01/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dear Secretaries Designate: Listen Up!

In little over a week, the Obama transition team has made two nominations that will potentially affect the lives of every woman, man and child on the planet. The proposals of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and of Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State have generated much excitement. But along with the groundswell of expectations, it will be important to keep a critical eye on the policies of the new administration and how its actions and programs affect women and girls. We asked several movers and shakers from across sectors for their advice to the newly designated appointees.

Philanthropist Abigail Disney, President of the Daphne Foundation, said she expected Clinton to transform her personal victory "into meaningful improvements in the life conditions of women around the world, [and] perhaps even into paradigmatic shifts in governance." Still, some have cautioned against sky-high thinking. It is true that the challenges we face today demand imaginative, innovative solutions, but we must be willing to be pragmatic even as we pursue new directions. For instance, Marie Wilson, President of The White House Project, advises Clinton to spend her first 100 days on the phone, "restoring confidence and renewing friendships." Our ability to restore and strengthen relations with the rest of the world depends on our willingness to offer a different kind of politics.

In addition to reviving diplomatic and multilateral efforts, we need to restore our image here at home. It has finally been made official that we are in deep recession, and as some citizens lose their jobs, and their homes, the "American Dream" is becoming increasingly elusive for many of us. Treasury Secretary designate Timothy Geithner would do well to heed the advice of Jacki Zehner, financial expert and Founding Partner of Circle Financial Group (see her blog: Purse Pundit): "don't tell us what you think people want to hear, but ..what is really happening." Indeed, to build confidence in our economy, we need leaders who are able to spearhead an era of economic recovery, growth and transparency.

Women leaders are speaking out about their vision for change. Some of them have contributed to our on-line forum The Real Deal, including Sara Gould (President, Ms Foundation), Carol Jenkins (President, Women's Media Center), Catharine R. Stimpson (Dean, New York University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), C. Nicole Mason (Executive Director of the Women of Color Policy Network, Wagner School of Public Service at NYU) and Lucie Lapovsky (Former President of Mercy College). They are offering sound advice and calling for an administration that reflects the diversity of the United States, that recognizes the inequities in our system and that strives to correct them. Let's hope that just as President-elect Obama has promised to keep attuned to the needs of all Americans, Timothy Geithner and Hillary Rodham Clinton remain in touch with the needs and perspectives of all citizens, including women and girls. In the end, it's not just a new policy direction that is needed but one that builds a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable future for all.

For more detailed perspectives, check out the National Council for Research on Women's blog: The REAL Deal.

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