Monthly Archives: February 2012

Women in the World Summit: from Actresses and CEOs to Genocide Survivors and Disguised Politicians

I thought this article may be of interest to you guys! At the beginning of next month, the third annual Women in the World Summit will be held in NYC and hosted by Newsweek and the Daily Beast.

The tagline introduction says:

“In less than a month, inspiring women leaders and activists from around the globe will descend on New York City to address the most urgent challenges facing women and girls. From brave dissidents who fueled the Arab Spring to outspoken advocates fighting domestic slavery; from CEOs to artists to political influencers, our third annual Women in the World Summit—now expanded to Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater—uses vivid journalistic storytelling to showcase women who are battling the status quo, picking up the pieces in the aftermath of war and shattering glass ceilings.”

What is interesting to me about this event is the diversity of women who will be presenting…and the diversity of talks that will be presented.  There really is something for everyone here. Soap opera producers will discuss how to use the media (and soap operas) to combat sexual violence. Wellesley Alumna Madeleine Albright, ’59 will talk with Angelina Jolie and a former genocide survivor about how civil wars effect women. But one of the most interesting talks that I would like to watch is a woman telling her story about how she dressed up as a man to become involved in politics in Afghanistan.

image from the Newsweek website, some women who will be speaking are pictured

These talks really get at the root of many of the problems with women, culture and society. If you can’t buy tickets to attend you can stream the event through the Daily Beast website.  I know I will be watching the live stream on the website!

P.S. This summit focuses on women telling their stories, which was also a focus of the Women in Public Service Institute.  Do you have a story about your difficulties being a woman? Or if you are a man, do you have any stories of women you know?

Speaking to Wellesley Academic Council: Summer Institute

I was recently asked to speak to Wellesley’s Academic Council about my experience at the Women in Public Service Colloquium that I wrote about in earlier posts.  My prompt was to tell the Board what I took away from the event.  I spoke about how incredibly inspiring hearing the stories of all of the powerful women–about how they overcame obstacles to get to where they are today.

But, what I told them that what I took most from the event was what happened during the 2-day training program (see previous blog posts).  I took the most out of the event when I was able to actively participate.  I also learned more when I heard stories of women with backgrounds who were distinctly different from my own. I learned that it was important to widen my focus more globally and have been interested in learning what I can do to improve the lives of women and young girls abroad.

The program changed my life…and the friendships that formed will last throughout my career….and this was just after two days! In fact, I even signed up this semester for a Political Science class at Wellesley taught by Professor Wasserspring called “Women and Development.” (most of the women at the event were from developing nations in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin-America)

Read the thoughts of Victoria Budson, Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at Harvard Kennedy School, about the Summer Institute. I really liked her comment on why it was so important to have this two week program for women:

“It is a rare opportunity in life when a woman has two weeks to take a step back from her professional and familial responsibilities in order to focus on her own development as a leader.As women, it is harder for us to prioritize our own learning and to step away from the critical work we do for our institutions, organizations, countries, communities, and families.  This program, this time with other women leaders, this time to work on one’s own development is a rare and distinctive gift.”

I definitely thought of the two day training program as a gift…it was an opportunity to learn from other women and I received a new network of connections and friends.

I will be at Wellesley helping with the Summer Institute blogging and tweeting again…so I look forward to meeting many more women who I can learn and share ideas with women and public service!

P.S. As a woman, do you find (as Victoria Bundson says) that it is hard to prioritize your own learning over helping others and other duties? I know my mom has a hard time prioritizing taking time for herself over all of the priorities she has with her work and family!

Madeleine Albright: the SOTU and becoming a U.S. citizen

During her visit, Madeleine Albright talked to us Political Science majors the day after President Obama’s State of the Union address (did you know that Sec. Albright was a Political Science major at Wellesley?). Though she mainly discussed the United States’ role internationally, she also spoke about issues that went along with President Obama’s speech and even gave some thoughts on the SOTU directly.

It struck me how similar the topics were in both talks. One common area of discussion was China (which Secretary Albright gave her thoughts on after a question I asked her! — I asked where the most attention and assistance was needed for human rights, and she said that China should be a main country of focus).  Sec Albright talked about violations with labor practices — which President Obama also mentioned in the SOTU. The President made a pledge to look into unfair labor and trade practices in China.

A friend of mine, Khai Shaw (Wellesley ’12), asked Sec. Albright, “how do you balance representing U.S. interests with issues of international importance” the topic switched to more domestic issues (and then eventually to Albright’s time at Wellesley and advice on jobs, but I want to save that for another post!). Sec. Albright complimented President Obama, saying he had been doing a good job of balancing these interests.

Thinking about the SOTU address, I thought it was interesting how much Obama’s speech focused on domestic concerns like markets, energy, health, education, and the American Dream. I guess this makes sense with the election coming up…people want to know that the person they elect will focus on the issues closest to them… but back to Albright’s points! Election-talk can be a fun post later (yes, I consider talking about elections to be fun…).

The issue that I thought was most interesting was one where President Obama and Sec. Albright didn’t quite see eye-to-eye — illegal immigration.  Although she didn’t say it directly, I got the impression (now, remember, this is my own impression!) that she felt the President was a little too strict in his ideas about how to tackle illegal immigration. Secretary Albright discussed her journey as an U.S. immigrant and how difficult it was to become a citizen. Did you know that she was not a legal citizen until after her graduation from Wellesley? She told a hilarious story of her being nervous for the exam…luckily, as a political science major, she knew all about U.S. government  (Side note: the woman had a degree in political science and was nervous about taking the exam! Makes me wonder how may U.S. citizens born here would pass!)

Though Sec Albright did acknowledge problems with illegal immigration, she said she felt that we should have more (and easier!) opportunities for people to become citizens of the United States, rather than all of these harsh security measures. She also thought that some of the new laws dealing with immigration in the Border States were terrible, racist, and even embarrassing for our country.

Albright giving a separate, more intimate talk to just us Political Science majors!

I loved hearing such a candid talk from the Former Secretary of State.  I can’t wait to post some more thoughts on my favorite moments soon.

P.S. What issues do you think are most important right now…domestically or internationally? And do you think you know enough about U.S. government to pass the immigration exam? I would like to think that I would easily pass being a PoliSci major, but some of these sample questions are not so easy…