Several of the nation’s leading women’s colleges have signed on to a partnership with the U.S. State Department to increase the participation of women around the globe in public service and political leadership, and to forge global solutions to improve governance, expand civil rights and combat corruption.

In broad-ranging remarks delivered Friday night, March 11, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Women and Public Service Initiative, which will bring together the resources of “The Sisters”– Smith, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Barnard and Bryn Mawr—with the State Department to present a conference this fall and develop a public service and political leadership institute for young women. Clinton spoke in New York City at the Women in the World Stories and Solutions conference, sponsored by Newsweek and the Daily Beast website.

“Together we will seek to promote the next generation of women leaders who will invest in their countries and communities, provide leadership for their governments and societies, and help change the way global solutions are developed,” Clinton said. “‘The Seven Sisters … have a rich tradition of educating and inspiring women leaders from around the world for over 30 generations.”

While the nuts and bolts of the new collaboration are still being put together, the collaborative effort aims to address the need to educate and train a new generation of women to enter the public sector with the strategic leadership skills, energy and commitment required to tackle daunting world challenges.

“At a time when governments, NGO’s, and businesses are increasingly recognizing how educating women and girls allays poverty and political instability, we need women leaders, committed to the public sector, from many nationalities and socioeconomic backgrounds, globally educated and prepared to lead,” said Smith College President Carol T. Christ. “That is the venture on which we embark.”

“In today’s interconnected world, it is our goal to educate women for positions of global leadership and train a new generation of thought leaders who will make a difference in the world,” said Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly. “We are delighted to collaborate further with our esteemed alumna, Secretary Clinton, and our sister colleges to continue to promote the voice of women around the world.”

“At this particular moment in global discussions of democracy and representation, it is fitting that we should convene a long term forum for the development of women in public service,” said Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella. “Public service will never truly be public until women are equitable partners in shaping policies that serve the needs of humanity. We are thrilled to be convening a forum with our sister institutions who are committed to liberal learning as a powerful foundation for promoting sustained leadership in public service.”

As a first step, the State Department and the five colleges will host a colloquium in the fall of 2011 at Bryn Mawr College that will bring together global policy makers, public officials, academic experts and innovative thinkers. The inaugural event will have three goals: to form a global network of women in public service; to draw attention to the need to train and inspire a new generation of female political leaders; and to advance partnerships, including an annual summer institute on public service and political leadership for young women from around the world.

Many alumnae from the partnering schools work in public service or on international issues. They include two of the three females to hold the post of U.S. Secretary of State, Wellesley College alumnae Hillary Clinton ’69 and Madeleine Albright ’59; Kavita Ramdas, Mount Holyoke ’85, recent president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women; and Farah Pandith, Smith ’90, U.S. Department of State special representative to Muslim communities.

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