St.Kitts-Nevis Ambassador to the US Her Excellency Dr. Thelma Phillip Browne was among a number of distinguished panelists at the Northrop Grumman Women’s Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.
Dr. Phillip-Browne participated in one of the panels which addressed and was centered around the “Global Women’s Leadership Initiative: The Women in Public Service Project” . Her Excellency Dr. Phillip-Browne was joines by Professor Federica Bindi, Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS Johns Hopkins in Washington D.C.; and Gwen K. Young, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and Women in Public Service Project. The panel was moderated by Indira Lakshmanan, Senior Foreign Policy Correspondent.
Ms. Young introduced the mission and goals of the Women in Public Service Project. She highlighted that while only 17 percent of U.S. government appointments are filled by women, they are predominantly placed in niche areas pertaining to social issues. Ms. Young pointed out that 2/3 of female legislators come from New York and California, thus revealing further structural barriers in the United States.
Ms. Lakshmann opened the panel with questions regarding women’s path into public service. A former doctor, Ambassador Phillip-Brown ascertained that women already possess many of the skills needed to enter the diplomatic service. Professor Bindi described the first time she felt the weight of the systemic biases against women when she was mistaken as a secretary as opposed to a diplomat, as well as the unequal emphasis on female versus male attire.
Ms. Lakshmann sparked discussion when she asked for “a realistic way of empowering women’s leadership in a country like the United States” where affirmative action is still a contentious issue. Young mentioned one option of using legislation to help change the landscape regarding women’s leadership. Professor Bindi remarked that even gaining momentum behind the quota system in other places in the globe like Rwanda, took time and argued for the need for more research to strengthen the claim for gender equality in public service.
The audience posed questions regarding what can be done in the corporate world and mainstream society to promote a cultural shift in women’s leadership and politics. Ms. Young addressed the role the private sector can play in the push for gender equality through cross-sector partnerships, sharing of best practices and funding for research on women’s issues. Professor Bindi emphasized the need to raise a generation of children accustomed to gender equality and women’s leadership by advocating for male partners to give greater voice to gender parity issues. Ambassador Phillip-Brown ended the discussion by calling all women to “bloom where you’re planted” and recognize the value they bring.