parts of the country,” since #MeToo, Ms. Gross Graves said, particularly laws that get at some of the longstanding practices that allow harassment and abuse to thrive, including how companies navigate nondisclosure agreements.

Further, she said, she has seen workers pull together to raise awareness of the harassment they have faced.

“McDonald’s workers went out with their charges of harassment across the country,” Ms. Gross Graves said of the protests that took place in September. “Women across the country in all these sectors aligned themselves with McDonald’s workers.”

The actress Mira Sorvino, who was one of the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, was also on the panel. She spoke about the cultural and social significance of Mr. Weinstein’s coming trial, which is expected to take place this fall.

The worst-case scenario, Ms. Sorvino said, would be if “this trial fails to achieve justice to the victims.” That would be “a dark day for all of us who suffered at his hands,” she said, but would nonetheless “galvanize people further.” Maya Salam

Mira Sorvino at the New Rules Summit in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.CreditSean Smith for The New York Times

In late May, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and the labor group Fight for $15 announced the filing of 23 new complaints against McDonald’s. They included accusations of gender-based discrimination, repeated sexual harassment and punishment for speaking out.

Padma Lakshmi had planned to go to Chicago to take part in a demonstration outside McDonald’s headquarters in response to those filings, she said on her panel. Before she departed, she received a letter from the McDonald’s chief executive, Steve Easterbrook.

Ms. Lakshmi, the “Top Chef” host and executive producer, said she was “slightly intimidated” by the letter. But she was also exasperated.

“I don’t know why a C.E.O. was writing to me,” she said. “He should be writing and speaking directly to these women and hearing their stories.”

She flew to Chicago, joining a crowd of McDonald’s employees and demonstrators outside the Hamburger University.

“If McDonald’s can dictate the specific type of pickle that can be used by their franchises in their burgers,” she said, why can’t they dictate and enforce — with penalties — a comprehensive set of guidelines that ensures everyone behind their counters serving those very burgers has a safe and respectful environment?”

“He still has not met with these women,” Ms. Lakshmi said of Mr. Easterbrook, around three weeks after the demonstration in Chicago. — Talya Minsberg

“I’m the first woman to do a lot of things, and I’m really proud, but I also think it’s pathetic,” said Marin Alsop, the first woman to lead a major American orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Her point: Such ground should have been broken long before.

“The thing about trying to work as a women 30 to 35 years ago is there were no opportunities,” said Ms. Alsop, who will soon take over the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

But she was not deterred in those early days, and instead got her friends together and created her own orchestra.

Ms. Alsop also said she had been emboldened by the recent conversation around gender equality to take on the misogyny in her industry.

“The great thing about the last two years is I feel empowered to speak out even further,” she said. “Now I feel like I have company, and that there’s a safety net.” — Maya Salam


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