Changing of the Guard

As new the new millennium emerged it became clear to me that it was time for women to partake in serious leadership positions. The overwhelming problems of terrorism, environmental degradation, declining health care service and substandard education demanded a new approach to leadership.

At the start of 2007, I am heartened to see how many women are assuming these roles around the world: Michele Bachelete, Chile's first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia's first female president in the African continent, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, to name a few. The potential success of Ségolène Royal as France's first female President would make an extraordinary statement for women leaders.

I am looking forward to when a female head of state is the norm, rather than the anomaly.

In our own country it is exciting to note the successes of Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas and first woman chair of the Democratic Governor's Association and Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona and first woman chair of the National Governor's Association.

These two governors along with their seven other female colleagues have focused their administrations on fiscal responsibility, health care, education, and the environment. Sebelius balanced a budget that was $1.1 billion in debt when she took office. Napolitano launched an innovative and effective health care program. Their accomplishments were numerous and they were reelected with resounding victories. Their leadership style is to understand the needs and priorities of their citizens and respond accordingly.

TIME magazine has heralded Sebelius and Napolitano as two of our country's five best governors.

Today the women of Washington are celebrating their new leader Nancy Pelosi, first woman Speaker of the House, third in the ascendancy to the Presidency. On January 3rd, as she made remarks surrounded by the strength of her female colleagues, the collective power of these women was palpable. Speaker Pelosi declared that her absolute first priority in this Congress will be the needs of children. I'm sure women around this country will be happy to have their priorities represented by such an able leader.

As Representative Delauro said, "When you take smoking out of the Capital, you might just end up with a gathering like this."

So here we are with a real opportunity for women to lead. The mantel is being passed and I am confident with this newly found power and opportunity for women to do what they do best. They will lead by consensus; they will check their ego at the door, and work with their colleagues to solve some of the most profound problems of our nation.

It was wonderful to hear Governor Sebelius talking with the new Senator, Claire McCaskill, about creative ways in which Washington and the states can work together.

As men have maintained political roles through tight gentlemen's clubs and tradition, sandboxing women to a degree, it's my hope that our new strong women leaders will continue to invite men to stand by them; just as Bachelete has done by employing her cabinet with an equal number of men and women. For, one of the most squandered natural resources of the modern age has been the exclusion of the leadership skills of women.

It is my hope that this new brand of women leaders will be creative, collegial and determined; that they will work with men, as real leadership demands getting the best of all your colleagues.

And so, while most of the Washington circuit remains abuzz over the shift in Republican control of Congress to a long awaited Democratic, the real changing of the guard, in my opinion, has been the longest awaited: the sharing of political control between men and women.