All Eyes on Madeleine AlbrightDecember 15, 2009
“But grandma, I don’t get what the big deal is with you being Secretary of State — aren’t all women secretaries?”
—Madeline Albright’s four-year-old granddaughter
When I saw Madeleine Albright speak at the American Democracy Institute’s Pathways to Power Women’s Leadership Conference, she shared the above quote. It allowed me to reflect on our nation’s changing landscape and the amazing strides she has made for this country as one of the most beloved public servants.
Albright was the first woman to become a U.S. Secretary of State. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, received unanimous approval by the U.S Senate, and was sworn in on January 23, 1997. At ADI’s conference Betsy Myers, who served as Clinton’s senior adviser on women’s issues, informed the group that Clinton appointed Albright not because she was a woman but, rather, “because she was the best person for the job.”
Albright shared some of her own insight on why so few women hold political office:
- Struggles regarding self-promotion
- Fundraising challenges
- Difficulty navigating family-work responsibilities
Albright’s thoughts correspond closely with the research of Jennifer Lawless. While women who run for office are as likely to win and raise the same amount of money as men, they are far less likely to have a spouse or partner who is responsible for most household tasks or childcare. Women are less likely to be encouraged to run for office and feel less confident about their overall qualifications.
Through Campaign College, AAUW and our partners at the American University Women & Politics Institute (directed by Jennifer Lawless) and Running Start hope to combat some of these issues early on and provide young women with the knowledge and skills they need to run effective campaigns on campus. The program encourages women to run for student government and, eventually, for political office.
I had the honor of seeing Madeleine Albright speak for a second time at a signing for her new book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box. The book is a fascinating account of how her pins became part of her diplomatic signature as well as a significant way of communicating her message. Albright began making a point with her pins after Saddam Hussein referred to her as an “unparalleled serpent.” Later, when preparing for a meeting with Iraqi officials, she decided to make a statement by wearing a snake pin. She soon began using her pins to “emphasize the importance of a negotiation, signify high hopes, protest the absence of progress, and show her pride in representing America.”
As AAUW works each day to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research, I must say that I relate most to Madeleine Albright’s beautiful pin displayed on page 74, alongside a black and white photo of Albright and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The pin shows the glass ceiling in, of course, its most ideal state: shattered.
— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) July 28, 2016