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Networks Matter and Leadership is Contagious

March 7, 2013 by Charity Wallace

“Women’s Networks and the Emergence of Leadership” by Maria Minniti, Professor and Bobby B. Lyle Chair of Entrepreneurship at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, shows that with a strong professional network a woman is better able to prosper in her field and expand her influence.

Minniti’s research was instrumental in designing the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship, which seeks to empower and equip women to become effective leaders.  One of the intended results of the Fellowship is the knowledge of how to expand the Fellows’ networks and opportunities to do so.  As Minniti’s research shows, networks and professional examples are a determining factor in a woman’s likelihood to become a leader or agent of change in her community.

Minniti states, “Notwithstanding the institutional constraints that may be imposed on women in any country or community, the participation of women in public life is a grass-roots phenomenon in which women themselves create a "culture" of their own influence and position in society to be embraced and followed by other women.” Individuals are more likely to take on roles and challenges that they have seen peers succeed in, and women leaders are the best examples for other women seeking to be powerful advocates of change.

However, Minniti’s research found that women are less likely to have supportive professional networks than men, which may have a negative impact on their influence on society. Recognizing this, and the significance of supportive networks, the Women’s Initiative Fellowship designed small classes of 12-20 Fellows from a single country in order to increase the impact of the program. In addition, the curriculum is specifically designed to be easily passed on to other women. Groups of 13 and 19 Egyptian women respectively were invited to participate in both the inaugural Fellowship class and the 2013 class. These Fellows will take what they learn and pass it on to their networks at home, creating a multiplier effect.

Minniti’s research shines an important light on why women need strong, supportive networks and why programs like the Women’s Initiative Fellowship can make a difference in improving not only the lives of the participating Fellows, but the lives of women in their neighborhoods and across their country:

“Developing women’s capacity to lead change is critical, as women often find themselves leading in highly uncertain environments where radical changes may be required...However, there is strength in numbers. This is why networks matter and leadership is contagious. The involvement of women in public life and as agents of change matters. It makes a difference for individuals, for communities, for international relations and, ultimately, for world peace and the sustainable growth of the global economy.”

Read “Women’s Networks and the Emergence of Leadership” by Maria Minniti here.

This post was written by Charity Wallace, Director of the Women's Initiative at The George W. Bush Institute.

 


Author

Charity Wallace
Charity Wallace

Charity N. Wallace serves as the Senior Advisor to the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute and is in an executive graduate program in pursuit of a Global Master of Arts degree in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Most recently, Ms. Wallace served as the Vice President of the Global Women’s Initiatives and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. In this role, Ms. Wallace was responsible for setting the vision and managing the policy engagement for the women’s initiatives, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon global health initiative, empowering women in the Middle East and working with First Ladies from around the world. The Women's Initiative aims to improve access to education, health care, and economic opportunity for women and children in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

From February 2009 through September 2010, Wallace served as the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Laura Bush.  Wallace oversaw Mrs. Bush’s initiatives - from her wide ranging policy agenda to her the publishing and promotion of Mrs. Bush’s bestselling book, Spoken from the Heart. Wallace served in the Bush Administration from January 2001 to January 2009.  During her tenure in the administration, she served as Deputy Chief of Protocol of the United States (2007-2009), Director of Advance for First Lady Laura Bush (2004-2007), and worked in public liaison positions in Presidential Advance, the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and USA Freedom Corps. During her tenure in the Bush Administration and in her current role, Wallace has traveled to 70 countries.

Ms. Wallace serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, the Advisory Board of ARZU Studio Hope, the Advisory Board of 4word Women and the Advisory Board of All In Together, an bi-partisan organization that promotes women’s engagement in political and civic life.  Ms. Wallace is an ex-officio member on the Human Freedom Advisory Council for the Bush Institute.  Ms. Wallace wrote the foreword for the book Work, Love, Pray, which was released in 2011. A native of California, Ms. Wallace graduated magna cum laude from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with a focus in international relations. 

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