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Top Global Women - Class of 2012
Women_DancingEvery day, all around the world, women work to improve the lives of those around them. Their families and their communities may know how important their work is, but all too often, their work goes unrecognized by those who benefit from it throughout the rest of the world. In honor of International Women's Day, the Diplomatic Courier honors the Top Global Women who have worked to improve the world. All of these women were nominated by other women, and while some may be famous and others are not so well-known, all of them are deserving of this honor, and much more.

Anita_McBride_with_Laura_Bush_in_Oval_OfficeHow has your professional work allowed you to give/enhance opportunities for other women and girls? What inspired you to follow your career path?

My first professional experience in Washington was as an intern at the U.S. Department of Commerce. I was fortunate to have mentors that encouraged me to take advantage of opportunities to network. The experience of meeting people from all over Washington, including the diplomatic corps, had a profound impact on me and opened my eyes to the world of opportunities here as well as the responsibility we all have to be informed and engaged citizens. Years later, when I became the White House Personnel Director, I established the first formal White House intern program in 1989, recruiting students from universities across the country to come to Washington and work in the White House, which provided invaluable, hands-on experience. A good intern program provides the best launching pad for any future career.

Later at the State Department I recruited political appointees for positions throughout the agency. I also participated in a number of international conferences including the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN Commission on the Status of Women – where gender equity issues were front and center.

As a woman on the senior staff to the President of the United States, I had an opportunity to be deeply engaged in promoting the role of women in a variety of sectors including government, global health, business and education. As Chief of Staff to the first lady I was able to witness first-hand the power of a woman using her platform. I worked alongside Mrs. Bush and advised her on her domestic and international initiatives, with a particular emphasis on women’s issues. Part of this experience included directing her travel to 67 countries in four years, specifically her historic trips to Afghanistan and the Middle East.

2012_Barbara_BarrettReflections on International Women’s Day - by Ambassador Barbara Barrett

International Women’s Day celebrates women.  This is one day where we pause to pay tribute to the achievements of women and honor those who elevate capable, qualified women in business, government, academia, and overall society.

In the years of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s youth, women in top leadership roles were rare.  Against the odds, Justice O’Connor proved that with strong intellect, an invigorating education and resolute work ethic, there are no limits on what a woman can achieve.  In subsequent generations, many tenacious obstacles to women were shattered – many destroyed by Sandra Day O’Connor’s own hand using legislative or judicial tools.

As an undergraduate, I observed Justice O’Connor when she was Arizona Senate Majority Leader.  She inspired me with visions of what a strong, purposeful woman could be.  Justice O’Connor became a transformative role model for my career and throngs of others.

for_shelly_021What inspired you to follow your career path?

When I was in first grade my best friend’s father ran for judge.  I immediately took up the task of distributing fliers and getting people to “vote for Bob!”  I was hooked on politics and civic engagement.  During college I interned for Senator Dole in DC and the rest is history.

More broadly, I was always interested in the world, how other people lived and thought.  It was hard to get global exposure in my hometown in Kansas, but I took advantage of every opportunity that was available. I traveled whenever I could, and when I first came to Washington, D.C. earned my LLM in International Law at night from Georgetown Law.   In 1993, my husband and I took eight months to travel the world.  We visited Thailand, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and ending, again, in Thailand.  We set out with an interest in seeing Asia and Eastern Europe but that was it.  No reservations.  We made decisions each day, week and month, where to go next.   Navigating the world on my own was the best education that I ever got for my current job.

Charity_SC_PhotoInternational Women’s Day provides American women with the chance to reflect on the pioneers that have gone before, whose struggle provided the vast opportunities available to women in the U.S. today. The day also reminds us that we must redouble our efforts to improve the lives of women and children in the U.S. and around the world. Too many women and girls across the globe do not have access to education, are dying from preventable diseases, or live in oppressive circumstances that prevent them from fully participating in society.

Studies show that when a woman is educated, her children are more likely be educated, healthy and successful. Research also tells us that when women are included in the economy, countries are more stable and prosperous. Women are critical to the success and stability of nations, and their voices are necessary in free societies.

