A Tribute to Women in Service

Today I participated as a speaker on the Women in Service panel at the Wharton Women in Business Conference in Philadelphia, PA.

I was honored to be joined by panelists Jennifer Harper Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation, Christy Policy, executive director of Girls on the Run Manhattan, Dr. Lyles, superintendent for the Christina School District of Delaware and our moderator and fellow panelist Kara Hurst, vice president of the Business of Social Responsibility (BSR).

The panel, Service Oriented Leadership: Societal Benefit through a Business Lens, touched on a number of topics related to the importance of community service on both the corporate and personal level. As panelists, we collectively drew from our own experience in the non-profit sector to discuss a number of important issues including how to reach out to young people and engage them in a commitment to service, how public/private partnerships are successful in enabling community change and corporate social responsibility (CSR) best practices.

The intent of the panel was to empower, engage and inspire young women in business to demonstrate social responsibility, prioritize CSR as they evaluate positions with prospective employers and ultimately to become successful corporate and community leaders.

I am thrilled that events like the Wharton Women in Business Conference have placed a national spotlight on the importance of service. I have to commend the Obama administration for working to instill the values of service in American citizens and invigorating us to support our community. What began as a political campaign bolstered by community organizers has evolved into a national call to action to empower all citizens to participate in national and local service. From expanding national programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps to launching Serve.gov, a site that allows citizens to find volunteer opportunities or create their own community service project, I admire the bold efforts the administration is making to lay a new foundation for our country.

As someone who has dedicated much of my career to serving individuals and the broader public in various capacities, this event was particularly inspiring to me because I realize the importance of instilling the values of community service into young emerging professionals. These students are the business and community leaders of tomorrow.

I was lucky enough to benefit from the Root-Tilden Snow Program, a public service scholarship program at NYU School of Law, so service was always key to my career plan. I clerked in trial and appellate federal courts after law school with the idea that I would be a litigator. While I admired the work of many public interest lawyers, I decided that courts with a winners and losers paradigm were not a place I felt I could best address inequities I saw in our communities. Since clerking I have been lucky enough to work directly with clients in non-profits serving prisoners and later home bound people with AIDS, cancer and other terminal illnesses. I have also been able to creatively apply my legal and client services experience at two very different foundations, George Soros' Open Society Institute and the philanthropic arm of M•A•C Cosmetics, the M•A•C AIDS Fund.

As I think about the lessons I hope to impart on the young women at the conference today, I cannot help but use the history of the M•A•C AIDS Fund as a perfect example of how to maximize corporate good works - from empowering employees to do good to expanding our global impact.

For more than 16 years the M•A•C AIDS Fund has worked with hundreds of charitable organizations to help combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic that now affects more than 33 million people worldwide. Considered the heart and soul of M•A•C Cosmetics, the M•A•C AIDS Fund was founded in 1994 when M•A•C employees unanimously voted to support people affected by HIV and AIDS as the company's charitable cause.

From 1994 to now, M•A•C employees have been the cornerstone of the M•A•C AIDS Fund. Our Good Spirits makeup program provides beauty and skincare training and products to people living with HIV and AIDS all over the world. The Good Spirits program empowers our global network of makeup artists to volunteer their expertise in makeup to help restore their appearance and self image. This program also inspires M•A•C Artists to volunteer beyond the actual Good Spirits makeup session. Artists that take part in Good Spirits will often sign up for regular volunteer shifts with the participating organization. For instance, a manager from a M•A•C counter at a Macy's in Florida has participated in many Good Spirits sessions over the past few years. She now volunteers her time to speak about skincare and beauty at conferences and retreats for women living with HIV and AIDS.

Students and young professionals have the power to leave a lasting impact on the world. As our country's future business leaders, it is incumbent upon them to prioritize and value community service in their personal lives and throughout their professional career.