Women in Public Service Event Set for December 15

The Women in Public Service Project, a collaboration between Mount Holyoke and the Sister colleges with the U.S. State Department, will be the focus of an inaugural international colloquium at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on December 15.

The Women in Public Service Project--designed to increase the participation of women in public service and political leadership around the world--was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in April as a collaboration between the State Department and Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, Barnard, and Bryn Mawr. On December 15, Secretary Clinton will speak about the project in a keynote address to an invited gathering of women leaders and Sisters alumnae, students, faculty, and community members.

While planning for the colloquium is still underway by a committee of representatives from each school and the State Department, speakers at the December event will include Christine Lagarde, managing director of the international monetary fund, and other global policy makers, scholars, public officials, and innovative thinkers; they will discuss critical factors in their own success, provide a range of national and cultural perspectives, and offer strategies to attract talented women to public service. The colloquium is expected to create the foundation for women’s training institutes that will inspire and equip women to improve governance, expand civil rights, achieve positions of influence in governing bodies, and combat corruption. The institutes will be offered at the Sister schools and other venues.

"These institutes are exciting first steps in constructing a worldwide network of women leaders and change agents," said Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella. "Connected by technology and supported by global experts, we believe participating women will enter or continue in the public sector with enhanced leadership skills and renewed energy. Notably, the international focus of the effort will allow women from around the world to benefit from each other's experience, insights, and ideas."

Clinton's address and colloquium proceedings will be available via Webcast to viewers across the globe.

In addressing underrepresentation by women in government and elected positions, the Women in Public Service Project is carrying forward a legacy of political engagement for which the Sister schools are known, in addition to bringing attention to a key international issue. According to the International Women's Democracy Center, women hold only 18 percent of the world's parliamentary seats and are significantly underrepresented in ministerial positions; in some nations--Saudi Arabia, for example—women still cannot vote. Many experts link this underrepresentation to ongoing problems of poverty, violence, lack of access to education and medical care, and environmental degradation.

Planning is currently underway for the pilot summer institute, which will be held at Wellesley College in 2012. Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues, convened the institute steering committee's first conference call with chairperson Kavita Ramdas '85, former head of the Global Fund for Women. The steering committee includes Suzanne George '90, a principal of global strategy firm Albright Stonebridge; Mona Sutphen '89, former White House Chief of Staff and current appointee to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board; and Vincent Ferraro, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics.

In addition to the December colloquium and the anticipated Summer Institute, the Women in Public Service Project will be launching a multimedia website to share news, events, and stories of women who are developing new and innovative global solutions.