Each June, entrepreneurs, business leaders, mayors, governors, foundation and nonprofit directors, and civic-minded celebrities from across the nation gather at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting. This annual event, founded by President Bill Clinton and now in its third year, focuses on promoting economic recovery in the United States and employs a "commitment" model to develop action-oriented plans to increase employment, promote an environment for business growth and innovation, and advance access to education and skills development. For the second year in a row, I was honored to be among the West Virginians invited to attend.
One key aspect of this year's meeting in Chicago featured several of the nation's most successful women, who offered compelling insights and ideas on issues ranging from global stability to education to entrepreneurship. Three in particular stood out: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ingrid Vanderveldt and Eva Longoria.
Secretary Clinton addressed the role of women in solving problems and highlighted the importance of raising standards of living for people both at home and abroad. She also spoke of her longtime interests in early childhood education and programs for women and girls.
"Women are the world's most under-used resource," she proclaimed, adding that expanding opportunities for women and girls will enhance competitiveness and stability all around the globe.
Secretary Clinton cited the administration's recently announced human brain mapping initiative, and the potential it holds, not only to study cures for disease, but also to improve the lives of children from birth to age 5 by better understanding neurological development.
One significant "local angle" in Secretary Clinton's remarks centered on West Virginia's "Reconnecting McDowell" initiative. She noted that the program, which seeks to improve education and economic opportunity in McDowell County, is a good model for collaboration in its plans to create a teacher village.
"In a place like McDowell County, West Virginia, the problems didn't start with the latest recession, and no single program or investment is going to turn things around. The schools, jobs, infrastructure, public health, it's all connected, and you have to work on all of them at the same time. That's what this new partnership is designed to do," she said.
Ingrid Vanderveldt, entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell, energized the High Growth Entrepreneurship Working Group with her strategies for helping women overcome barriers to entrepreneurship, including access to networks, capital and mentors.
Vanderveldt, who also leads the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network, describes herself as a "serial entrepreneur." She offered three tips to women who want to strike out on their own, based on her own experiences: be confident; be fearless; and operate from a place of purpose.