How Emma Watson & The HeForShe Movement Have Changed The Gender Equality Conversation In 2 Years

Two years ago, Emma Watson became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. At the time, the British star was best known for playing Harry Potter's Hermione. Now, Watson has blossomed into a major activist for gender equality. On Tuesday night, Watson celebrated HeForShe's two-year anniversary — a solidarity movement for gender equality that she helped launch in September 2014. She was joined by notable guests, including The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and actor Edgar Ramírez. During the event, Watson told the crowd at the Museum of Modern Art, "I genuinely feel we are closer to a gender equal world." So, how exactly has #HeForShe sparked social change two years after it began? Let's take a closer look.

Since the UN launched this initiative, it has received 1.1 million commitments to its pledge from men and women across the world. The HeForShe pledge is simple: "I will take action against gender bias, discrimination and violence to bring the benefits of equality to us all." The site also boasts that 1.3 billion conversations have been started on social media about fighting for gender equality — and counting. There's a ticker on the page that continually updates.

But beyond those numbers, what's actually happening? HeForShe has an initiative called IMPACT 10x10x10, which enlisted 10 heads of states, 10 company leaders, and 10 university presidents committed to "fast-track gender equality in boardrooms, classrooms, and world capitals." Presidents from countries — ranging from Japan to Romania to Rwanda — serve as HeForShe's IMPACT Champions, making change for women a priority in their nations. For example, according to the HeForShe site, the President of Finland, Sauli Niinïsto is committed to decreasing violence against women, as well as promoting women's economic leadership.

Top executives from companies like Twitter, Unilever, Barclays, and Tupperware Brands are on board with the IMPACT 10x10x10 movement, as well. One of Twitter COO Adam Bain's goals is to "support programs to build the pipeline of women and increase gender diversity across the tech industry." Another example of what's being done is that the CEO of Vodafone, Vittorio Colao, has committed to bring mobile education to refugee girls in countries where Vodafone operates.

Meanwhile, there is notable progress amongst the 10 global universities, whose leaders serve as IMPACT Champions. These schools include the University of Oxford, Stony Brook University, and the University of Hong Kong. They've all pledged to achieve gender parity by the year 2020. A full university parity report is available on the HeForShe site, but here are some quick stats about the movement thus far:

  • 70 percent of IMPACT Champions committed to closing the gender gap in administration
  • 30 percent have committed to creating centers of excellence in gender equality
  • 40 percent have committed to ending violence on campus
[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/HeforShe/status/778401802156961792]

While that's what the IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative is doing, HeForShe encourages anyone to work towards gender equality, simply by visiting the site and taking the pledge. Beyond that, there are links at the bottom of HeForShe.org that allow you to choose a topic you care about — education, health, violence, identity, etc. — and find ways to take action.

Reflecting on all that HeForShe has done thus far, Watson told the crowd on Tuesday night,

"I am proud to have been part of lots of amazing things in my life, but there is nothing I am prouder of than being part of this."

Clearly, there's a reason why. While there is always more work to be done, every conversation and pledge does matter. It shows a growth in thinking and step in the right direction. More than just a hashtag, HeForShe has become a powerful movement in the past two years and will only continue to grow.

Additional Reporting by Martha Sorren

Images: Courtesy of HeForShe

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