I have throughout my career served organizations offering services to women, including programs addressing homelessness and inequality. As such, I have for many years worked closely with women who have struggled against barriers to their success. Among the very poor, barriers to education prolong the cycle of poverty and can pre-determine poverty for future generations. It has been well-established that education is the essential ingredient to improving the quality of life for women the world over, increasing gender equality, and tapping the strengths among women to serve as leaders and agents for change. Yet resources to offer this basic right remain inadequate. Further, among women successful in attaining education, improved opportunity to enter positions of leadership remains a critical need. The cultivation of women leaders is essential to the healthy development of our nation, and I believe, holds the potential for building solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing concerns.

Together with the basic building block of education, strong personal confidence holds a major stake in a woman’s opportunity to advance and succeed. Confidence is a challenge that is burdened by gender bias, particularly where outmoded views on the social and familial roles of women come into play. Working with women experiencing homelessness, we prioritize the need to build confidence, recognizing the power that this trait can play in attaining improved stability and self-sufficiency. Similarly, among women leaders, confidence is a skill that must be nurtured and honed, enabling women to achieve objectives on behalf of their agency or sector and to effect positive change in tackling persistent social inequities.

For women in poverty, education holds the key to rising out of poverty and achieving full potential in the workplace and in life. Among women who have earned degrees, ongoing education, training and mentoring nurtures the potential for these women to serve effectively in leadership roles. Furthermore, by building confidence in women’s leadership within society-at-large, we aim for a future that promises a stronger nation. Our nation must prioritize its investment in this future, a future that capitalizes on the human resource of women to tackle problems that have long shown to be among our most tenacious—homelessness, poverty, and inequity to name a few—and, in so doing, serve as agents of change benefitting the freedom and well-being of all people.