Global Thought Leaders: Sheryl WuDunn Holds Up Half the Sky


Photo of Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof
Photo of Sheryl WuDunn


The DailyWorth Global Thought Leader series features exclusive interviews with remarkable entrepreneurs and activists who are striving to improve women’s lives around the world.

When she co-authored “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” Sheryl WuDunn and her husband Nicholas Kristof weren’t trying to start a movement.

“We had long been aware of the horrible circumstances many women were in,” says WuDunn, a former reporter, now investment advisor. “The challenge was how to make sense of it all—if we did write a book, and what we were going to argue.”

Rather than lamenting top human rights issues involving women—sex trafficking, gender-based violence, maternal mortality—“Half the Sky” instead builds a powerful case for the idea that ending the abuse of women will contribute to economic growth, health and stability worldwide.

Melinda Gates called the book “a brutal awakening and unmistakable call to action.” And indeed, “Half the Sky” has morphed into a movement that is sparking a sort of DIY activism. doesn’t collect or distribute funds, WuDunn emphasizes. Its mission is to spark awareness and push people to action by having them spread the word through social channels and join existing organizations that are working to better women’s lives.

Call it practical philanthropy: You don’t need to donate thousands or quit your day job (both WuDunn and Kristof maintain full-time careers and a family). “But we can gather the facts, we can spread the message,” she says.

And spread it they have—with a new documentary coming out next year, and accolades for WuDunn, who Newsweek named one of “150 Women Who Will Shake the World” earlier this year. It’s a vivid reminder that special credentials are not required to change the world.

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