It's a good time to be in public service -- especially if you are a woman. We have a culture focused on solutions to global challenges: ask questions, seek training, explore creative solutions, engage in a dialog; and keep the momentum going.
Today, at the Women in Public Service Project colloquium, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton underscored the importance of service to others and diplomacy through our work. In her remarks, she said, "So you don't have to be a president or a prime minister or a party leader to serve. We need women at all levels of government from executive mansions and foreign ministries to municipal halls and planning commissions; from negotiating international disarmament treaties to debating town ordinances. ...If you're trying to solve a problem, 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. So as we work to solve our problems, we need more women at the table and in the halls of parliament and government ministries where these debates are occurring."
As a first year Presidential Management Fellow (PMF), my jump into government service ushered in knowledge, experience and insights into how American women truly serve on a global level. I am empowered in my role because someone before me paved the way, broke gender barriers, and unrelentingly demanded an equitable exchange of ideas. This led to development of policy and women active in diplomacy -- women who became icons in our society, our world -- women who decided we can change the way we approach global issues.
Those political leaders -- those women -- have paved the way for continued and open dialog. Today I was in a place where global icons, international political leaders -- really, my icons, my leaders -- charged me with the same global tasking.
I entered public service from the private sector, a Navy Veteran who had served as one of the first women onboard combat ships. At the time, Madeline Albright was Secretary of State. Her infamous quote from an interview with TIME Magazine inspired me to let loose the natural desire to take on leadership roles and share my knowledge with other women.
Albright had said, "Women have to be active listeners and interrupters -- but when you interrupt, you have to know what you are talking about. I also think it is important for women to help one another. I have a saying: There is a special place in hell for women who don't."
At the time, I didn't realize I was making my own history; I thought I was just doing my job. I didn't quite grasp the complexity of what it meant to grit my teeth and press forward so others would have a smoother road. I re-entered public service, this time as a PMF, with a deeper understanding of this task. Being at the State Department in a culture where (as we laughed with the Secretary today) there are now 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, I have the tools, support and mentoring needed to be an effective public servant.
Today was transformative. I am no longer a fresh-faced public servant, but one of many women committed to the future of public service. There is no better place to be, than in concert with the women who paved the way for me to be right here, right now.