Tina Tchen’s uphill battle to exceed the expectations given to her as a woman began as a newborn when her father was still referring to her as a boy three days after she was born because he was in denial that she wasn’t the son he wished for. Despite these earlier transgressions, her father came around and imbued her with the same ambitions that he would have had for a son and allowed her to grow up with the sense that there wasn’t anything that she couldn’t do. This feeling of empowerment and support would follow her throughout the rest of her life including in her previous roles as Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff for Michelle Obama, and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. In order to continue to empower women with the confidence that they can do anything, Tchen now has taken on the role as the Special Advisor to EBW2020’s CEO and Founder, Ingrid Vanderveldt, and as developer of an upcoming EBW2020 Film Series.
“I’m thrilled because the mission of EBW has been something I have been working on for years.” Tchen cites that during her time in the White House “we really worked on all of the issues concerning women and girls and policies across the federal government and promoting women business owners, women entrepreneurship, and women leadership was a big part of that.” As the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, she took on initiatives like the United State of Women Summit, which focused on gender equality and brought together thousands of people to work to solve women’s issues including violence against women and equal pay. The United State of Women still lives on post-White House as a nonprofit, which is promoting grassroots efforts to fight issues faced by women and is one of the many ways Tchen is still fighting for gender equality outside of the White House.
Despite all of the gains and progress Tchen was able to make for women and girls during her time in the White House, the work to end gender inequity in the workplace is far some done. “It’s not sustainable for the US to compete in a global economy if we have pay practices that are behind the times.” While Tchen applauded several Scandinavian and Commonwealth countries for instituting pay leave policies and criteria for how many women should be on boards in leadership roles, she stresses that “there is no country that has done it right” because there is no country where 50% of leadership positions are held by women.
After spending her time in the White House advocating for policy changes, Tchen hopes to use her Mentorship Series with EBW2020 to focus on confidence. “Women often lose confidence, I’ve lost my confidence at times.” Not having the confidence to speak up at a meeting or having the confidence to take on a challenging project in the workplace can sometimes keep women from achieving their goals. Tchen states that this is “because the messages we get are often the opposite, that women aren’t encouraged to take those kind of risks. Our confidence isn’t built up.” Through her film series, Tchen aims to teach women to feel good about the choices they make and how to be confident both in and out of the workplace.
Tchen’s fight for gender equality has been a lifelong battle and through her new role at EBW2020 she hopes to help women break the glass ceiling and succeed as leaders and entrepreneurs. “The one thing that seems to have transcended time and geography and culture is gender inequity. It’s pernicious, it’s persistent, but you look across culture it’s the same issue that are keeping girls from school in Pakistan or in Sub-Saharan Africa are the same things that keep things that keep girls out of STEM education here in the United States or women out of the boardroom.”