Mitt Romney’s got nothing on my binder, that’s why.
Over the years, I have been privileged to get to know many, many inspiring women at all levels of public service-related careers. For the past five years, I have been a member of the Foreign Service family, employees of the U.S. Department of State who advance our nation’s foreign policy goals in Washington, DC and at U.S. diplomatic missions overseas.* In graduate school, I noticed that we boasted a suspicious number of “international relations divas” – women who were brilliant, determined, thoughtful, funny, charming, beautiful, and fun, and who were eager to mentor and assist one another.
The women in my binder go back further than that, however. They include the mother of a friend from junior high school, a Washington State Senator who inspired me to go into public service. There are women I met during my first years in college, long before I entered the world of public service, who are now transforming America’s approach to education. No matter where I go, from Russia to Afghanistan, I encounter amazing women who are facing the same challenges that I am: How can we succeed in the workplace, especially if we enter our careers “too young”? If we’ve chosen to go full-speed ahead into our professions, what risks are we taking with our personal lives? How are the trailblazers around us and before us overcoming these challenges?
It might seem spoiled for a bunch of well-educated women with high-powered careers to worry about paths to leadership for themselves. But this isn’t just about praising outstanding women as if they are exceptions to the rule. In fact, my driving thesis is that they are the norm, not the exception – and that policies to increase women’s access to education, health care, athletics, and yes, career advancement have a transformative impact. Whether or not they choose to bear children, women are an incredible asset to society, and when we fail to develop their individual capacities, we fail the world.
As of this blog’s official launch, I have had formal conversations with a number of women about these issues. You will be able to read those interviews later. For now, this blog is a place for me to stash links, reflections, and other conversations surrounding the question posed by Anne-Marie Slaughter in her already seminal article from the July/August 2012 issue of The Atlantic Monthly:
“Can women have it all?”
* Obviously, nothing I say here is the official view of the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of State, or even necessarily the people whose quotes I’m using to advance my case. I give them credit, but responsibility for the views expressed here is all mine.