Women Who Lead: A Discussion with Top Women Diplomats

Group Photo (Mission Image)Selamat siang.  Good afternoon.

It is my true pleasure to be at @america today with all of you and join my esteemed colleagues and good friends to this panel discussion:

“Women Who Lead:  A Discussion with Top Women Diplomats.”

I have really been looking forward to this.

Over the last two decades, a strong body of research has emerged and its findings are very clear: when women thrive, organizations thrive and nations thrive.

When girls and women are educated and join the workforce, and are encouraged to succeed, companies do better, communities do better, governments make better choices and economies grow.

There is a strong, statistical correlation: the closer women are to enjoying equal rights in a country, the better a country’s economy will perform over the long run.

Countries that repeal laws that discriminate against women, many of which still exist, and pass laws that promise equality see an increase in women joining the workforce and see an increase in economic growth.

As Hillary Clinton has noted:  The greatest contribution to rise of the American economy after WW2 was the increase in women in the workforce. During my lifetime, it has been wonderful to see great advances for girls and women in many countries.

But there is still so much work to be done, in so many places, including the United States, so that every girl and every woman can live up to her full potential.

That is why two of my top priorities as the U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN are to cultivate young leaders and promote opportunities for women.

In the audience today are 30 young women attending U.S. ASEAN’s YSEALI Generation workshop focused on women’s leadership.  And let me take this moment to thank my hardworking staff for putting together such a great event.

The group includes representatives from all ten ASEAN member states who were selected to participate in an interactive workshop which is building their skills, helping them set goals and giving them a chance to network with senior leaders. I had a chance to meet these women yesterday and, I’m telling you, they could be up on stage, and I know that many of them will be on stages large and small in the course of their careers.

For those of you in the audience who might not be familiar with YSEALI, it stands for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and is President Barack Obama’s signature  program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.

Through a variety of programs, including exchanges to the United States, regional workshops, and small grants, YSEALI builds leadership capabilities of young people in the region, strengthens ties with the United States, and nurtures an ASEAN community.

In just over a year, almost 28,000 young people in the region have joined YSEALI, and I hope you will too. It is open to all residents of ASEAN who are between the ages of 18-35. It is very easy to sign up —just go online, and search for for YSEALI.

You can sign also up right here at @america after this program.

This panel represents a very impressive group of leaders. They are accomplished and they are also genuinely warm, lovely people. Among us, we have well over a century of experience in the workplace so I hope we can offer some advice.

But we also very much want to hear from you about your experiences so after we talk for a bit among ourselves, we will open the floor for comments and questions.

We mean for this panel not to be a self-contained event, but to fuel conversations on how to increase women’s participation in leadership roles.

If you want to tweet or blog or post, you can use the hashtag #ysealiwomen

Now, I’d like to introduce our impressive group of panelists and invite them to join me on the stage Her Excellency Elizabeth Buensuceso is the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN and she arrived in Jakarta in March 2013. Prior to her appointment, she was the Assistant Secretary of the Office of European Affairs. She has served as the Ambassador of the Philippines to Norway, Denmark, and Iceland, and Ambassador to Laos.

Her Excellency Anna Aghajanyan is the Armenian Ambassador to Indonesia and arrived in Jakarta in December 2013. Earlier, she served as the Deputy Head of Mission of the Armenian Mission to both the European Union and Brussels and the Director of the European Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has also served at the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations in New York.

Her Excellency Stephanie Lee assumed the role as the first New Zealand resident ambassador to ASEAN in November 2014. Previously, she was the acting Senior Official for ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She has also served at the United Nations in New York, at the OECD in Paris, and in Hong Kong.

Kristen Bauer has served as the United States Deputy Chief of Mission to Indonesia since July 4, 2012. She was previously the U.S. Consul General in Surabaya. Prior to arriving in Indonesia, Ms. Bauer served at the U.S. Embassy in Norway, and as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Laos. She has also held posts in Vietnam and Thailand, and with her next post as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Myanmar, she will have served in five ASEAN Member States.

Friends, welcome.  I have been looking forward to this discussion for quite some time.

I’ll throw out some questions, and Ill ask each one of you one to start, but hope all of you wll join in

  1. Let me start with you, Ambassador Anna, as your name begins with A. What do you think is the most significant barrier for women leaders?

[subconscious discrimination.  Study of scientists.  Hard to erase except for more women in higher positions.  Girls education and mentoring.]

  1. Ambassador Steph, if you could give your 25-year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

[grew up in the 70s.  notion that women could have it all—great careers, great marriages, great kids.  Think that is true, but between you and your partner, you may not be able to have it all at the same time.  And it’s OK to pace yourself.  That is the advice I would have given myself. BE persistent, and things will be OK even if you are not always zooming ahead very fast. I thought it was important to stay engaged in work while I had young kids—for their sanity as well as my own—but I had to lower my expectations of what to get done.  That choice should not have to fall on women, but the reality is that it still does much of the time.  In any case, between you and your partner, you may need to make tradeoffs at different times in your life to raise kids or take care of a sick relative

  1. Ambassador Beth:  what is one skill or characteristic that you think is essential to being a good leader?

Ability to bring out the best in others.  Focus on the team and ensuring that all voices are heard and have the chance to contribute.

  1. Kristen, research shows that women don’t tend to plot how to advance their career the way men do.  So let me ask, whether you thought about it in advance or not, what was the best decision you made that moved your career forward?

[Serious of small decisions to keep honing in on what I most cared about, staying in touch with people who were doing the kind of work I wanted to.  Lucky break and worked for WH early in my career.]

  1. Ambassador Buensuceso:  How have you balanced work and life priorities to be successful? Is this especially difficult for women?

Anna or Steph: Can you name a person who has had a significant impact on you as a leader

Kristen:  How do you define social responsibility? Why is it important, especially for women leaders?

Group Photo (Mission Image)