Renée Joslyn of CGI on the International Day of the Girl

One of the greatest blessings of my new role with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has been getting to know, working with, and learning from Renée Joslyn, the Director of Girls and Women Integration at CGI.

I thought it would be fitting for this year's International Day of the Girl to share some of Renée's insights and endeavors.

She reminds us that we must not underestimate the power of language, because how we frame challenges can powerfully shape our thinking going forward. It is also crucial that we don't stop with words but actually take action.


Renée, it is always such a pleasure talking with you. Can you please explain how incorporating a gender lens into CGI's many efforts - from developing Commitments to Action, to fostering cross-sector partnerships, to highlighting stories of impact to inspire new action - strengthens CGI's work?

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that gender equality is not only important for girls and women - it is critical to economies and societies. When girls and women are healthy and educated, families and communities prosper. When women participate in the economy, poverty decreases and Gross Domestic Product grows.

In addition, women's leadership strengthens both the public and private sectors by bringing diverse perspectives to the table and making institutions more representative and responsive.

What is a specific example of a Commitment to Action that was strengthened by adding an intentional focus on empowering girls and women?

There are so many great CGI commitments that highlight how investing in girls and women translates into better communities and stronger economies. One commitment that comes to mind focuses on collaboratively building a more effective channel to identify high-potential women entrepreneurs and develop them into strong corporate suppliers.

The partners have committed to track and measure at least $1.5 billion in combined total new money spent by commitment-makers on women-owned businesses based outside the U.S. from 2013 to 2018. The partners have also committed to implement supplier readiness and mentoring initiatives targeting at least 15,000 women-owned businesses based outside the U.S. over that same time period.

The corporate partners participating in this commitment have improved their inclusion processes and databases on women-owned businesses, providing their procurement teams with better insight into who they are currently working with and how they can increase spending on women-owned businesses in future business opportunities.

Can you talk about your background prior to CGI? How have your strategic philanthropy experiences informed your perspective on integrating investments in girls and women throughout all of CGI's activities?

Prior to joining CGI, I was fortunate to be part of the justice philanthropy community through my work at the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Tides Foundation. It was during my time at those organizations that I developed a commitment to ensuring those most affected by a problem are part of its solution. This informs my perspective at CGI immensely.

As I work with CGI members and develop opportunities for engagement, it is with the understanding that it has to add up to real results for people on the ground - this means deriving solutions from girls and women, rather than just asking them to implement solutions that outsiders bring to them.

What do you see as the two or three greatest challenges facing girls and women in the year ahead?

In my opinion there is only one challenge facing girls and women, and everything else is a byproduct. The challenge is equity.

The compartmentalizing of girls and women's "issues" without the larger frame of equity can be problematic. It takes our focus from the fact that we are talking about half of the population - and if they have challenges, it means the world has challenges.

I understand why compartmentalization is preferred. By breaking up gender inequity into bite-size pieces, it makes it easier to manage. Also, it works. We have many wins from the issue-based approach.

I just urge the consideration of a comprehensive agenda. This is what CGI is doing by having an integrated strategy for the problems impacting the lives of girls and women (which are all problems). We incorporate a gender lens throughout all of our portfolio areas, and we are working very hard to remove the "women's issues" language from our vocabulary.

Well said! Following up on that point, what are your biggest goals for 2016 and beyond?

My biggest goal is to shift the conversation beyond inclusion to one of equity for girls and women. This means tackling structural gender inequalities as well as cultural norms that prevent the full participation of girls and women around the world.

By elevating the conversation to equity it removes the idea of an "in" group and an "out" group - which is implied with inclusion language. Half of the population should not have to ask the other half for permission to live fully.