Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, discusses paid family leave

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, opened up Tuesday about her campaign for paid family leave, the struggle for gender equity in corporate America, and her own mental health.

“Paid leave, from my standpoint, is just a humanitarian issue,” she said in a panel discussion at the DealBook Online Summit Tuesday. The Duchess has been getting on the line with members of Congress to advocate for a federal guarantee. Her remarks echoed an open letter she wrote last month to lawmakers, urging them to recognize paid leave as a “national right.”

“This is one of those issues that is not red or blue,” Meghan said. “It sets us up for economic growth and success, but it also just allows people to have that very sacred time as a family.”

Meghan appeared at the summit in New York alongside Mellody Hobson, the co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments, whom the Duchess described as a friend and mentor. That kind of relationship is something they agreed is vital for women, and specifically women of color, to have in their professional lives.

“I think with mentoring … what’s so valuable isn’t just cheerleading each other through the process of whatever discriminations we may face or whatever glass ceilings that are there,” Meghan said. “But really being the person to say, ‘Let me make this phone call for you…’ Someone who has seasoned experience who’s able to guide you in a really strong way.”

The two also discussed how the idea of “ambition” has been weaponized against women — a “trigger word,” Meghan called it, that too often is used to praise men and criticize women.

“Why is it culturally we are equipping girls and women to think that if you are ‘ambitious’ there’s something negative about that?”

Near the end of the discussion, the host of the event, Andrew Ross Sorkin, pivoted from asking Meghan about Archewell, the business she co-founded with her husband, Harry, to asking about her mental health.

“Can I just ask you, personally: Are you feeling better about everything?”

“Yes, I am feeling much better about everything, thank you.”

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