University of Chicago

At the request of Daniel Diermeier, then Harris School of Public Policy Dean, now Chancellor of Vanderbilt University, I designed a women’s public leadership initiative. To give you a sense of the approach I took, below is a video of a conversation I had with Valerie Jarrett, former Special Advisor to President Obama. Below is another videotape about the importance of women’s political leadership; now U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan, then New Hampshire governor, shares her perspective.


CHICAGO –Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, will kick off the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy’s Women in Public Leadership (WIPL) program. View the interview with Ms. Jarrett here.

At a time when women are seeking – and achieving – unprecedented levels of power and influence in public life, the University of Chicago is launching a new executive education program designed to give participants the tools they need to take on leadership roles in the public square.

“With this program, Chicago Harris is offering smart, accomplished women an extraordinary opportunity to learn firsthand from female leaders who have broken through the glass ceiling,” said Rebecca Sive, WIPL Academic Director and a noted author, advocate, and speaker. “

WIPL’s faculty will be led by Daniel Diermeier, Chicago Harris Dean and Emmett Dedmon Professor of Public Administration, and will include acclaimed University of Chicago scholars who have published pioneering research in public policy, business, management, and behavioral psychology.

The program’s guest speakers draw from a long list of female trailblazers who have succeeded at every level of public leadership, from the White House, to City Hall, to the executive suites of leading corporations and foundations. They include:

  • Lori Healey, [former] CEO of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, which owns and manages McCormick Place, the nation’s largest convention center and Navy Pier, Illinois’ top-visited tourist destination.
  • Celinda Lake, Founder and Principal of Lake Partners and one of the nation’s foremost experts on electing women candidates and on framing issues to women voters.
  • Connie Lindsey, Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion for Northern Trust. She is a past National Board President of Girl Scouts of the USA.
  • Toni Preckwinkle, the first elected woman President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and chief executive of the 19th largest government in the United States.
  • Susan Sher, Senior Advisor to University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and leader of the University’s Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum initiative. She formerly served as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama.
  • Julia Stasch, immediate past President of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and former deputy administrator of the federal General Services Administration.
  • Paula Wolff, a trustee of the University of Chicago and its medical center, and former president of Governors State University.
  • Jessica Yellin, an award-winning political journalist who served as CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent.

Every day, women leaders face a complex array of challenges, barriers, and opportunities. Harris WIPL will provide tested strategies and research-based guidance to enable women to overcome gender bias, build on success, recover from failure, expand their influence, advance their careers and take their place in the public square.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan on women’s leadership.