Join us at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College as we welcome Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli for a discussion of their new book Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose. Drawing on the authors’ varied careers in public service, global diplomacy and corporate America, and based on interviews with more than seventy trailblazing women, including Hillary Clinton, Geena Davis and Christine Lagarde, Fast Forward shows how women can consolidate their growing economic power and combine it with purpose to create success and meaning in their lives while building a better world. Joining the conversation will be fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, who is featured in the book, and, as moderator, Norah O’Donnell, co-anchor of CBS This Morning.

Melanne Verveer was appointed by President Obama to be the first-ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the US State Department, and also served as chief of staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton. Kim Azzarelli, Chair and Co-founder of Cornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice was formerly head of the billion-dollar donor advised fund, Goldman Sachs Gives. They are the founding partners of Seneca Point Global.

Hillary Clinton contributed a foreword to the book and says, “Fast Forward shows us how leaders at every level can use their power and purpose to help more and more women achieve their dreams for a better life.” And Meryl Streep says of the book: “We are all capable of great things, even world-changing things, if we take inspiration from others and join together to get it done. Here are stories of a few women who have dared to imagine the day, and worked to make it happen. Let them inspire you.”


Kim Azzarelli  

Kim K. Azzarelli is a business, philanthropic, and legal advisor focused on advancing women and girls. She is Chair and Co-founder of Cornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, and Partner at Seneca Point Global. Together with Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Ms. Azzarelli founded Seneca Women, a global leadership forum centered on the principle that advancing women and girls will fast forward us to a better world.

Prior to her work with Seneca, Ms. Azzarelli served as Senior Vice President of the Newsweek Daily Beast Company, where she led strategy, partnerships, and philanthropy for Women in the World. She has held senior philanthropic and legal roles at Goldman Sachs and Avon, respectively. At Goldman, she led the billion-dollar donor advised fund, Goldman Sachs Gives. At Avon, she served as Vice President, Legal and Public Affairs and Corporate Secretary. Prior to joining Avon, Ms. Azzarelli practiced corporate and securities law at Latham and Watkins.

Ms. Azzarelli is an adjunct professor at Cornell Law School, where she teaches Women, Law and the Economy. She is an author on matters relating to women and girls, including “Sustainable Development, Rule of Law and the Impact of Women Judges,” co-authored with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and numerous articles on women’s economic participation. In fall 2015, Ms. Azzarelli and Ambassador Verveer will publish Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose. Fast Forward chronicles how women are harnessing their growing economic power and leadership to invest in women and girls in order to yield extraordinary dividends for people, organizations, and countries.

Ms. Azzarelli is a graduate of Cornell Law School, Cornell University, and Friends Seminary High School in New York City, where she resides.

Melanne Verveer  

Ambassador Verveer most recently served as the first U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, a position to which she was nominated by President Obama in 2009. She coordinated foreign policy issues and  activities relating to the political, economic and social advancement of women, traveling to nearly sixty countries. She worked to ensure that women’s participation and rights are fully integrated into U.S. foreign policy, and she played a leadership role in the Administration’s development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

President Obama also appointed her to serve as the U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

From 2000-2008, she was the Chair and Co-CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international NGO that she co-founded to invest in emerging women leaders. During the Clinton administration, she served as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady. She also led the effort to establish the President’s Interagency Council on Women, and was instrumental in the adoption of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Ambassador Verveer has a B.S. and M.S. from Georgetown University. In 2013, she was the Humanitas Visiting professor at Cambridge University. She is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Development. She holds several honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the U.S. Secretary of State’s Award for Distinguished Service.

Diane von Furstenberg  

Diane von Furstenberg first entered the fashion world in 1970 with a suitcase full of jersey dresses. Four years later, she created the wrap dress, which came to symbolize power and independence for an entire generation of women. By 1976, she had sold over a million of the dresses and was featured on the cover of Newsweek. In 1997, after a hiatus from fashion, Diane re-launched the iconic dress that started it all, reestablishing her company as the global luxury lifestyle brand that it is today. DVF has expanded to a full collection of ready-to-wear and accessories includingshoes, handbags, small leather goods, scarves, and jewelry. The company also offers luggage, eyewear, and home furnishings. DVF is now sold in over 55 countries, including 132 DVF owned and partnered stores throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

In 2005, Diane received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) for her impact on fashion, and one year later was elected the CFDA’s President. In this significant role, she has dedicated herself to fostering emerging talent and helping to establish the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which protects designers from counterfeit reproductions of their work. In 2015, Diane was named Chairman of the organization.

Diane’s commitment to empowering women is expressed not only through fashion but also philanthropy and mentorship. She sits on the board of Vital Voices, a non-governmental organization that supports female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. In 2010, with the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, Diane established the DVF Awards to honor and provide grants to women who have displayed leadership, strength and courage in their commitment to their causes. In 2014, Diane published a memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be. In 2015, she was named one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People.

With her corporate headquarters in New York’s Meatpacking District, Diane has long been a vocal member of the local community and was actively involved in the campaign to save the historic High Line railway and to develop The High Line into what it is today. She also serves on the board of Culture Shed, the new center for artistic and cultural innovation in New York City.

Diane is married to Barry Diller. She has two children, Alexander and Tatiana, and four grandchildren. With all of her successes, Diane happily maintains, “Children are my greatest creation.”

Norah O'Donnell  

Norah O’Donnell is the co-host of “CBS This Morning.” She also contributes to “60 Minutes,” serves as the principal substitute anchor for “Face the Nation,” and fills in as anchor for the “CBS Evening News.” O’Donnell joined “CBS This Morning” in July 2012. Prior to that, she served as CBS News Chief White House Correspondent.

Since joining “CBS This Morning,” O’Donnell has traveled the globe covering major stories, including the historic election of Pope Francis in Vatican City, the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, and the Boston Marathon bombing. O’Donnell was also part of the CBS News team that received an Alfred I. DuPont Award for the network’s coverage of the 2012 Newtown massacre. She has interviewed some of the world’s most notable figures, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, Former President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama. She also landed the first interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the height of the league’s domestic violence scandal. O’Donnell was named “Broadcaster of the Year” by the New York State Broadcasters Association in 2014.

Prior to joining CBS News, O’Donnell worked for more than a decade at NBC News, where she covered the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House. Her assignments took her around the globe: she reported from every continent except Antarctica with either the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense.

O’Donnell has covered a number of breaking news stories. She reported from the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Breaking News Coverage for a “Dateline NBC” story titled, “D.C. In Crisis.” In the months following the attacks, she traveled extensively with then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, including on his first trip to Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks.

A firm believer in empowering women, O’Donnell sits on the Board of Directors of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Melanne Verveer and Kim Azzarelli with Diane von Furstenberg and Norah O’Donnell – “Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose” | Posted on September 23rd, 2015 | Public Programs