Madeleine K. Albright Accepts 2003 Women in Leadership Award
If women in government do their jobs, they will help improve the lot of women and girls everywhere, former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright told members of the Business School community who gathered to honor the highest-ranking woman in the history of the United States government.
“They [women] will raise issues that others overlook, pass bills that others oppose, put money into projects others ignore and seek an end to abuses that others accept,” Albright asserted.
Michigan Business Women Presidents Alexis Skigen, MBA ’03, and Lauren Harper, BBA ’03, presented the 2003 Women in Leadership Award on March 19 to Albright, the first Distinguished Scholar of the William Davidson Institute and founder of The Albright Group LLC, a global strategy firm owned and operated primarily by women.
Introducing Albright, Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president for government relations, praised the Business School’s efforts to encourage women in business and noted that Albright’s campus visits have afforded students “an extraordinary opportunity to learn about a distinguished career.” Wilbanks serves on the Women’s Leadership Council, which brings together women executives to advise and assist the School on plans, programs and research that support women in business.
Albright said when she graduated from college, it was rare to find women in high-level jobs. “We didn’t have any role models. There was Queen Elizabeth, but it was hard to work your way up to the position of queen. My personal favorites were Golda Mier, a school teacher in Milwaukee who had to move to Israel to become a prime minister, and Margaret Thatcher, whose politics I didn’t share but whose style forever answered the question as to whether women could be tough.”
Even though they head approximately 20 governments and are represented in virtually every profession and business, Albright said, “Women remain an undervalued and underdeveloped resource. This is not to say that women have trouble finding jobs. In many societies, we do the vast majority of work. We don’t own the land, aren’t taught to read, can’t take credit and don’t get paid.”
When women have the power to make choices, economic or social, Albright noted, “Families are strengthened, the spread of sexually transmitted disease slows and socially constructive values are more likely to be handed down to the young.”
Commenting on abuses committed against women, such as coerced abortion, sterilization, ritual mutilation and infanticide, Albright said, “Some say it is the culture and there is nothing we can do about it. I say it is criminal, and we each have an obligation to stop it.”
In 1999, she and other women foreign ministers issued a call to halt the trafficking of humans, which, Albright said, “exploits the desperation of more than a million women every year who think they are applying for jobs as au pairs, waitresses or sales clerks and end up as virtual slaves of thugs or pimps. Women at every level must demand an end to this pernicious trade.”
Women also can make a vital difference, she said, by supporting family planning and the battle against AIDS.
“Each of us has a responsibility as we reach a level of success to help women and girls climb the ladder, whether here or abroad. This might seem like a sacrifice of precious time or treasure, but nothing will make us feel more fulfilled. When we work to improve the lives of women and girls, we contribute to a tide that is altering the social-political landscape of the world, from Ann Arbor to Afghanistan,” Albright concluded.
Albright served as the 64th Secretary of State of the United States during the Clinton administration. From 1993 to 1997, she was the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of the President’s Cabinet and National Security Council.
The Women in Leadership Award, which recognizes business leadership and achievements that promote the success of women in business, is presented by the Women in Business Initiative and Michigan Business Women.
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Mary Jo Frank