The White House Project was created to increase the amount of women in White House leadership, and Wilson will speak on this issue in her lecture.
“Marie Wilson’s theory is when we bring women to the table to make decisions,” said Barbara Baker, executive director of the WLI, “we bring in a different kind of leadership. We bring in a more inclusive leadership, we bring in a more feminine leadership. That changes the tone of the conversation.”
The WLI has earlier invited Lt. Gen. Leslie Kenne, the first woman to be a three-star general, and Lily Ledbetter, the only woman from Alabama to have a law named after her, to speak at the annual conference.
“Dr. Baker creates a theme for the year,” said Maria Reyes, technology coordinator for the WLI. “When the Lt. Gen Leslie Kenney was here it was military leadership. When Lily Ledbetter was here, it was equal pay, so the whole year’s theme was equal pay.”
With Wilson’s scheduled appearance, the theme is leadership in all arenas, not just in the White House.
“This time it’s not only political leadership,” Reyes said. “It has to do with civic engagement, community, volunteerism and how all of those things will help raise a feminist type of leadership.”
Baker began the Extraordinary Women Lecture series after she was put in charge of the institute in an attempt to inspire women to pursue their goals.
“I really wanted to try to find people our students could connect with so it wasn’t just some random speaker, but somebody who really had some connection so the students could see themselves as leaders,” Baker said.
Reyes said meeting such powerful women in person can make the most ambitious dreams seem possible for those who attend.
“When you meet a general and you yourself are a cadet in ROTC, it makes it a possible goal,” Reyes said. “It makes it something you can reach. Just that tangible experience of meeting someone who is maybe where you can be inspires you.”
Baker said a big part of the lectures is not only inspiration, but networking.
“We’ve invited all sorts of groups from all over the region to be at the reception,” Baker said. “We have connections to the American Association of University Women, Vision 2020 and Center for American Women and Politics. All these groups are going to be coming in to work together, meet each other and form bonds.”
Because those who work in women’s leadership are so few, they have become a tight-knit group able to cooperate on many levels.
“That’s one of the main purposes of the institute: the networking we’re able to offer to the students, and the networking we’ve been able to build through these speakers,” said Tracy Snoddy, program director for the WLI.
The WLI will continue the lecture series in the hope that it can address the pressing issues that continue to crop up.
“We try to find current, relevant topics and people in leadership positions for those,” Snoddy said. “There’s always a relevant topic and always something going on as far as leadership goes, and we hope to always be useful.”