My interest in global development grew organically out of my travels to South America, where I first witnessed at a young age both the barriers of poverty and the tenacity of the human spirit. I saw firsthand that people are what powers development. At the same time, I could feel the transformative power that education was having in my own life and took an interest in education as means of investing in people. As a graduate of a women’s college, I come from a rich legacy that questions the equality of opportunity women and girls are afforded. I believe whole-heartedly that we will not beat poverty until women and girls are empowered to become part of the solution.
What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
I am incredibly proud to have had the chance to work on the UN’s Millennium Development Goal campaign to achieve universal education and gender equality during my time at the World Bank. This entailed a lot of work on communicating global progress — what success stories look like, where targets are lagging, how partners and recipients could be better engaged — all with the goal of increasing funding, political will, and the smart investing of resources in ways that change peoples’ lives. I was also excited to moderate sessions at the Open Forum on Gender and the launch of the U.S. Department of State’s Women in Public Service initiative. I love being a writer and an advocate. Becoming a featured contributor to the Huffington Post has given me an outlet to share my perspectives with a wider audience, which is another a life goal for me.
What skill/attitude etc. has contributed to your success?
I am a people person! Being able to naturally connect with others makes my work infinitely easier. When colleagues and counterparts seek me out, my job is done. I also can’t sit still, I am always getting up to do a lap around the office. I think it helps re-energize and focus me. A love of languages has also helped deepen my relationships with international colleagues.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted you during your work or outside of work?
I feel like I have been surrounded by amazing women my whole life! — in particular my mom and the sisterhood that is Mount Holyoke College. At the moment, I have been shadowing the incredible Kate Roberts, who bridges global health with powerful communications campaigns that drive action to save lives. She established the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers community to pass the baton, so I try to watch and learn as much as possible! I love having female role models. I am lucky to have also had amazing male mentors, including Robin Horn and Phil Hay, who always encouraged me to stand up and speak.
You work on girls’ education: have you seen any general changes in field in the past few years? What are the biggest challenges left?
In the West, I think we are slow to realize just how different the lives of adolescent girls are in developing countries. At a shockingly young age, girls are often at risk for child marriage and pregnancy, which derails not just their schooling but future. Health and education interventions that aim to improve the lives of girls need to start young, go hand in hand, and realistically teach life skills that help avoid poverty traps. One of the biggest challenges to keeping women and girls’ interests on the global agenda is something that I think often goes unspoken — and that is having greater political representation of women in government and civil service. Greater coordination around these issues is helping but much more needs to be done.
What advice do you have for young female leaders who would want to go into your field?
I have to say, for me the most exciting part of having a public voice are all the messages I get from other young women who relate to my story. I love ambitious young women! What I have learned is to figure out 1) what you are really good at, and 2) what you really like doing. And don’t be scared. When someone gives you an inch, run a mile. Passion and energy will pay off.