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Southern Women in Public Service Leadership:
Bridging the Partisan Divide
May 2-3, 2010
Atlanta, Georgia

Purpose: The purpose of the summit is to bring together women political leaders from throughout the South to discuss ways they as leaders can bridge the partisan divide to strengthen public service leadership. By sharing ideas and interacting with other women, they will refresh their own leadership skills and leave with a renewed spirit of optimism. The goal is not to reach agreement, but to learn from dialogue how each woman can strengthen her own capacity to lead more effectively.

Problem: Many observers say America is going through one of the most bitterly partisan times in its history. While partisan differences have divided the country's leaders since the days of George Washington, the intensity of today's partisanship is having a corrosive effect on politics, creating doubts and distrust among American citizens.

The political landscape in the 21st century is facing changes that did not exist in previous eras. The Internet has given birth to a 24-hour-a-day source of news both factual and otherwise. Extremists on the left and right are now able to connect with each other and to voice their concerns loudly enough to seem disproportionately large compared to their actual numbers. Divisive political leaders and pundits gain attention, while those toiling for consensus can become marginalized.

Leaders in both political parties have made attempts to restore civil discourse by reaching across the aisle. They realize that some partisan divisions are about authentic principles that lead to very different opinions about the role of government. Still, they understand that compromise and comity are necessary for government solve problems for the American people.

The Role of Women Leaders: Can women political leaders help bridge the partisan divide? Since the Stennis Center began its summit promoting women in public service leadership in 1991, dozens of speakers over the years from both parties have agreed on two important points.

  • Our country needs more women in government leadership.
  • Women leaders are often identified as more inclusive, collaborative, consensus builders and are more likely to work across party lines.

This summit will bring together women from both parties and all levels of government to discuss how women can use their leadership style of being more participative and collaborative to bring about a more representative and effective government. Participants will explore how women can be change agents to help bridge the partisan divide.

Cost: The non-refundable registration fee is $85. The corporate registration fee is $395. This fee includes all meals and two nights of lodging at the J.W. Marriott Hotel Buckhead Atlanta. Given the current economic environment, we understand the need to make this event affordable for women in public service leadership. In addition to financial support from the Stennis Center, we are grateful to our corporate partner, AT&T, for supporting this effort to bring women together in an affordable manner.

Process: Approximately 125 women political leaders will gather in Atlanta on May 2-3 for a day and a half. Three plenary sessions will feature speakers addressing the theme. Most of the work will be done in five smaller groups of 25 women each. Each group will have a facilitator and will address an aspect of women's leadership. At the final plenary session, each group will present their ideas.

Participants: Participation in the summit is by invitation. Attendees will come from throughout the South, including women who are mayors, judges, commissioners, state legislators and others who are in influential positions to help bridge the partisan divide. It is not for those who like the current state of gridlock, but for those interested in reaching across the aisle to achieve common goals to benefit Americans.