Poverty, disease, conflict and basic inequality: what each of these broad challenges share in common is women at the heart of impact but often relegated to the sidelines in developing solutions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intends to change that and has launched an exciting new initiative designed to increase the number of women in public service at every level.
As Marianne Schnall from the Women’s Media Center reports, the Women In Public Service Project (WPSP) is a partnership of the five leading women’s colleges–Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley and the U.S. Department of State that will “provide vital momentum to the next generation of women leaders.” Part of this vision includes plans to establish a foundation to support its work with the help of non-profits and corporate partners, an effort that should bridge leadership gaps in both the private and public spheres.
Like Clinton, the project has ambition with a goal of global political and civil leadership of at least 50% women by 2050. WPSP will work toward this goal, and the building of the “infrastructures” to get there through offering an annual summer institute in partnership with these colleges. Emerging leaders from all over the globe will meet to gain and exchange critical skills in public speaking, coalition building, networking and mentorship, with State Department sponsorship for 40 participants from Middle Eastern and North African countries in political in transition, reports Schnall.
Clinton first announced the initiative in December 2011 and at the time said she was “embarrassed” that the proportion of women in the U.S. Congress is even lower than the percentage of women holding global parliamentary seats. Citing an example of the benefits of women’s perspectives, she said that “the World Bank has found that women tend to invest more of their earnings in their families and communities than men do,” adding that “those are the kinds of instincts and priorities we would all like to see” in government.
It’s a critically urgent need that a leader like Clinton can fill. “If you’re trying to solve a problem,” she said, “whether it is fighting corruption or strengthening the rule of law or sparking economic growth, you are more likely to succeed if you widen the circle to include a broader range of expertise, experience, and ideas.” For too long women have been denied a meaningful seat in leadership and our world has suffered for it. And like Clinton herself proves, when women do attain that seat, great and meaningful change can happen.
Photo from IPP State via flickr.