02/21/2013 11:54 am ET Updated Apr 23, 2013

Our Daughters Also Can Lead America Forward

French historian Alexis de Tocqueville was amazingly prophetic when he observed in the 19th century that the secret of America's success could be found in the strengths and superiority of its women. I believe women in the 21st century also have the strengths necessary to resolve this nation's most persistent challenges by driving job growth and economic prosperity.

Bright, dedicated women are setting new standards in virtually every sphere of society.

In education, women currently earn the majority of college, master's and doctoral degrees, and they are increasingly prominent in business, law and medicine -- fields once dominated by men.

In the economy, women control the majority of wealth and make three quarters of purchasing decisions in American homes. In addition, three quarters of mothers are in the workforce, and up to half are primary breadwinners for their families.

In business, women are in the vanguard of entrepreneurship, setting the pace for business start-ups and job creation. It is exciting to see that women-owned firms are the fastest-growing segment of small businesses. The Women's Business Development Council here in Connecticut estimates that last year, women-owned firms grew by 200,000, nearly 500 new firms every day. In fact, women-owned enterprises in total produce over $3 trillion annually, making them equivalent to the fifth largest GDP in the world.

Good performance inevitably leads to good results. Women are not just doing remarkably well in all kinds of endeavors, they are also redefining excellence. As one example, a recent story in Business Insider noted that women-owned hedge funds are the new leaders -- not just by a little, but by a lot.

Clearly, women have qualities that advance success -- qualities that society might do well to recognize, prize and nurture. While there will always be exceptions, women tend to live and work with strong purpose. They also tend to be patient, organized, thorough, careful and kind -- all attributes to value. Very significantly, they understand the high importance of relationships. Through joy and sorrow, success and setbacks, they build relationships to last. Strong relationships, in turn, foster greater trust. Would it not be a good thing to have greater trust in America today?

If we truly want America to excel, we must ignite the enormous potential for more women to excel. That will mean encouraging all women, starting with young girls, to discover their strengths and gifts, and to be brave and venture forth toward their hopes and dreams, always aiming high. As a grandmother, I want my three little granddaughters to have the same opportunities for success as my three grandsons will have -- and I think all parents and grandparents share those goals for the children in their own lives. Those in positions of leadership must do their part. They must create an environment that incentivizes and rewards women and men who are industrious and innovative. That certainly includes women who make amazing sacrifices to balance their multiple responsibilities of vocations, careers and families.

None of these comments are meant to diminish the essential role of men and fathers in America. Rather, they are meant to underscore that in this country, whose hallmark is opportunity for all, facing difficulties of great magnitude, we must mobilize all of our resources, talent and potential. The moment should be viewed not just as an opportunity for women, but as a necessity for America. Our daughters also can lead America forward.