Tina Brown is a legend. She is the trailblazing former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, author of the best-selling biography The Diana Chronicles, co-founder of digital game-changer The Daily Beast, and founder/CEO of Tina Brown Live Media, which produces annual Women in the World summits around the globe. She’s recognized in the Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame, and was awarded the honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen for her services to journalism. She’s the kind of person who has enough interesting stories to fill a memoir. (And she’s done that too.)
But when I get Tina Brown on the phone, she isn’t interested in talking about herself. She doesn’t casually attach Princess Diana anecdotes onto her answers, or name-drop her friends—and former Women in the World summit speakers—Meryl Streep and Hillary Clinton into the conversation. She doesn’t even seem that interested in telling me about the A-List lineup at her upcoming Women in the World Canada summit, which lands at Toronto’s Koerner Hall on September 10th. (And this really is something she holds bragging right over: when the summit launched in Toronto last year, Justin Trudeau and Angelina Jolie were the headlining speakers. At this year’s event, Amber Tamblyn, Steve McQueen, Rosamund Pike, Katie Couric and Mira Sorvino are all listed to participate.)
But, instead of talking about Hollywood heavyweights—though she says the spotlight on their voices has been key in giving the movement momentum—Brown lends her voice to the stories of women whose names you haven’t seen in headlines. She tells me, in great detail, about Dr. Fozia Alvi, a Calgary woman who recently returned from working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and about Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an activist filmmaker who’s taking on the patriarchy in Pakistan. “The real core of Women in the World,” Brown insists, “is these kind of extraordinary, on-the-ground, remarkable women who have decided to step up and do something for their communities.”
And this has been the core of the summit from the start. When Brown founded Women in the World a decade ago, she says that already she “could see that, especially overseas, there was a global women’s movement beginning. And the women’s voices that we weren’t hearing were some of the most interesting, powerful and energizing of any voices that [she’d] heard in the public space.” Her idea was to take these obscured champions of gender inequality—women who are doctors, teachers and aid workers—and to put them on a platform with a microphone. “And it took off immediately,” Brown says.
Ten years later, and the world has changed a lot for woman—with no year seeing as much change as this past one. “We’ve seen an incredibly shocking year with the #MeToo movement,” Brown says when I ask how the conversations at Women in the World have shifted in 2018, “I think at this point it’s really about figuring out how we bring men on board to buy into the empowerment of women. We don’t want women to be considered a cause; because women are an opportunity, not a cause. And I think that when men feel that women are partners and opportunities for success—as well as, you know, a human concern—we’re going to see a lot more movement.”
Which leads right into one of the other conversations happening at next week’s Toronto summit. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, will take to the stage to speak to the shocking economic impact of sexual harassment in the workplace. In “Ending Harassment Helps #TheEconomyToo,” an blog post Lagarde published this past International Women’s Day, she shared IMF research that states providing legal protection against sexual harassment can transform societies and economies. “The goal is not only to prove that women can have a voice,” Brown says, “but to make men realize that there’s a very high cost to empowering women.”
Who exactly is Tina Brown hoping to prove this to when looks into the audience at Koerner Hall on September 10th? “Committed citizens who want to hear stories about this movement and create action.” If that’s you, here’s the link you need.