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Cracking the Glass Ceiling and Raising the Roof
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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. 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.

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Case Study 1: C. J. Scarlet

Mom Brings Home the Bacon

My first foray into the world of women’s financial independence came in 1992, when the Ms. Foundation for Women asked me to help create a program to boost girls’ self-esteem. I had been working in politics, doing marketing and public relations for presidential campaigns and social issues. A year earlier, around the 10th year of the AIDS epidemic, I’d done a program, “Ten Days Ten Deeds,” that had generated global media attention. The foundation had seen “Ten Days Ten Deeds” and wondered: how can we draw attention to girls in a new way that will bolster their self-esteem?

I met with representatives of the foundation, and they give me a carton of research to read. It was so depressing! There we were, 25 years into the women’s movement, and girls were still feeling deflated and suicidal.

I very much wanted girls to be seen in places other than where you’d expect them: at school, at home, at the mall. At the time, people didn’t associate girls with the workplace, but I knew that kids like to see where their parents go every day. My father was a lawyer and leader in the state legislature in New Jersey, and I loved going to work with him. I witnessed him helping people and changing things through hard work and force of personality. My mother was a painter and worked at home. Both of my parents were happiest when they were working.

I envisioned the New York subway filled with girls at rush hour, so adults would see the future workforce right next to them. I went back to the foundation with a five-page proposal called “Take Your Daughter to Work.” They liked it, but were afraid that girls would mostly go into offices and see women in clerical roles—where many were. I said, “If that’s true, they need to see that so they can make different decisions about their future in the workforce.”

Early in my relationship with the Ms. Foundation, Gloria Steinem, who was also the editor of Ms. magazine, a leader and a role model for so...

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