Learning from Women Leaders

By Patricia Morris

March 29, 2012   |   0 comments

Dr. Patricia T. Morris (Washington, DC)

Thirty-five years ago, four women in a basement started what was to become the second largest women-owned company to work with the US federal government.

This year, as we reflected on our own unique history and the contributions women have made and continue to make to equitable, sustainable, and effective development, we determined that we wanted to provide a space where we could all learn from women leaders in the industry, to leverage our collective experience in the field and in Washington. It was at this moment that the idea for Creative’s Center for Women’s Leadership in International Development was born.

The Center for Women’s Leadership in International Development is uniquely poised to leverage the multimedia resources of Creative University, Creative’s training arm, to produce leadership e-books and oral stories that build on the legacy of female leadership in the field.

This notion of learning from women leaders is important on a number of levels:

(1) women are role models for girls and young female professionals

(2) studies show that women often manage and lead in collaborative ways that reduce tensions and increase the quality of organizational decisions and outcomes, and

(3) women have solutions that are often excluded from community, national or international policy forums.

Given the central role women’s empowerment play in international development outcomes and the contributions women bring to peace and security, documenting and disseminating lessons from women leaders and strengthening the next generation of female leaders was a call we knew we had to answer and a gap we could uniquely fill.

On Tuesday March 13th, our ideas became a reality with the launch of the Center for Women’s Leadership in International Development.  The launch featured commentary from four women-led companies – Development and Training Services, the QED Group, Banyan Global and Panagora Group – and there was lots of rich dialogue particularly around the question of the extent to which women’s and men’s leadership differs and the difference it makes.

The first Creative Leadership Award was given to May Rihani, an expert in girls education and women’s empowerment. Representatives from the government, private and non-profit sector were in attendance and all agreed that this is an important initiative.

Young female professionals – the future of the industry – were particularly excited about the launch and are looking forward to programs that may help them to navigate careers that change the world in inclusive and positive ways.

Among the many planned activities for the Center include a panel discussion series spotlighting diaspora women’s leadership and creativity in three areas of international development work: education and training; youth in conflict and transitional environments; and economic development.  The Center also has an Act Locally, Think Globally Project designed to capture lessons from grassroots service organizations’ gender programs in the Metro DC area that can be applied to international development work.

For more information on events and opportunities sponsored by the Center for Women’s Leadership in International Development, please contact Dr. Patricia Morris at PatriciaM@creativeDC.com.