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Cracking the Glass Ceiling and Raising the Roof
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Cracking the Glass Ceiling and Raising the Roof

Innovations Case Narrative:
Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence

My entire career has been about women and girls: inspiring them, making them more visible, and enhancing their economic opportunities. In 1992, I created Take our Daughters to Work Day (TDWD); in 1999, I launched Count Me in for Women’s Economic Independence (CMI), to reach women and girls with messages and programs that promote economic empowerment. CMI is the leading national not-for-profit provider of resources, business education, and community support for women entrepreneurs seeking to grow micro-businesses into million-dollar enterprises.

To me, these efforts are a natural progression in the women’s movement. Once we won human and legal rights for ourselves, financial independence was the logical next step. This is because girls learn everything from watching women, including watching them be active, successful players in the economy. These decades of momentous change in women’s economic lives have been exhilarating. Quite simply, women and girls are now critical players in the global economy; as a 2009 report from Boston Consulting notes, the $20 trillion of consumer spending currently controlled by females could reach $28 trillion over the next five years.1 The economy relies on women’s ability to make and spend money.

And that is why women must do everything in our power to show girls by example how to make, save, give, and invest money. The issue is no longer cracking the proverbial glass ceiling; we’ve done that mightily. Now we must raise the roof altogether and expand the pie to make room for all the innovation and creativity that women and girls can bring to the global marketplace. The four women I profile here are examples of how we do that, and their stories embody several crucial themes: growing one’s self-esteem after being abused, drawing on military experience to succeed in business, and the importance to women of role models, mutual support, inspiration, publicity, and financial guidance. [End Page 89]

Case Study 1: C. J. Scarlet

C.J. recently received a $20, 000 scholarship to attend Singularity University, co-founded by Peter H. Diamandis, the Intel entrepreneur and chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation. Singularity’s mission is to figure out how to use technology to make positive change. That is exactly what Scarlet is doing with her tech company, 10 for Humanity, which aims to reduce acts of violence worldwide by 10 percent in 10 years. She will do that.

Scarlet, 52, a former photojournalist with the U.S. Marines, spent five years in the military and was sexually assaulted by her recruiter. For nearly 20 years, she has been a volunteer and professional advocate for victims of violence, and she has earned an interdisciplinary master’s degree in human violence.

In January 2013, she happened upon Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. As she read the book, she began to wonder how to use technology to prevent violence. Then she remembered that she had actually done that in 1997, as the Director of Victims’ Issues at the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. She initiated and co-chaired the implementation of SAVAN, the nation’s first statewide automated victim notification system, which notifies crime victims before their perpetrators are released from custody. SAVAN was selected as the national model by the U.S. Department of Justice, won several awards, and is still in use today.

Still, to her frustration, “I was always addressing violence after it occurred, when what I really want to do is to keep it from happening at all.” She realized that to make that change happen, “someone has to start the process.” She decided that she should be that person.

Scarlet knows what it’s like to dust herself off and roll up her sleeves. In 2002, doctors told her that her lupus and scleroderma had caused pulmonary hypertension and would soon kill her. Devastated, she sought counsel from a Tibetan lama. He told her to stop feeling sorry for herself and start thinking about other people’s happiness.

So she...