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November 26, 2021
| Womens Advocacy

Founder's Weekly 6th August 2021: Insulting Apologies & Billionaire Philanthropists

Cuomo offers a textbook example of how not to apologise, while Ardern’s grace shows - once again - how humility can heal.

Fellow remarkable women,

This week has been full of highs and lows. While around 15 million Australians are currently in lockdown, we’ve been so inspired by events at the Olympics and yet incredibly disappointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment “apology”.  

We were awed by the world of Olympics: from Dutch runner Sifan Hassan’s incredible recovery from a fall to win her 1500m heat, to Ash Moloney winning Bronze in the men's decathlon after Cedric Dubler sacrificed his own race to run alongside him and act as his pacer, yelling encouragement as he approached the finish line. The determination and team spirit we’re seeing is simply unmatched.

Speaking of unmatched, there have been some outstanding women showing what true leadership looks like - in both business and politics - including Jacinda Ardern’s apology to the Pacific people and Meghan Markle using her birthday as a platform to launch a mentoring initiative for women.  

Welcome to this week’s wrap, a hurricane of remarkable women and a governor who needs to take his last bow.

P.S. you might notice that this week’s wrap looks a little different. Rest assured, it’s the same goodness as you get every week but wrapped up in a nicer bow. We hope you like it!

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment “apology” is an insult to his  victims  

It’s been dismaying to read the report by New York Attorney General Letitia James regarding sexual harassment claims against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The contents of the report are particularly disturbing in light of Cuomo being a vocal advocate in the past for tougher laws and more support for sexual harassment victims. He has also publicly condemned other politicians who’ve faced similar scandals.

Cuomo, 63, was regarded as a heroic force in New York’s battle against COVID-19 until a separate investigation discovered he’d been involved in a cover-up of thousands of deaths in nursing homes.

The latest investigation, this time into his personal conduct, has found he "sexually harassed current and former New York state employees by engaging in unwelcome and non-consensual touching and making numerous offensive comments of a sexually suggestive nature that created a hostile work environment for women".

Many victims came forward with allegations, ranging from physical advances such as groping under a woman’s shirt and unwanted kisses to asking inappropriate personal questions about sex and dating.

“The verbal abuse, intimidation and living in constant fear were all horribly toxic — dehumanizing and traumatizing. And then he came on to me,” one victim, former aide Charlotte Bennett, revealed.

Cuomo’s office refuted her claims: “The Governor understands that Ms. Bennett took his comments and conversations with her to mean something else. He never intended to make Ms. Bennett feel uncomfortable or suggest anything untoward in what he thought was a paternalistic and mentoring relationship.”

Calls for Cuomo to resign, be impeached and to face a criminal investigation have been gathering pace since March – both from within his own Democratic party and from Republicans. Those voices are becoming even louder now, with President Joe Biden publicly agreeing the politician should step down.

However, in a video statement, Cuomo, 63, accused the Attorney General’s report of bias, denied he had acted inappropriately and made it clear he had no plans to resign.

To support his claim that he "never made inappropriate sexual advances," he displayed photos during a video statement of himself embracing and kissing celebrities, politicians and other New Yorkers to make the point that he was a demonstrative person.   

"This isn't an apology. It's a defense video," Nicole Bedera, an expert in sexual violence at the University of Michigan, told USA Today. "He's abusing his position of power to take control of the narrative and tell us that he's the one with the authority to define what sexual harassment is. And that's a problem."

While it’s horrifying that Cuomo spent years creating a toxic workplace environment for women, his victim-blaming reaction to the results of the investigation is a deplorable example of workplace gaslighting. It’s time for Cuomo to go - and sincerely apologise to his victims on his way out the door.

Jacinda Ardern’s heartfelt apology to Pacific people

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been commended for her empathetic formal apology to Pacific people who were subjected to traumatic police crackdowns in the 1970s.  

