A female force - Spring 2010 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Spring 2010

A female force

By Marissa Carney

It wasn't so much a message of "girl power" as one of "girl importance" that Mary Robinson hoped to share when she visited the college as part of its Distinguished Speaker Series. And, as the former first woman President of Ireland and founder and chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, Robinson knows first-hand the value of female presence in leadership roles.

Coinciding nicely with Women's History Month, Robinson spoke to nearly 100 community members and students in mid-April about women's leadership and her own experiences and accomplishments. "Issues of gender and of women in power increasingly are being viewed as important to society as a whole," she stated. Robinson noted that people typically aren't aware of the number of women leaders around the world or which country has the most. (The answer is Rwanda). As chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, Robinson helps to identify and address challenges facing women in ministerial leadership positions and to increase their visibility both nationally and internationally. "A balance of male and female leaders is necessary. The world is a better place when everyone's potential is realized," Robinson said.

Robinson sat on the Irish Senate for twenty years before running for the presidency and becoming elected in 1997. "I think I've just been extremely lucky — certainly having the honor of being elected president of your country is the highest honor, no doubt. And I loved those seven years, learning about my country and trying to be the kind of president my country deserved." She left office four months before her term was up in order to serve as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, for which she received Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2004.

Robinson is thankful for her friends, her family, and for being a grandmother of four, which she laughingly states is what keeps her balanced. And with no signs of slowing down, she'll need to continue leaning on them for support. She is the first female Chancellor of the University of Dublin and is a professor of practice in international affairs at Columbia University, where she teaches international human rights. Robinson serves on many more boards and organizations aimed at making positive changes and improvements across the globe, the newest called The Elders, an independent group of world leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. The group offers its collective experience and influence to support peace-building and helps address major causes of human suffering. And although she's proud of her efforts and achievements, she's quick to point out they aren't solo acts. "I'm very aware that whatever I'm doing is never just about me alone. I've been hugely supported by incredible teams that make me look good, but in the end, it is all about teamwork and partnership."