by Karen Brune Mathis
Former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has dealt with the global issues of war, terrorism, poverty, debt, trade, climate change and health, or in other words, any issue that affects national security.
As the first speaker in the Women’s Center of Jacksonville “Women, Words and Wisdom” lecture series Tuesday, she will discuss “Meeting Today’s National Security Challenges.”
That likely will include the current opposition in Egypt, where protesters are seeking to topple the regime of President Hosni Mubarek.
Soderberg also will discuss women’s roles in the world’s challenges.
“Women are at the center of impact of the problems and also the solution,” said Soderberg, a visiting distinguished scholar at the University of North Florida.
Also, considering women are half the population, “why waste half of our talent?”
Soderberg has been recognized internationally for her efforts to promote peace in Northern Ireland and also has advised national leaders on policies toward China, Japan, Russia and other areas.
Among her titles, she served as deputy assistant to the president for National Security Affairs from 1993-97, being responsible for day-to-day crisis management, briefing former President Bill Clinton, developing U.S. national security and handling issues regarding Congress and media.
In 1997, Clinton appointed her to serve as alternative representative to the United Nations as a presidential appointee, with the rank of ambassador.
She represented the United States on national security issues, including conflict resolution, the promotion of democracy abroad, trade policy and arms control.
Starting in 2001, when Clinton’s term ended, through 2005, she ran the New York office of the International Crisis Group as vice president, advocating conflict prevention at the United Nations and other institutions.
A biography shows that Soderberg moved to Northeast Florida in 2005. In addition to her work at UNF, she also is president and CEO of Soderberg Global Solutions. She chairs the National Security Network of Florida and is on the board of World Affairs Council of Jacksonville.
She also is an author, penning “The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might” and “The Prosperity Agenda, What the World Wants from America – and What We Need in Return.”
Soderberg said she will talk Tuesday about the worldwide issues threatening national security and prosperity, but also will address women’s roles, including how women are affected globally as well as how they effect solutions.
Soderberg said a solid start is to educate girls, which isn’t done in all societies. Where girls are educated, “the standard of living goes up.”
Another step is to encourage women to enter public service and serve in elected positions.
“It should be 50-50 and most societies are far shy of that,” said Soderberg.
How does society encourage women to serve in elected positions?
“A lot of it is that women don’t seek them,” she said, listing their reasons. “They are home raising kids. They never thought about it. It’s a man’s club,” she said.
“A lot of it is societal pressure for women not getting into that role,” she said.
Changing that “starts in the home and in the family to have a commitment to encourage women and girls to get involved.”
That can take time.
“It takes generations. In the United States, we’ve never had a woman president. Most governors are men,” she said. “Our society is very much geared for men doing those jobs. It all starts with education at a very young age,” she said.
But change is under way. Hillary Clinton was a candidate for president in 2008. “Nobody questioned if she could do the job,” said Soderberg. “That will filter down.”
She said more women also are running major companies.
Yet there’s still work to be done worldwide. “It also takes a
commitment from the international community to recognize women and do more.”
Soderberg recalled a Security Council resolution designed to encourage putting more women in decision-making positions for peace processes.
“There were 15 of us,” she said, including “me and one other woman,” she said.
“I looked at man after man saying they needed to put women in positions of power,” she said.
Persuading women to seek public service is done the “same way you recruit men to do it.”
“You have a network of leaders in a party select women who are qualified and encourage them to run,” she said.
Also, women should be encouraged as girls to seek higher education, including law degrees. She said girls often have been socialized by third grade to not pursue math and science.
Women also need access to “decent child care and partners who support women working outside the home,” said Soderberg, explaining that “some societies don’t encourage that.”
“You need a societal structure so that women can work and be moms and have careers,” she said.
There’s another reason for more women in power, said Soderberg.
“They don’t take themselves too seriously,” she said. “They can make things fun as well.”
Soderberg is a regular commentator on TV and radio, including the major networks as well as The Daily Show.
Women, Words and Wisdom
Women’s Center of Jacksonville 2011 Speaker Series
The Women’s Center of Jacksonville debuts its “Women, Words and Wisdom” speaker series Feb. 1 with former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg.
Retired Rear Adm. Marsha “Marty” Evans will speak March 22 and Jacksonville community leader Gertrude Peele will speak May 10.
The series is at Theatre Jacksonville in San Marco.
Lectures start with a reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by the program at 6:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $40 for each event or $100 for all three. Proceeds benefit Expanded Horizons, the Women’s Center’s literacy program for women.
For information, visit www.womenscenterofjax.org or call 722-3000, ext. 0.