03/07/2013 04:21 pm ET Updated May 07, 2013

A New Journey Begins On International Women's Day

by Charity Wallace

This week, the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute is celebrating International Women's Day and welcoming two classes of Women's Initiative Fellows to Dallas. One hundred years ago, March 8 was chosen to observe International Women's Day. The day marks the progress women have made over the last century in education, political involvement, and the workplace; and it emphasizes the need to continue to strive for women's equity around the world.

The Women's Initiative will commemorate International Women's Day with events to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2012 Fellows who are graduating from the yearlong program, and to launch the 2013 Women's Initiative Fellowship. Over the past year, the inaugural class of Women's Initiative Fellows has experienced great success individually, and established a robust network of women to help build a stronger civil society for their country. The women have developed leadership skills that they are passing along to other women in their personal networks, creating a multiplier effect.

The second class of nineteen Egyptian women who constitute the 2013 Women's Initiative Fellowship represent six influential sectors of society, including business, education, health, law, media and politics. They are about to begin their yearlong Fellowship which will equip them to become effective leaders. The Fellows will be paired with American mentors from their same profession who will provide guidance and support over the next year. The Fellows will also spend the next month in the U.S. learning new leadership skills. Upon their return to Egypt, these women will join forces with the 2012 Fellows to expand the network and improve the lives of women in their neighborhoods and across their country.

"Women's Networks and the Emergence of Leadership" by Maria Minniti, Professor at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, shows that with a strong professional network a woman is better able to prosper in her field and expand her influence. Minniti's research was instrumental in designing the Women's Initiative Fellowship and shines an important light on why women need strong, supportive networks. Minniti notes that networks and professional examples are a determining factor in a woman's likelihood to become a leader or agent of change in her community. Her research shows programs like the Women's Initiative Fellowship can make a difference in improving not only the lives of the participating Fellows, but the lives of women in their neighborhoods and across their country.

The women who make up the Women's Initiative Fellowship represent the progress of women, and the desire to expand women's roles in every aspect of society. By investing in the Fellows, we believe that Egypt will be the vibrant and thriving democracy its people had hoped for two years ago in Tahrir Square.

Charity Wallace serves as the director of the Women's Initiative at the Bush Institute and senior advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush.