All Eyes on Madeleine Albright

December 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

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

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:

  • Self-doubt
  • 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.

Madeleine Albright and AAUW's Zabie Khorakiwala

Madeleine Albright and AAUW Leadership Programs Fellow Zabie Khorakiwala

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.

By:   |   December 15, 2009


  1. Kate Farrar says:

    I still love thinking about her now infamous quote, “There is place in hell for women who do not help other women.”

    Kate Farrar
    Director of Leadership Programs

  2. Lisa Goodnight Lisa Goodnight says:

    Nice job Zabie and great pictures. Also, I really love the quote from Madeline Albright’s four-year-old granddaughter.
    Looks like she had a cool pin on that day.

  3. rizwana says:

    nice job Zabie. Keep up the good work.

  4. Kathleen Wood Laurila says:

    About twenty years ago our branch sold these “shattered” glass ceiling pins. I still have about a half dozen. I believe the artist was in in California and she made them for groups like AAUW to sell as a fundraiser.

    • Zabie says:


      I was actually just searching for this pin online to purchase as presents for the holidays. I would love to purchase them from you if possible! Please let me know!

  5. […] “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 [AAUW Dialog] […]

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