Closing The Gap

Anne Hathaway: The view that women can’t be leaders is a myth that can be torn down

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Anne Hathaway attends "The Last Thing He Wanted" premiere at Eccles Center Theatre on January 27, 2020 in Park City, Utah.
Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images

Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway told CNBC Friday that a lack of female representation in positions of power is something that "can be torn down at any moment, when we decide to tear it down." 

Hathaway, who is also a goodwill ambassador for U.N. Women — the United Nations' body for gender equality — was speaking to CNBC's Tania Bryer on the back of International Women's Day earlier this week. 

She said that the election of Kamala Harris, as the United States' first female vice president, represented a "huge opportunity, especially for the youth, to look up and see that and have it just be normal." 

"I think that when you have someone like Kamala Harris in a position of that much power, it makes you want to cheer but it also wants to make you scream in frustration because the fact that we're just getting here now … it's all based on a myth, that only exists because we uphold it, which means that the myth can be torn down at any moment, when we decide to tear it down," Hathaway said. 

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Anne Hathaway: Gender equality 'isn't just women's work, this is men's work'

U.N. Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who was speaking to CNBC alongside Hathaway, said that she felt the same as Harris when she became South Africa's first female deputy president in 2005. 

Mlambo-Ngcuka referred to Harris's statement in her first speech as vice-president-elect: "While I may be the first woman in this office, I won't be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities." 

'This is really everyone's business' 

Mlambo-Ngcuka also argued that it's not just the responsibility of women to fight for gender equality. 

"Women do it because they are feeling the pinch but this is really everyone's business, it's especially men's business because they cause a lot of trouble," she said. 

"It's not about a woman was raped, it's about men rape," she added. "It's not about so many women got raped, (it's about) so many men rape." 

Mlambo-Ngcuka's comments echo the sentiment of those made by many in the U.K. on social media this week, in the wake of the disappearance and suspected murder of Sarah Everard, a young woman who went missing in London last week. 

Research from the World Health Organization, published Tuesday, found that one in three, or 736 million, women globally have been subjected to physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. 

Commenting on the research at the time, Mlambo-Ngcuka said that "the multiple impacts of Covid-19 have triggered a 'shadow pandemic' of increased reported violence of all kinds against women and girls."