Meridian Hosts Roundtable and Reception with Inaugural Class of Bush Institute Fellows

On Thursday, February 23, 2012, The Meridian Council on Women’s Leadership, in partnership with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative, hosted a roundtable discussion on the challenges and opportunities for women’s leadership in the Middle East. The event, held in conjunction with the George W. Bush Institute’s Inaugural Women’s Initiative Fellowship Program, featured a group of high level participants including women ambassadors from five countries, senior U.S. government officials, and executives from the fields of media, banking and the non-profit sector along with the 14 Bush Institute Fellows from Egypt. The Bush Institute Fellows represented a cross section of Egyptian society with women leaders from various backgrounds and sectors including education, media, business and law. The Fellows are in the U.S. for a total of three weeks to learn more about leadership and developing civic capacity.

Ambassador Stuart W. Holliday, President and CEO of the Meridian International Center, welcomed participants and introduced the moderator for the roundtable, Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government along with commentator Ambassador Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“The Meridian Women’s Council is designed to strengthen international understanding of the political, economic, and social factors that contribute to women’s empowerment in their local communities, nationally and globally,” said Ambassador Holliday. “Events such as this one allow us to connect women leaders across sectors and borders in a lasting and significant way.”

Following brief introductions by the Fellows, Ambassador Dobriansky introduced three key topics for discussion: promoting small business and entrepreneurship, women’s leadership at home and abroad, and women in the media. Addressing the topic of small business and entrepreneurship were The Honorable Dina Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Global Head of Corporate Engagement; K. Shelly Porges, Senior Advisor leading the Global Entrepreneurship (GEP) at the U.S. State Department; Alice Albright, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Export-Import Bank of the U.S.; and Mimi Alemayehou, Executive Vice President of OPIC.

Ambassador Dobriansky turned the floor over to the Ambassadors, to speak on their leadership experiences both in their “home” countries as well as their diplomatic posts abroad. We were honored to be joined by Her Excellency Audrey Marks of Jamaica; Her Excellency Renée Jones-Bos of The Netherlands; Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand of Estonia; Her Excellency Elena Poptodorova of Bulgaria and Her Excellency Sheila Siwela of Zambia. The final topic discussed, women’s leadership in media, was addressed by Meridian Trustee, The Honorable Patricia Harrison, President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Throughout the course of the roundtable, participants offered their support and advice to the Fellows and stressed the importance of networking amongst women leaders. They urged the Fellows to make the most of building relationships and connections with contacts and mentors during their fellowship and reiterated the importance of staying connected to one another.

The roundtable was followed by an informal networking reception. His Excellency Sameh Shoukry, Ambassador of Egypt, offered welcome remarks to guests, which included members of the diplomatic, NGO, corporate, and U.S. government communities.

Following the Fellows visit to Washington, DC, New York, and Silicon Valley, the group will reconvene in Dallas, Texas to debrief and identify an in-country project designed to empower women in which they will take ownership.

Project summary

Meridian Hosts Roundtable and Reception with Inaugural Class of Bush Institute Fellows
Number of Visitors: 14
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Countries: Egypt
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls, Governance and Transparency
Program Areas: Forums
Partners: NGOs, Diplomatic Corps