As the Director of the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Institute and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush, I am fortunate to work to empower women from around the world to transform their native countries. Through my work, I have met courageous women from Afghanistan – some whom risked their lives to provide education to girls when it was forbidden, others who have defied their oppressors by learning a trade and working to support their families. I have met women from Jordan and Tunisia who waited in long lines to vote in their first democratic elections to ensure that their voice was heard. I have met HIV+ African women who have been saved by the PEPFAR program and, though living in extreme poverty, are filled with joy, hope, and an entrepreneurial spirit that inspires.

396746What inspired you to follow your career path?

At an early age, my parents instilled a great work ethic in me and the confidence to try new and different opportunities. My inspiration comes from leading and motivated people. I love to build relationships and understand other's perspectives and build a solution together. Being in the corporate world and working at a Fortune 100 company like FedEx, I have the opportunity, as well as the responsibility, to create small business solutions for our customers.  It is truly motivating to work with my team and colleagues to develop great outcomes for our customers.  Working in marketing at FedEx gives me the ability to use all of my skills – people, personal, results and thought leadership.  I am sincerely passionate about work every day and strive to make a difference.

2404_1124International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the considerable advances that have been made and the road ahead as we seek to empower women globally. I have had the privilege of working on women’s economic empowerment for much of my career. In that time, the issue has moved to the top of domestic and global agendas, with key governments NGOs, multilaterals and companies investing in women’s economic empowerment.

fawzia-koofiHow has your professional work allowed you to provide/enhance opportunities for other women and girls? What inspired you to follow your career path?

In my work as a member of parliament I have helped to draft/amend laws and policies that promote women rights, and reduce violence against women, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I also promote women’s participation in politics, higher education and social affairs. Currently, my commission and I are working on a law to address issues of violence against women that have not previously been addressed in the laws of Afghanistan. These issues include gender-based violence, early and forced marriages, depriving women of their right to work and/or to access education, and many more. Through my work I am able to influence the public perception toward acceptance of women’s participation in all aspects of life, specifically in politics, and to influence the policy makers to increase their gender sensitivity.

I have also established an educational institute for both men and women. I believe investing in men’s education is equally important in order to change their perceptions about women, so that they will allow their sisters, wives and other members of their family to go to school.

In addition, I have helped women in rural areas of my constituencies to get access to literacy and training facilities.

HHF_portrait4What inspired you to follow your career path?

My mother was born in Switzerland and encouraged a love of the international world. My father was all American and deeply engaged in the world of business. I was inspired to serve causes that were larger than myself and to work to make the world a better place.

Why is International Women’s Day important to women around the world?

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of women – from women in saris in South Asia growing crops to feed their families, to girls in Afghanistan, Africa, and America walking to school with books under their arms, to women in Haiti and Japan digging out from the rubble, from women entrepreneurs around the world selling their produce and goods in open air markets to professional women commuting to offices, from teachers to university presidents, nurse assistants to doctors, village leaders to prime ministers – each has strengths and importance. They shape their world and our world.

HIldy_-_Copyright2012_Brian_DresslerHow has your professional work allowed you to give/enhance opportunities for other women and girls? What inspired you to follow your career path?

I am fortunate to have had many opportunities to work in a mentoring and instructional capacity with women and girls as an educator and now as a senior administrator in the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.  In a role that historically was dominated by men, I am able to provide tangible evidence to women and girls that a full range of career choices are open to them. I am proud that we have identified extraordinarily capable women to serve in senior leadership roles in my administration - the deans of our graduate and undergraduate divisions, the executive director of our corporate solutions division, the department chair of our management faculty and our chief financial officer are all women; I recruited five of them during my tenure as dean.  We've also made great strides in bring women leaders onto our governing and advisory boards for the School.

I love being in the world of higher education, as the opportunity for impact is multipled many fold through one's efforts. We have 5,000 students at our business school, over half of which are young women.  Through wise choices we make in programmatic innovations and the support we provide through our strategic reallocation process we are able to lever each of these students' efforts in positively impacting our economy and society.  The ability to work with broad scale/scope of impact is what most inspires me.

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