Pacific people were targeted, arrested and deported for overstaying their work visas. While they  comprised a third of visa overstayers, they represented 86% of prosecutions. British and American people, who also comprised a third of overstayers, were subjected to just 5% of prosecutions during the same period.

Hundreds of people joined together at Auckland Town Hall for the apology, with thousands more watching the broadcast in their homes across NZ and the Pacific.

The service began with a moving montage of sounds from the era, featuring police dogs, screams and singing. Ardern was then covered in an ifoga - a mat that symbolises ritual apology - by members of the Pacific Island community. They removed it a few minutes later and embraced her.

Ardern addressed attendees in four languages - te reo Māori, Tongan, Samoan and English - and many wept as she spoke.

“I stand before you as a representative of those who did you harm,” she said.

“While no amount of rain can remove the bitter salt from the ocean waters, I ask you to let our spiritual connectedness soften your pain, and allow forgiveness to flow on this day.”

She said the events remain vividly etched in the memory of those who were directly affected.

“It lives on in the disruption of trust and faith in authorities, and it lives on in the unresolved grievances of Pacific communities,” she noted.

"Today, I stand on behalf of the New Zealand government to offer a formal and unreserved apology to Pacific communities for the discriminatory implementation of the immigration laws of the 1970s.

"The government expresses its sorrow, remorse and regret that the dawn raids and random police checks occurred and that these actions were ever considered appropriate."

It took 48 years and six governments for the Pacific community to receive a formal apology, but Ardern has once again shown the power of empathy and humanity when leading a country.

Ardern said New Zealand was committed to eliminating racism and she hoped the apology had brought "some much-needed closure and healing for our Pacific communities".

We look forward to her government taking concrete actions to address the injustices. There has already been a commitment to educational scholarships for Pacific students in NZ and the region and new resources to teach the history of the Dawn Raids in schools.

However, it has yet to make it a compulsory part of the curriculum.

University of Auckland senior research fellow Melani Anae told Radio NZ: "All they were to us were gestures. They have to go much further than they do before we can expect real change. What we wanted is that it was compulsory for all New Zealanders to learn about it."

Billionaire philanthropists fight gender inequality with a $40 million investment 

It was inspiring to see billionaire philanthropists Melinda French Gates and MacKenzie Scott donate $US40 million this week to four organisations that promote gender equality.

The funding was provided by Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and was part of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which is aimed at expanding the power and influence of women in the United States by 2030. There were more than 550 proposals, with four initiatives each receiving US$10 million, and two others getting $4 million each.

The major recipients included Building Women’s Equality through Strengthening the Care Infrastructure, a cross-movement coalition of organizations that will transform antiquated attitudes around caregiving as unpaid work to establish a publicly supported care infrastructure; Ada Developers Academy is Changing the Face of Tech, and will expand their immersive training and internship program creating pathways for thousands of women and gender expansive people into impactful software development careers; Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate, which will accelerate young women’s trajectories through college and career entry; and The Future is Indigenous Womxn, a project to support and scale impactful businesses owned by Native women.

As Women’s Agenda noted this week, historically, less than 2% of philanthropic giving has gone to organisations specifically focused on advancing women and girls.

“The overwhelming response to the Challenge proves there’s no shortage of transformational ideas about how to accelerate progress for women and girls,” said French Gates. “The next step is to make sure those game-changing ideas get the support they need to become fully realized and improve people’s lives. We can break the patterns of history and advance gender equality, but we must commit to lifting up organizations, like the ones receiving awards today, that are ready to lift up women and girls."

“The awardees are strong teams working on the front lines and from within communities to help women build power in their lives and careers,” added Scott. “And best of all, they’re not alone. This challenge received so many bold ideas to activate new levers, remove old barriers, and push forward for gender equality. It’s exciting to see all the ways people are making a difference.”

Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change, which managed the Challenge said it had provided a compelling model, not only by encouraging larger grants invested over longer periods of time, but also by nurturing more collaboration among funders and problem solvers.

“As a result, the Challenge has identified dozens of bold ideas that need funding, including these outstanding award recipients,” she said.

