Meghan Markle Justifies Her Political Engagement: 'Paid Leave ... Is a Humanitarian Issue'

"I always stood up for what was right," said the Duchess of Sussex at The New York Times DealBook Online Summit

Meghan Markle NYT DealBook Summit
Meghan Markle at the NYT DealBook Summit in November 2021. Photo: NYT DealBook Summit

Meghan Markle is getting real about women's issues.

On Tuesday, the Duchess of Sussex joined The New York Times DealBook Online Summit, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dealbook. Meghan joined a conversation with Mellody Hobson, Co-C.E.O. and President of Ariel Investments, called "Minding the Gap," which focused on how women can reach economic and professional parity.

Meghan, 40, was asked by host Andrew Ross Sorkin, Editor at Large, Columnist and Founder of DealBook The New York Times about recently reaching out to senators to continue her campaign for paid family leave. She acknowledged that the royal family traditionally stays politically neutral but said that she saw paid leave as a "humanitarian issue."

"I think this is one of those issues that is not red or blue. We can all agree that people need support certainly when they've just had a child," Meghan said.

She later added, "Paid leave, from my standpoint, is just a humanitarian issue."

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Meghan Markle</a> NYT DealBook Summit
NYT DealBook Summit

Meghan said that after living in Canada and the U.K. for many years, she came back to the U.S. as a mother of two (2-year-old son Archie and daughter Lili, born in June).

"To come back and now be a mother of two and to see that the U.S. is one of only six countries in the entire world that doesn't offer any form of national paid leave just didn't make sense," she said.

Meghan also said that felt a need to speak up in a way that she has since she was young, alluding to when she, at just as 11 years old, called out a Procter & Gamble commercial that advertised its Ivory dishwashing soap solely to women. After writing a letter to the company, they changed their slogan from "Women all over America" to "People all over America." She took a similar approach when it came to the paid leave issue, writing an open letter and picking up the phone to call leaders.

"Even before I had any sort of privilege in my life — when my life and my lifestyle were very, very different — I always stood up for what was right," she said.

Meghan also revealed that when she was young she sold homemade scrunchies.

"I remember the feeling of knowing that I had done something, I had invested in myself and done this labor and been compensated for it," she said. "There's a sense of pride that comes from that."

<a href="" data-inlink="true">Meghan Markle</a> NYT DealBook Summit
Meghan Markle. NYT DealBook Summit

Meghan also spoke about the double standard between women and men having ambition, which she called a "trigger word," and said she saw a study that said 60% of women would rather talk about the details of their own death than about money.

"There's nothing wrong with talking about a woman's success or her ambition or her financial prowess," Meghan said, adding later that men should be part of the conversation.

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Senator Shelley Moore Capito told Politico last week she was driving in her car when she received a phone call with the number blocked.

"Honestly … I thought it was Sen. [Joe] Manchin. His calls come in blocked," said the Republican senator from West Virginia (Manchin, a Democrat, is her fellow senator from the state). "And she goes 'Sen. Capito?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'This is Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.'"

Added Capito, "I couldn't figure out how she got my number."

A spokesperson for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, confirmed to PEOPLE that she gave the senators' numbers to Meghan.

"I talked to each of the women senators and let them know that she's going to reach out, because she only completed two of the calls," Gillibrand said, according to Politico. "She's going to call some others, so I let them know in advance."

Gillibrand continued, "She wants to be part of a working group to work on paid leave long term and she's going to be. Whether this comes to fruition now or later, she'll be part of a group of women that hopefully will work on paid leave together."

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