GUEST COLUMN: Leading the Way for Women in Government

Jun 13, 2012

The Center for Women in Business (CWB) recently hosted a two-part event at the US Chamber of Commerce. The first part was a discussion regarding free enterprise and how the Chamber promotes and protects this economic system that allows individuals of every race, creed, color and gender to realize his or her own economic potential. I, along with former Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley, discussed our roles in the Nixon Administration that were documented by Lee Stout, Librarian Emeritus at Penn State University Libraries and author of A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women.

Stout’s book documents how in April of 1971, President Nixon was the first president to actively seek and promote women in leadership roles in government. The result was the tripling of the number of women in policy-making positions in the first year, many in jobs that women had never held before. Over 1000 women were advanced, many in roles previously dominated by men – such as sky marshals, tug boat captains, FBI agents, and forest rangers. 
Despite the progress made since 1971, there is still more to do to maximize the contribution of women in leadership roles in our government and in our society. We discussed how important it is today to make connections, participate in mentoring, and for women to do all it takes to overcome obstacles while always maintaining integrity and optimism.  
The second component of this event was a Mentoring and Networking Session, where 23 qualified and successful women and men were able to share stories about how they reached their economic potential, and to offer advice to women searching for new careers or who may have just had any questions. Events such as these are so important for women of all ages to have the opportunity to know what the world was like many decades ago, and to understand that a lot of pioneering work was done to make opportunities for women what they have become in this century.  
We continue to need more women in our political leadership posts, both appointive and elective, and one day I am confident that Americans will elect a woman President. Until then, we must work toward that goal and express gratitude to the US Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Women in Business for hosting such a successful and open forum in order to promote free enterprise, and for encouraging women to support each other as we continue on the path for workplace equality.
To learn more and participate in a networking event in your area, visit the CWB’s website.

Barbara Hackman Franklin served as a White House staff member for recruiting women from 1971-1973 and as U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1992-1993. Her contributions to advance women’s role in government are recounted in the new book, A Matter of Simple Justice: The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women. 


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