Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, celebrated her 40th birthday by asking activists, athletes and celebrities from around the world to spend 40 minutes mentoring women re-entering the workforce — making her first public appearance since giving birth in June.
In a video with actor Melissa McCarthy sharing the announcement Wednesday morning, Meghan said the mentorship, known as "40X40," would encourage people to help women "regain confidence and rebuild their economic strength."
"Because I'm turning 40, I'm asking 40 friends to donate 40 minutes of their time to help mentor a woman who is mobilizing back into the workforce," Meghan said. "And I think if we all do it, and all commit 40 minutes to some act of service, we can create a ripple effect."
Among those who committed to giving 40 minutes of their time were singer Adele, inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, professor Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and feminist activist Gloria Steinem.
The effort was launched, in part, to combat the outsized impact of the pandemic on women. In the U.S., nearly 2.4 million women have exited the workforce, compared with less than 1.8 million men who left between February 2020 to February 2021, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The announcement came months after Prince Harry and Meghan spoke to Oprah Winfrey in an explosive March interview about their decision to step down from their royal duties amid intense media scrutiny that damaged their mental health. Meghan explained that the media attacks had resulted in suicidal ideation while she was pregnant with the couple's first child, Archie.
They both described feeling a lack of support from the other members of the royal family and ultimately making the choice to put their family's well-being first. Harry added that the experience helped him grasp a better understanding of the racist undertones of the attacks on his wife.
The couple has signed a deal to produce films, shows and documentaries for Netflix, including a nature docuseries and an animated series that celebrates women. Last month, Penguin Random House announced Harry would publish a memoir detailing his royal upbringing. Proceeds from the book, which is scheduled for release late next year, will go to charity.