Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed over 50 female leaders at Bryn Mawr College on Tuesday, encouraging women to "step up and put themselves on the line" of civic leadership.
The keynote address was delivered at the second annual summer institute offered by The Women in Public Service Project, founded by Clinton herself in December 2011. At the inaugural 2012 gathering a few months later, Clinton expressed hope to "live long enough to see a woman elected president of the United States."
This year, delegates hailed from 31 different countries emerging from conflict or phases of political transition. They included the only female mayor in Afghanistan and the 22-year old Kenyan ambassador to the Global Give Back Circle.
While encouraging more female leadership in the public sector, Clinton stressed that expanded leadership alone is insufficient to enact change. “Just having a woman as head of government may or may not change what happens below that woman,” she noted.
Formal leadership positions aside, Clinton urged women to stand up against the status quo in their communities. "We need more people supporting leaders who themselves are leaders. We need more leaders who stand against corruption. We need more leaders who say 'no' to business as usual," she said.
This sentiment mirrored the then-secretary of state's remarks at the Women in Public Service Project's initial unveiling in a 2011 State Department colloquium, in which she noted that the progam "is not just about fairness, as important as that is; it is about expanding the pool of talented people to help tackle our biggest problems."
Working toward a goal of 50 percent female participation in political and civic leadership by 2050, the initiative Clinton launched aims to inspire, motivate and empower an emerging generation of female leaders.
The goal is certainly ambitious -- "If this were easy," Clinton explained on Tuesday, "it would already have been done." However, she maintained that the 50 percent goal is realistic if women are willing to step up to the challenge.
"We have seen over and over again the difference women can make," she said. "In this complicated, difficult, dangerous and threatening world, we can do better in so many places.”