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Let’s Talk About Getting to 50/50

April 1, 2017By Tiffany Shlain

We Marched. We Went on Strike. Now Let’s Figure Out How To Get to 50/50.

Recently, it’s been easy to feel there are forces conspiring to drag the women’s movement backwards. In moments like these, backwards is a good place to look, to gain some perspective. We need to see where we really are on the arc of history, feel the momentum of that past, and then swiftly turn our gaze to the future, so we never stop envisioning the world we want to see and what it’s going to take to get there. The world I want to see is 50/50: a more gender-balanced world. And not just in politics and board rooms, truly shifting the gender balance to be better for everyone.

I know I felt the full force of women’s strength, first as I stood with my husband and two daughters, crammed tightly at the Women’s March on Washington on Jan 21, 2017, and again yesterday for International Women’s Day and a Day Without Women. The power of women is mighty and more prevalent than we even realize.

Even though I thought I knew this, a couple years ago I learned a new fact that completely blew my mind.

I was speaking at an event where I met a woman named Laura Liswood. When I asked what she does, she told me she convenes past and present elected women Presidents and Prime Ministers for the United Nations, and has been doing so for 20 years. I was fascinated.

I asked her how many female heads of state there had been, back when she began her gatherings 20 years ago. “Fifteen.” I was shocked. “Well, how many are there now?” I thought, maybe 20. “Oh, around 50.”


How did I not know that there have been around 50 elected women Presidents and Prime Ministers? And that made me think: we have been telling a story of scarcity for so long, maybe it’s time we tell a new story about abundance.

Not knowing something so important about women and power also made me think: What else didn't I know?

Let me start with the stark reality that despite the progress women have made over the past 100 years, we still have a long way to go. For example, even though women make up half of the world’s population in 2017:

  • For every $1 men earn in the U.S., women earn 77 cents. Women of color, even less.
  • Of 870 Nobel Prize winners, 48 have been women. That’s 5%.
  • Of 116 current elected heads of state, 21 are women. That’s 18%.
  • In the past 90 years, only 5 women have been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award. Only one has won.

That’s the bad news. The good news:

  • Women now outnumber men in college, and more women graduate.
  • 20 years ago, there were zero women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Now there are 26.
  • In 1970, less than ten percent of medical students were female. Now, it’s half. 50/50.
  • 18 percent of American cities are headed by female mayors.
  • And that astounding total of 50 heads of state I couldn’t believe just last year? It’s now grown to 62. Unfortunately, not in our own country.

These and other eye-opening statistics set me off on a journey to examine where we are today on the greater arc of history of women and power. It also focused me on what it’s going to take to get to a 50/50 world.

I ended up making a 20 minute film called 50/50: Rethinking the Past, Present & Future of Women + PowerThe film premiered two weeks before the election, simultaneously on Refinery29 as part of their Shatterbox Anthology and live at TEDWomen. The excitement at that premiere was palpable. We were at the cusp of a new era of women leadership, feeling the energy and potential of a Hillary Clinton win.

Then….devastation. I vacillated between dread and the need to do something. Fortunately, the desire for action won out. It was at that moment, the day after the election, that my team and I decided to create a global conversation about what it was going to take to get to 50/50. It’s called 50/50 Day and it’s set for May 10. We based our plans on a global initiative we do called Character Day, which had over 93,000 screenings last year in 125 countries and all 50 states talking about character. We knew we had to take this model and take on the subject of gender equality.

How it works is that we provide the 20-minute film 50/50 to you, discussion materials and a global Google Q & A with thought leaders around the world. You go to your company, CEO, HR department, library, or school and say, I would like to host a one-hour screening and discussion about gender equality on May 10th. You can do it during lunch or at the end of the day. Whatever works for you.

50/50 Day Trailer

So are you in? Will you be the ambassador that makes it happen? Signing up takes 2 minutes and everything is free.


We already have nearly 1,000 screenings signed up with amazing partners including Refinery29, British Airways who will be showing 50/50 on all of their planes, Global Fund for Women and many others. There were be several big public events happening that day including at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC, at the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City who will have an art show called 50/50 and one in Minneapolis at the Parkway theater- more are being added weekly.

We have a fight ahead of us. We have to keep on pushing for equal representation in history, in government, in compensation, in the home, in the office, in the school, on the field, in film, and in all other aspects of society. I truly believe that striving for 50/50 equality is the right vision to help us get there. 

You can Sign up for 50-50 Day and watch the 20 min film 50/50 here.