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The Women in Public Service Project Joins Forces with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Wilson Center becomes the permanent home of the Women in Public Service Project, with Rangita de Silva de Alwis announced as Director of Women's Leadership Initiatives.

The Women in Public Service Project Joins Forces with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

WASHINGTON - The Women in Public Service Project (WPSP), co-founded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. State Department and five leading women’s colleges – Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley – announced today that it is joining forces with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Wilson Center, the official national memorial to the 28th President and a premier organization for international research, dialogue, and programs based in Washington, DC, will become the permanent home of  WPSP, institutionalizing Secretary Clinton’s vision and allowing the initiative to grow to reach its goal of 50 percent female public servants worldwide by 2050.

The Wilson Center and WPSP leaders also announced that Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Director of International Human Rights Policy Programs at the Wellesley Centers for Women and Director of the 2012 WPSP Institute, has been appointed the Director of Women’s Global Leadership Initiatives at the Wilson Center.  A well-known international human rights law scholar whose work has been supported by the United Nations, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and other organizations, Dr. de Silva de Alwis has demonstrated the ability to build meaningful networks that promote women’s leadership and service across the globe and will help to ensure the success of WPSP at the Wilson Center.

Former Congresswoman Jane Harman, President and CEO of the Wilson Center, joined with WPSP leaders from the Department of State and the Sister Colleges to announce the collaboration.  The announcement was made at the conclusion of WPSP’s inaugural Institute, which brought 49 female delegates from around the world to Wellesley College for a two-week long intensive training, networking, and mentoring program.  Sessions included workshops and presentations on negotiating peace agreements, organizing caucuses for women’s rights, drafting constitutions, developing leadership skills, and strategic uses of traditional and social media

Harman noted strong synergies between the Wilson Center and WPSP.  She said, “The Wilson Center, which is also home to the Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL), shares the goals of WPSP.  Like the Council, WPSP can be a force multiplier in empowering women to serve their communities and their nations. We are thrilled Rangita de Silva is coming to the Wilson Center to direct its Women’s Leadership Initiatives.  Training, mentoring, and putting more women at the decision-making table is, as Secretary Clinton often says, ‘not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do’.”

Building a permanent home for WPSP at the Wilson Center will carry on Secretary Clinton’s sustained leadership on women’s issues and help ensure that an increasing number of women are prepared for careers in public service—in policy, diplomacy, intragovernmental organizations and politics.  “I know that through our collaboration with the Wilson Center the reach and values of the Women in Public Service Project will be enshrined and expanded long past Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State,” said Farah Pandith, who with Ambassador Melanne Verveer, is a key architect and advocate for WPSP at the Department of State.

Speaking on behalf of all of the women’s college partners in WPSP, Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella said, "Our students, alumnae, and faculty have been inspired by the opportunity to collaborate with the State Department and with our sister institutions, which are committed to using liberal learning as a powerful foundation for promoting sustained leadership in public service.  The inaugural institute at Wellesley and our new partnership with the Wilson Center are important milestones in this quickly expanding and successful initiative.  Public service will never truly be public until women are equal partners in shaping policies that serve the needs of humanity.”

The WPSP was announced by Secretary Clinton in April 2011 as a partnership between the State Department and the historic Seven Sisters women’s colleges.  It was launched on December 15, 2011 by Secretary Clinton and other women leaders, including Madeleine Albright and Christine Lagarde.

Two weeks ago, Secretary Clinton opened the WPSP inaugural Institute at Wellesley College, saying: “Around the world, we are hoping to help correct the gender imbalances in public service, not just by working at the top, shattering those glass ceilings, but also at the grassroots level by training and supporting women who have the talent, who have the will, but sometimes not the opportunity to become effective leaders in their nations.”

Since its launch, the WPSP has grown to include other academic institutions, organizations, and training opportunities for women. Later this summer, it will sponsor a three-week training session for South Asian women, including Afghani women, at the Asian University of Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh. In October, Smith College, the Department of State, and the Government of France will collaborate to train women in the public health field.  In 2013, Mills, Scripps, and Mount St. Mary’s – California-based women’s institutions – will host a WPSP Institute focused on women from Latin America, and Bryn Mawr College will host an Institute for women from sub-Saharan Africa.  Dell Corporation is supporting WPSP by providing hardware, software, and social media training to WPSP participants.

The Council of Women World Leaders relocated to the Wilson Center in September 2011.  With its membership of nearly 50 current and former female heads of state and government, the Council is well-positioned as a platform for change – connecting leaders, raising the profile of issues, bringing new research to the forefront, and making women more effective in their individual leadership roles. The Council’s work this year involved events with:  UN Women; the UAE Trade Minister Sheikha Lubna; the Women in the World Summit in New York; a Wilson Center seminar exploring whether the Arab Awakening is marginalizing women; and Washington meetings with Council Chair and former Finnish President Tarja Halonen and former First Lady Laura Bush.

The Wilson Center is planning activities in September at the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly session and an October conference in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

For further information about the Women in Public Service Project and its programs, please visit or contact Ruth Lindeborg (  For more information about the Wilson Center, visit or contact Peter Reid (

Notes to editors:

1. The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world.

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Global Women's Leadership Initiative

The Global Women’s Leadership Initiative has hosted the Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center since June, 2012. The Women in Public Service Project will accelerate global progress towards women’s equal participation in policy and political leadership to create more dynamic and inclusive institutions that leverage the full potential of the world’s population to change the way global solutions are forged.  Read more