It was just an ordinary Wednesday night for many people in Washington, D.C., but not for the young women chosen by the U.S. Embassy in their home country to be part of Fortune Magazine and the U.S. State Depts. Most Powerful Women mentor program.
A very windy, chilly day in D.C. turned into an evening of women’s celebration, which began on the terrace offering a spectacular view of Washington, with the Capitol in the one direction, the Air Force monument easily seen in the distance on a very crisp night.
When I was invited to the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect or if there would be anything worth noting in a report. However, that changed very quickly, which is evidenced by my tweets during the festivities.
The young women bounded out on to the terrace as Frank Sinatra played, wine, water, soft drinks and hors devours were served, with excited conversation beginning the evening. Among those I met were Josephine Kairaba from Rwanda, Aicholpon Jorupbekova from Kyrgyz Republic, and Anna Grishchenkova Russia who will spend her month in the United States being mentored by JP Morgan in New York City, and Jin Yan from China. Later sitting next to Thailand’s Sirinatda Panichapong, she handed several of us a pin with her country’s flag melded to the U.S. flag, while inviting everyone to come visit her country, requesting we call her to let her know we are coming. Every conversation was charming and inspiring. The Hill, in “Washington Scene”, has photos of many who attended, including business mentors and women in the media (myself included).
So, amidst the biodynamic wines from Quivira, Dry Creek Valley, Bergstrom, De Lancellotti Valley, Newburg; after the truffled goat cheese appetizer, the pesto crusted Halibut and creamed Yukon golds, and fresh berries with crÃ¨me fraiche (though it was the ginger crisps that stole the dessert show), one thing stood out.
It was seeing my country through these young women’s eyes. It quite simply blew me away.
The irony of 10,000 Women being one of the many sponsors didn’t go unnoticed. This is Goldman Sachs’ program, in association with education institutions from around the world, launched in 2008 under Lloyd Blankfein, to provide 10,000 “deserving” women from all over the globe with a business and management education. Considering the current firestorm surrounding Goldman Sachs, no one is going to sing their praises even on something as worthy as this program.
As an aside, Fortune has an amusing article reporting that the Brits are making a wager whether Mr. Blankfein will leave Goldman Sachs by the end of the year. You can make your wager on Intrade.
Economic politics wasn’t in the room last night as economic justice took on a different look and meaning with the Fortune/State Dept. mentor program being celebrated, which started under Pres. George W. Bush and continues under Pres. Barack Obama. Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large
Global Women’s Issues, the first position of its kind, was there representing State.
The young women brought to the U.S. State Dept. to celebrate the program, but also their good fortune, represented Ghana, Jordan, South Africa, Pakistan, Argentina, Palestinian Territory (Gaza), Egypt, Nigeria, Russia, Kyrgyz Republic, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, India, Uganda, Brazil, Kenya, Thailand, Haiti, China, Afghanistan, Morocco.
Senators Susan Collins (R-MN) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) were also at the event, as was Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL), with Sen. Feinstein being interviewed about the importance of “paying it forward” to help young women. She said of Collins, she “is what her party is supposed to be.” Advice from the California Senator: You have to be twice as good as the men, so develop a portfolio of expertise, something that you can write and give speeches about; expertise that works to your long suit, not your short suit. Feinstein said the real key is to never give up and “be like the Phoenix,” citing Shirley Chisholm, someone Feinstein admired, but who she felt gave up. Failures will come, but you must just keep going.
Former mentee Rehmah Kasabe from Uganda closed the evening’s remarks by simply saying, “Get rid of the dream takers, only have dream makers” around you.
What an evening it was. Highlighted by the beaming faces of these young women from around the world who are living their dream awake in the United States, compliments of the Fortune/State Dept. program that endeavors to make new entrepreneurs out of women from around the globe, along with some hefty lifting from U.S. corporations who make it all possible.
It hits on a constant theme in all the work and writing I do about women around the world. You simply cannot have stable, thriving and peaceful countries if half of the population is uneducated and untrained, either because of cultural prejudice, gender discrimination, or reality in a land of poverty.
Women can change the world, but only if we all pitch in to help.
TM NOTE:Photograph above of me (and Candace Kendle, of Kendle International) at the event is from The Hill, taken by Kate Ozcypok. The full shot below the table shot above — notice the place cards, the whole execution flawless — is of the Benjamin Franklin Room where the event was held and dinner was served. Additional shots at the end include Thomas Jefferson’s desk, and the Paris Treaty that ended the Revolutionary war, pictured to the right, with the John Quincy Adams Room below, which is across from the Benjamin Franklin Room, all of which are in the main building of the State Department.