Global Conversation

Global Conversation at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels

Time and Place

Brussels, Belgium

Follow the conversation


Event Details

Global Conversation on “Breaking Barriers – Strategies to Succeed in Public Service”

The United States Mission to the European Union and the Women in Public Service Project hosted a global conversation on “Breaking Barriers – Strategies to Succeed in Public Service” in Brussels on October 2, 2012. The voices of women’s leadership represented on the panel included Ambassador Anna-Karin Eneström, Sweden’s Representative to the Political and Security Committee at the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the EU; Dr. Franziska Brantner, Member of the European Parliament; and Susannah Wellford Shakow, Esq, Chair of the Board and founder of Running Start. The discussion focused on barriers to entry and advancement for women in leadership positions within government and the public sector. This panel spoke to the many unique factors that contribute to the significant under-representation of women’s voices in governments and public bodies throughout both the United States and the European Union.

With public examples of female leadership including Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among others, why does the world still need to focus on gender parity in government? Some critique the continuing focus by citing gains made in many nations that indicate positive momentum. In the United States, there has been a four-fold increase of women in Congress from 1981 to 2011.  In the European Union, Germany and Belgium have comparatively high numbers for women in national congress or parliament- reaching as high as 40.8% in the past five years, while the United Kingdom and Italy hover at around 20% representation. These numbers demonstrate progress, but a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena encouraging and discouraging women’s political participation and gains in public leadership is a cause that the Women in Public Service Project is committed to with an aim at pushing the limits of progress.

The Project is an innovative initiative that pairs the power of public service with the Seven Sisters Colleges of Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Wellesley College to engage and inspire future generations of women leaders in the United States and around the world.  The Project will identify and educate a new generation of women committed to public service, create an infrastructure of support and mentoring, and help enable more women to enter public service and political leadership.  The Project is convening a series of global conversations and launching partnerships to ensure that we are educating and training a new generation of women to enter the public sector with the strategic leadership skills, energy, and commitment required to tackle today’s global challenges. The Women in Public Service Project was delighted to host a global conversation in Brussels and to develop a network to connect established and emerging leaders in the capital of Europe. Updates on the Women in Public Service project can be found on Facebook at or on Twitter @WPSProject.

As former Secretary of State Madeline Albright famously stated, “there is a place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Breaking Barriers – Strategies to Succeed in Public Service will be an opportunity for established female leaders to reach out to those emerging within their fields, and hopefully provide the foundation for a network in Brussels to continuously connect women who can help each other- and ultimately their global community.

The event was moderated by Valeria Ramundo Orlando, with a closing from WPSP Web and Social Media Manager Anne Kauth, and will be followed by light refreshments.

Featured Speakers