The University of Massachusetts Lowell will host the first Public University Initiative of the Women in Public Service Project at a conference on Conflict Transformation through Economic Development and Innovation in June 2013. This conference is focused on emerging women leaders who are able to have an impact in key areas in their nation.
The Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) began as an initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the Five Sisters women’s colleges – Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Wellesley. The WPSP is now housed at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, headed by the Honorable Jane Harman. Founded in 2011, it has now grown to include other institutions higher education and partner institutions around the world. The initiative seeks to advance women to positions of influence in governments and civic organizations worldwide. The initiative is distinguished by the partners’ demonstrated legacy of educating women leaders across the globe and linking them to each other through powerful intergenerational networks.
The initiative will provide vital momentum to 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. The Women in Public Service Project envisions a world in which political and civic leadership is at least 50 percent female by 2050.
The conference will take place for a period of three days from June 3-5 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, with the main event being a kick-off celebration dinner, on June 4, honoring leaders in public service. This pilot conference will convene 12 emerging women leaders from four post-conflict countries (Northern Ireland, Liberia, Afghanistan and Turkey), who are already serving in different fields of public service and/or political or elected office, with other women in public service from across New England and the United States. Conference delegates are invited from governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions – those who are working to confront the economics barriers and pitfalls to sustainable peace.
The conference hopes to provide a forum for shared learning and dialogue; exchange of experiences and expertise; peer-to-peer mentoring and networking; and build an important platform for cross-fertilization of knowledge and innovative leadership skills.
Understanding that peace is not the result of a cessation of conflict, but comes with the establishment of equitable distribution of resources, panel presentations, keynote addresses and working group sessions will engage participants in discussions around the role that economic development and innovation play in creating sustainable peace. Topics to be explored include the relationship between peace and economic security, health care and economic development, and the gendered effects of macroeconomic policy.
Following the conference, participants will have the opportunity to participate in the global network of emerging women leaders that are part of the Women in Public Service Project as well as be able to take advantage of the mentoring opportunities that they offer. We hope that by participating in this conference we can help to establish and sustain a vibrant international network of leaders; generate new, cross-culturally valid insights on women's political leadership, provide a forum for ongoing learning; and gain momentum, and increased understanding of how to deal with the issues that many women leaders face, over time.
Public universities have an essential role to play in shaping and training women in the field of public service nationally and internationally. The University of Massachusetts Lowell is currently serving as the hub for public university involvement in the Women in Public Service Project. We are working in collaboration with the other UMass campuses, Arizona State University, San Francisco State University and University of Maryland Baltimore County with the hope that additional public universities from across the United States will sign on, to serve as a public university consortium.
The conference is also supported by the United States Institute of Peace Public Education for Peacebuilding Support Initiative which provided a grant for a panel on the role of women in post-conflict reconciliation.