To replace the Southern Women in Public Service conference, the Stennis Center organized theSummit of Southern Women Leaders on May 4-6, 2008 at St. Simons Island, Georgia. Approximately 150 women leaders from 14 states attended, including state legislators, statewide elected officials, mayors, judges, commissioners, cabinet officers, academic professors and business leaders who are interested in exploring ways that women can strengthen the quality and character of public service.
Unlike the previous conference format, the summit did not have multiple keynote speakers and workshops for skill-building sessions. Instead, it was a dialogue-based learning event with discussion groups examining the selected questions in four smaller groups of 50 and reporting back to the overall group. Facilitators guided each group's discussion.
The groups examined the two questions below.
1. Restoring Trust and Confidence
2. Lifting Up the Next Generation
Former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin set the tone for the Summit with an introductory address based on her new book, Pearls, Politics & Power: How Women Can Win and Lead. She said, "It is time for new political leadership to emerge from the women of America. We need their voices as grandmothers and mothers, wives and widows, daughters and sisters to be heard in the political debate about the future of our country. Each woman's experience changes the nature and content of the conversation."
She continued, "It is time for women to change both the content and style of leadership. Children, families, education, health care, the environment, and diplomacy must be brought to the top of the agenda, not relegated to an asterisk. Women do not vote in unison any more than men do, but there are differences, and these differences will change the outcome on many issues that now divide us."
The remainder of the Summit was spent in small groups discussing how to restore trust and confidence in public service and how to attract young women to leadership positions in public service. The results of those discussions are below.