This is an incredibly powerful step in the fight for gender equality where we’re able to see women in the forefront of influential society set the bar for much-needed and well-thought-out financial impact. 

Meghan Markle’s birthday gift to women

Meghan Markle celebrated her 40th birthday this week by launching a women’s mentoring initiative called 40x40.

In a video shared on her Archewell website, Markle joined with actress Melissa McCarthy to explain 40x40 and ask 40 of her friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to help mentor a woman who is mobilising back into the workforce.

“In reflecting on my 40th birthday and the many things I am grateful for, I’m struck that time is among our greatest and most essential gifts: time with our loved ones, time doing the things we love, time spent learning, laughing, growing, and the sacred time we have on this earth,” she said. “Amongst the most valuable gifts of time is also time spent in service to others knowing that it can contribute to incredible change. To that last point, and with my 40th lap around the sun in mind, it made me wonder: what would happen if we all committed 40 minutes to helping someone else or to mentoring someone in need? And then what would happen if we asked our friends to do the same?

“Over two million women in the US alone and tens of millions around the world have lost their jobs due to COVID. And I think if we all do it and all commit 40 minutes to some sort of active service, we can create a ripple effect.

“I believe mentorship is one way to help women regain confidence and rebuild their economic strength, and for my birthday, I have asked 40 friends, activists, athletes, artists, and world leaders to help kickoff a global effort by contributing 40 minutes of mentorship to support women re-entering the workforce. With this time, I hope they each help someone advance a professional life on her own terms, and, I hope that they inspire countless others to give 40 minutes of their time as well.

“If you are able, please join us and pledge 40 minutes today in service of others in the way that feels right to you. The time that you donate can contribute to a global wave of service and set in motion meaningful impact in our own communities, and across the world.”

Among those who have promised 40 minutes to support a woman in their community are singer Adele, poet Amanda Gorman, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and fashion designer Stella McCartney.

Princess Eugenie also later pledged to take part in an Instagram post, writing: “To celebrate dear Meghan's 40th birthday I'm contributing 40 minutes of mentorship to support women re-entering the workforce.”

It’s such a simple, but effective concept that we can all take part in! Even though we’re all not the Duchess of Sussex herself, we encourage you to join in this positive movement and lift our fellow women up during the challenges that COVID-19 continues to bring.

HubSpot appoints Yamini Rangan as new CEO

Congratulations to Yamini Rangan on being appointed Chief Executive Officer of software company HubSpot.

The co-founder and current CEO of HubSpot, Brian Halligan, said: “When we hired Yamini, we knew we were hiring an incredibly effective executive with a track record of high impact roles at enterprise companies to oversee our go-to-market motion.

“Since day one of her arrival, she’s made our organization better, and while I was out [Halligan was involved in a snowmobile accident earlier this year], she led the company with clarity, empathy, and exceptional results.

Rangan joined HubSpot in 2020 as Chief Customer Officer, bringing more than 25 years of experience in technology from companies including Dropbox, Workday, and SAP.

“It’s the honor of a lifetime to partner with our founders to write HubSpot’s next chapter,” she said. “My goal is to make our customers, partners, employees, and investors proud -- proud to grow their businesses, careers, and futures with HubSpot. Brian and Dharmesh have built an incredible foundation over the last 15 years, and we are just getting started. Together, we have the opportunity to help millions of organisations grow better and truly build a once-in-a-generation company. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of HubSpot’s journey.”

The company was founded in 2006 and was a pioneer of content marketing, using quality content, often in the form of company blogs, to drive website traffic and increase sales.

We love to see women triumph in tech and Rangan is phenomenal at what she does - HubSpot revealed this week that it saw strong operating momentum through June, with sales spiking 53%. The results have led Rangan and her team to lift their outlook for the rest of 2021, with sales now expected to reach $1.3 billion, up from the prior target of between $1.24 billion and $1.25 billion.

Until next week, stay safe and be kind to yourself,
Team Remarkable

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