Vital Voices' Alyse Nelson Says, "Don't Wait to Lead"

As president and CEO of Vital Voices, Alyse Nelson has more than a few tales of female empowerment to tell. Luckily for us, she just penned a book detailing them.
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Vital Voices’ Alyse Nelson Says, “Don’t Wait to Lead”

As president and CEO of Vital Voices, Alyse Nelson has more than a few tales of female empowerment to tell. Luckily for us, she just penned a book detailing them.

-Diana Denza

alyse nelson lisa ling

To call Alyse Nelson a female leader would be an understatement. As the globetrotting CEO and president of Vital Voices, she has helped provide thousands of women with the resources and skills necessary to change their communities. And Nelson had some big shoes to fill: this nonprofit was established in 1997 by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Now, after more than a decade and a half spent serving women, the gal at the helm of Vital Voices is sharing their empowering stories in her brand new book. Titled Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World and featuring a foreword by Clinton herself, you’ll find it difficult not to root for these ladies as they change our world. From Russia to Nigeria and beyond, these women are unapologetically fearless in their mission to uplift their communities. Are you ready for a major dose of inspiration?

Betty Confidential: In her address to the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women, Clinton famously proclaimed that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” How does this statement reflect what you’re trying to achieve with your new book?

Alyse Nelson: When Hillary Clinton made that speech almost two decades ago, she was using the language of human rights. Women, who make up about 51 percent of the world’s population, had skills that were not being tapped. You couldn’t open a paper and read about women leaders around the world. While Hillary’s rights based argument was groundbreaking, Vital Voices seeks to take this framework another step forward into economics. Economics and rights are interconnected. We are saying that women are untapped forces for economic growth and we bring something fresh to the table. Women’s style of leadership is collaborative and inclusive, and the world needs female leaders.

BC: How has Clinton inspired you on your quest with Vital Voices?

AN: Hillary Clinton really embodies this new style of leadership. I first heard her speak at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. I was 21 years old and she was inspiring. Hillary was able to use her voice and power as First Lady to empower other people. Human trafficking and micro-finance were issues that are now commonplace, but people didn’t really know much about them then. Hearing her speak made me realize that I have a voice. I may not be as powerful or have as big a platform, but I can help shine a spotlight on what women do. Passion and conviction are core to leading. Women leaders don’t just have dreams for themselves, but a vision for their communities.

BC: How has Vital Voices changed under your leadership as president and CEO?

AN: The biggest way we’ve grown is that we’ve tripled our size over the past three years. Our mission in investing in women and women’s leadership, however, has never changed. It has always been our top priority. The lessons we’ve learned from these women are a part of our DNA. As an organization, we have been shaped and melded by what these women have taught us.

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