The Year 3000 was set to be a great year for women, the founder of the Body Shop chain told delegates at the State of the World Forum in San Francisco last night.
Anita Roddick may have been the last speaker at the Forum's official opening at the Fairmont Hotel, but she was the one to get the crowd going. She followed two rather solemn speeches from the chief executive of Monsanto, Robert Shapiro, and Time Incorporated's Emeritus Chairman, Reginald K. Brack.
Ms. Roddick is the woman behind the international chain of Body Shop stores, which provide natural-based cosmetic and hygiene products to women. Her company is famous for its affirming messages such as:"There are only eight women in the world that look like supermodels…and three billion women that don't."
In a speech peppered with slides and slogans - "If a woman can negotiate which child - the four-year old or the six-year old - gets the last toffee, she can negotiate any contract in the world" - Ms. Roddick replied to Forum president Jim Garrison's assertion that the growing power of women was a "mega-trend," with the rejoinder that at present it was more like a "mega-trickle."
She said she often heard how women were steadily gaining increased equality in status with men. It was true that women now had more of a voice in politics than they had ever had before.
But, she said, when most of the world thought of women in politics, they thought of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "and she had more testosterone than most of her Cabinet."
When it came to the significance of the year 3000, Ms. Roddick quoted a United Nations women in economic development report. The report said that at the rate the world was currently progressing, it would take another 500 years before women had equal management status with men, and another 475 years before women had the same representation in the U.K. Parliament as men.
"So, by the year 3000, things are going to be really peachy," she said.
But despite this, and the fact that every time she opened a women's magazine she was told by women with bodies like coathangers to "shut up, get a facelift and stop eating," women would enter the next millennium laughing.
And judging by the frequent laughter and applause from the audience, and the standing ovation at the conclusion, it looked as if Ms. Roddick's predictions for the next millennium will be a certainty.
Earlier, Reginald K. Brack, Chairman Emeritus of Time Inc., told delegates he had been thinking about the future a lot lately.
In his opinion three forces would shape the world in the new millennium.
First, demography: Mr. Brack estimated the world's population would increase by 3 billion next century, to more than 8.5 billion.
Environmental stresses would be the second great force, Mr. Brack said. He predicted the next major war would be fought over water.
The third stress would come from the information technology revolution, in the form of digital discrimination - those who had access to the technology versus those who didn't. Mr. Brack said information technology was still in its infancy at present, roughly where the industrial age was when Henry Ford started to make cars.
The new technology was fraught with dangers and would spawn ever-shorter attention spans, and merger-mania.
But it was information technology that would save us, he said. Magazines were thriving, The New York Times and other newspapers were posting higher earnings, and new bookstores were sprouting everywhere.
Agility, networking, and speed would be the keys to success in the 21st century.
Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro followed Mr. Brack to the lectern, and despite a handful of protestors outside, and even a 'boo' as he took stage, expanded Mr. Brack's vision of the future to include biotechnology in the forces that would shape the world in the next century.
Mr. Shapiro said it was vital to reinvent the old technology with which we feed, clothe and house ourselves. Building a case for the genetic altering of seeds, Mr. Shapiro spoke of farmers using less land to make more food, putting information into a gene in a cotton plant to make it less susceptible to insect infestation; and of making crops more drought resistant.
He conceded many people had deep reservations about biotechnology, reservations he said must be respected.
"Certainly humanity's record of using new technology wisely is at best mixed," he said.
But with the benefits of biotechnology realized, the state of the world would be more hopeful for more people, he said.