Malala Yousafzai urges business leaders to work responsibly on International Women’s Day in Utah


Malala Yousafzai – the international advocate for women’s equality and education and the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize – said that seeing the mountains of Salt Lake City reminded her of her hometown of Mingora, Pakistan.

That’s what Yousafzai does, whether speaking to students, parents, or world leaders. She said she tries to connect with people and their stories to find common ground between herself and others.

“It’s the similarities that help you make that connection,” Yousafzai said in a keynote address on Wednesday, International Women’s Day, at the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. “Then try to talk about what’s bothering you both and how you can deal with it.”

The talk, titled “Dismantling Inequity: The Power of Developing Women Leaders,” was one of the highlights of the second day of the three-day conference dedicated to the idea of ​​”Humanizing Business.”

Qualtrics, co-founded by Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, is a software company that works with companies — a list that includes the NBA, American Express, Coca-Cola, Google, and Spotify — to collect customer and employee experience data and save .

Presenter Mani Pandher, Qualtrics vice president of marketing—and like Yousafzai, a woman of South Asian descent—asked what lessons leaders in the space could use to inspire their organizations.

Yousafazi found that younger people in particular see the world much more optimistically, even when they are frustrated that they are not acting because of injustice. These young people, she said, hope leaders can work toward the betterment of their communities and countries.

Education, she said, is one way to serve those purposes.

“When we invest in education, it adds $30 trillion to the global economy,” she said. She appeared to be referring to a 2018 World Bank study that said the world could lose up to $30 trillion in income and productivity if countries fail to let girls complete their education.

“This is what I remind business leaders to remember: investing in girls’ education is not only important for the girls, their families or their communities, but also for the economy. That’s important for sustainability,” she said.

Yousafazi shared her world-famous story of her fight for the right of women and girls in Pakistan to have access to education. Her public speaking as a teenager brought retribution – a Taliban gunman shot her in the head in 2012 when she was 15. At 17 she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

In her speech, Yousafzai emphasized the importance of having her father’s support on her journey.

“That’s when I realized that my voice matters, regardless of my age, gender or background,” she said. “I’ve started to build that confidence [that] Time. It really is your parents, teachers, elders or mentors who can influence you in finding that confidence and belief in yourself.”

The United Nations motto for this year’s International Women’s Day is “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”. Pandher mentioned this when asking Yousafzai about her partnership with Apple to support the Malala Fund, the international non-profit organization Yousafzai and her father co-founded to champion girls’ education.

According to Yousafazi, Apple supports activists in nine countries, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, by using technology to enable activists to come together and learn from each other.

“Technology has been central to their advocacy and has helped them make it more effective,” she said. Her production company works with Apple TV+ to produce content that connects activists around the world. (The production company is also backing a short documentary, Stranger at the Gate, which is nominated for an Oscar — and Yousafzai has said in interviews that she plans to attend the Oscars this Sunday in Los Angeles.)

Pandher and Yousafazi also talked about the rise of artificial intelligence in technology and business and the statistics for women in this field – 22% of AI workers are women and AI systems have up to 45% gender bias.

Utah’s statistics on women are also inadequate. A 2022 snapshot by Utah State University’s Utah Women & Leadership Project found that Salt Lake City is ranked the second-best city in the country for STEM career opportunities. But 21% of Utah’s STEM workers are women, below the national average of 27%.

To accelerate STEM education and create more STEM jobs for women, Yousafzai said it’s crucial to talk about gender inclusion and diversity — and to look at how the tools created serve everyone.

“If we want tools to serve everyone, then we have to make sure that when we create them, we include everyone,” she said. “If these things are only made by men of a certain age group and color of skin, then maybe only they should be using them — but that’s not the reality of the world.”

Yousafazi ended her keynote with a message for the leaders in the room to take away as they develop products: Don’t take their role for granted.

“Always pause and think about how you are influencing and impacting the world around you,” she said. “Make sure you take every decision with full responsibility and make sure it benefits and serves all fairly and equally.”

X4 leaders, she said, have an opportunity to bring fairness and justice to the world.

“Today: we celebrate, we talk about it more, we remember what still needs to be done,” she said, “but starting tomorrow we’ll get back to work.”

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