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Women in Leadership: Q&A with Holly Kuzmich, Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute
For International Women's Day, we interviewed Bush Institute Executive Director Holly Kuzmich to talk about her experience in public policy and the women who inspire her daily.
Holly shares how mentorship has shaped her career and how the women she meets through Bush Institute programs challenge her to do more.
GWBI: What inspires you most about the women you meet at the Bush Center?
I get to meet great women at the Bush Center; that includes both the staff that we have here, as well as the women we work with through our programming. Over half of our staff here is women, which is the byproduct of having a great female talent pool. I’m impressed by how many of my female colleagues are whip-smart, passionate about what we do here, and manage to balance all of that with families, volunteer work, and other outside commitments. In addition to our staff, we meet inspiring women through our programmatic work.
Micaela McMurrough, who is a 2015 graduate of our Presidential Leadership Scholars program, is an attorney who has parlayed her national security experience into creating a program to teach judges about the latest on issues concerning the intelligence community. Her program has been adopted by Cornell University.
Last year I met Mina Sherzoy, who was one of the women whose story was included in the Bush Institute’s book, We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope. Mina left behind a comfortable life in the U.S. to return to Afghanistan and found the Afghan Women’s Business Federation to work with illiterate Afghan women. Women like this inspire me to do more.
Mina left behind a comfortable life in the U.S. to return to Afghanistan and found the Afghan Women’s Business Federation to work with illiterate Afghan women. Women like this inspire me to do more.
GWBI: At an organization where leadership is a focus, what have you learned? do you think your own leadership style has evolved?
Leadership issues never go out of style — there is a continuing need to develop leadership capabilities as each new generation rises. Through our Bush Institute leadership programs, it is a lot of fun to teach and model leadership to others while thinking about my own leadership growth and style in that context.
When moving from more junior to more senior positions, I’ve learned it is important to set a vision, surround yourself with good people, and empower them to succeed. Empowering people keeps them motivated and inspired and leads to a good culture in the workplace. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but it’s something I think about and strive to work on every day.
I’ve learned it is important to set a vision, surround yourself with good people, and empower them to succeed. Empowering people keeps them motivated and inspired and leads to a good culture in the workplace.
GWBI: What advice would you give women who want a career in public policy?
I’ve found public policy to be a field full of promise and opportunity for women. I have had a great mentor in Margaret Spellings, who served as my boss for 15 years and who showed me that she could have a high-powered position in the White House while still maintaining a work-life balance.
Public policy allows you to work on really interesting, timely issues, and I’ve found very few barriers to entry and success in the field. Successful women in the field do their homework, speak up when they have ideas and opinions, and are strategic thinkers who enjoy solving challenges.