Global Leadership

First Ladies Initiative

Supporting first ladies’ efforts to improve the lives of women and children around the world.


Current and former First Ladies have participated in program related activities


Countries from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean have participated in capacity-building training sessions

“I hope someday someone will take the time to evaluate the true role of the wife of a President and to assess the many burdens she has to bear and contributions she makes.”
–President Harry S. Truman

The role of first lady varies by country and context - it may or may not be endowed with financial resources, staff, or formal recognition.  The First Ladies Initiative works with first ladies to cultivate public-private partnerships and to provide training and support for their offices by promoting dialogue, fostering partnerships, and building capacity.

Original research fills the research gap that exists around first ladies and women's leadership; A Role Without a Rulebook explores the leadership potential of first ladies, how they overcome challenges, and their ability to effect change.

The role is defined by flexibility and opportunity, but also constraints. It is shaped by the unique personalities and capabilities of the women who serve in the office.

Despite challenges, first ladies have a unique platform to improve the lives of the citizens of their countries. Their experiences contribute to wider lessons that can inform and inspire leaders everywhere.

Case Studies

Related Content

Women’s Initiative

Promoting education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for women around the world

Natalie Gonnella-Platts
Natalie Gonnella-Platts Deputy Director, Women's Initiative George W. Bush Institute Full Bio
Farhat Popal
Farhat Popal Manager George W. Bush Institute Full Bio
Christopher Walsh
Christopher Walsh Manager George W. Bush Institute Full Bio
Shannon Bradford
Shannon Bradford Associate, Global Initiatives George W. Bush Institute Full Bio
Paula J. Dobriansky
Paula J. Dobriansky Former Undersecretary of State, Democracy and Global Affairs; Women's Initiative Policy Advisory Council Chair Full Bio
Barbara M. Barrett
Barbara M. Barrett School President; former U.S. ambassador to Finland Thunderbird School of Global Management Full Bio
Nancy G. Brinker
Nancy G. Brinker Founder Susan G. Komen for the Cure Full Bio
Kate Friedrich
Kate Friedrich Vice President of Global Government Affairs Thomson Reuters Full Bio
Karen Hughes
Karen Hughes Global Vice Chair Burson-Marsteller Full Bio
Mary Jo Myers
Mary Jo Myers President of Aschiana Foundation Associate Director of Public Affairs, Hayes and Associates Full Bio
Meghan L. O’Sullivan
Meghan L. O’Sullivan Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs; Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University Full Bio
Dina Powell
Dina Powell President, Goldman Sachs Foundation; Managing Director, Global Head of Corporate Engagement Goldman Sachs Full Bio
Judy Van Rest
Judy Van Rest Executive Vice President International Republican Institute Full Bio
Amanda Schnetzer
Amanda Schnetzer Fellow, Global Initiatives George W. Bush Institute Full Bio