SAIS Women Lead

April 4, 2019
Marching into an Equal Future
Women Who Inspire
Finding Her Voice
SAIS Women Lead Practicum
Stopping a Global Epidemic

The 2019 SAIS Global Women in Leadership conference will bring together a diverse group of voices to share lessons about how to claim and exercise power to effect social change.
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Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy speaks about leadership at the Global Women in Leadership conference in D.C.
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Award-winning singer, songwriter Gloria Estefan shares her story.
Watch the Interview

SAIS Alumni Magazine features SAIS Women Lead students and their research projects.
Learn more

Signature professional development program completed first year with groundbreaking research.
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In Bologna, the Global Women in Leadership student organization held a panel on ending violence against women.

Curriculum and Professional Development
SAIS Women Lead Practicum Program
2017-2018 Practicum Projects
Women, Peace, and Security Course
Study Treks
Women of Promise Fellowship Program
Women Who Inspire Lecture Series
Get Involved

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About SAIS Women Lead

SAIS Women Lead is a global women’s leadership development program that partners the school's faculty, students, alumni, and public and private organizations to raise the political and economic status of communities through the empowerment of women. By fostering scholarship and cross-cultural exchange, SAIS Women Lead raises awareness of gap areas in research and advocacy to create more inclusive, compassionate, and service-oriented societies.

Its mission is to increase and amplify women’s leadership around the world to inspire balanced, sound policy decision-making. Our interdisciplinary courses and practicum program, Global Women in Leadership (GWL) (student-led organization), and SAIS Women’s Alumni Network (SWAN) provide opportunities for students and alumni to develop their leadership skills and collaborate on action-oriented projects that advance women. The Women Who Inspire lecture series showcases dialogue with women leaders. The Women of Promise fellowship program enables women underrepresented in the field of diplomacy to study at Johns Hopkins SAIS on two-year fellowships.

These programs, courses, and networks support students, faculty and alumni to integrate the study of women’s contributions to the field of international relations and promote the understanding that women’s empowerment is central to sustainable peace, economic growth, and transformational leadership.

SAIS Women Lead

Students can follow a curricular path that focuses on inclusive leadership and women's contributions to international relations by enrolling in classes, the SWL Practicum course (full-year commitment), and additional cross-disciplinary courses from a comprehensive list. One of these courses, Women, Peace and Security: Moving Beyond the Myth includes a study trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women study trip.

Other course choices may include:

  • Gender Politics in Africa
  • Gender Inequality and Development
  • Multiculturalism and the Human Rights of Women
  • Microeconomics of Development

SAIS Women Lead Practicum Program

“The SAIS Women Lead Practicum Program was the highlight of our experience at SAIS"
- 2018 Practicum Team

““I am convinced more than ever that more research and studies such as this

one must continue if we hope to facilitate long-term meaningful change.”
- Leland Kruvant, President of Creative Associates International

SAIS Women Lead Practicum Program
Founded and directed by SAIS alumna Dr. Kent Davis-Packard, the SAIS Women Lead Practicum Program collaborates with government, corporate, and nongovernmental organizations to provide students with professional experience through action oriented research projects that advance women. A team of students works closely with a client to produce a high quality output in the form of a publishable report, policy or program that they present publicly and that the client organization may publish and implement. Students translate their knowledge into practice and contribute to women’s advancement within the organizational culture of the client organization as well as the global communities in which it operates.

2018 – 2019 Practicum Projects
See their Presentations at the April 4, 2019
Global Women in Leadership Conference
4:30 – 5:30pm, Kenney Auditorium
Register Today!
Presentations also to be held at the Inter-American Development Bank, the Arab Gulf States Institute of Washington, Creative Associates International, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Women in the Mexican Plant-Based Industry:
10 Lessons on Empowering Entrepreneurs

The SAIS team explores a deeply relevant topic not only to the future of Mexico’s economy but to the health of its population and the country’s ability to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Through select case studies and interviews in Mexico, the team identifies and proposes targeted strategies to support the success of women-led businesses in Mexico’s plant-based sector.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Bettina Boekle
Client: Ananda Asset Management & Advisory, with Advisor Partners: The Inter-American Development Bank and the Aspen Institute of Mexico
Paper: Women in the Mexican Plant-Based Industry: 10 Lessons on Empowering Entrepreneurs
Student blog published by: Inter-American Development Bank

Empowering Female Educators in Uganda

Political instability in neighboring countries along with relatively friendly refugee policies has made Uganda host to the third largest refugee population in the world. As a result, teachers and schools are overwhelmed by influxes of refugee and internally displaced children. After research and interviews in Uganda, the SAIS team provides recommendations to Creative Associates International on how to improve female teacher welfare in primary schools with large refugee student populations.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor
Client: Creative Associates International
Paper: Empowering Female Educators in Uganda: Understanding Professional Welfare in Government Primary Schools with Refugee Students
Student blog published by: Creative

Inclusive Engagement Strategies for the
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Over the past decade, more than 5.9 million Syrian and Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes, many to the Global West. Such migration has changed the communities that museums in North America and Europe work with, creating new opportunities for gender inclusive, museum-diaspora engagement. After research and interviews in Germany, the SAIS team presents innovative engagement strategies to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Ancient Near Eastern Department.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sarah Chicone
Client: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of 
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Paper: Engaging Middle Eastern Diaspora Communities: 10 Takeaways from Innovative Museum Programs in North America and Europe

Breaking Barriers to Women's Political Leadership: Lessons from the Kingdom of Bahrain

What progress has been made with regard to women’s political participation in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and what are the legal, cultural, institutional, and other barriers that still exist that can prevent women from participating equally to men? After research and interviews in Bahrain, the SAIS team provides recommendations to the Supreme Council for Women, the country's advisory body to the government on women's issues.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kent Davis-Packard
Client: The Supreme Council for Women of the Kingdom of Bahrain
Paper: Breaking Barriers to Women's Political Leadership: Lessons from the Kingdom of Bahrain
Student blog published by: AGSIW

2017-2018 Practicum Projects

Students collaborate with partner organizations on research that advances women. They participate in a series of leadership and professional development master classes curated by alumni and associates.

This year, students traveled to Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to produce research with impact.

    Empowering Female Learning Facilitators in Northeast Nigeria

    Students provide Creative Associates International solutions for increasing the number of female learning facilitators in Nigeria after traveling to rural northeast areas of the country. Photo Journal

    “Nigeria continues to face an education crisis in its northern states. Already home to the world’s largest out-of-school population, most of whom are girls, states in Northeast Nigeria have had to contend with massive flows of internally displaced populations (IDPs) caused by the Boko Haram insurgency...” Read more

    Power of Gender Parity in Diplomacy: Four Pillars of Change

    In Abu Dhabi, students present to 130 diplomats at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy four common indicators that contribute to increasing women in diplomacy. They carried out their research in the Kingdom of Bahrain in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Women.

    “This study addresses the gap in the global literature regarding progress and challenges facing female participation and power in foreign diplomacy... ” Read more

    Tipping Points and the Law

    As part of the power of womenomics study trek, students analyze how culture and law have fostered movements for gender equality in India, Bangladesh, and the United States for the Equal Means Equal film company and UN Women.

    “An election. An act of violence. A moving narrative. There are a number of tipping points that spark action among a populace, rallying that country’s civil society ecosystem to act...” Read more

    Faces of Change: Women Entrepreneurs in Mexico

    Students recommend to the Inter-American Development Bank ways to enable indigenous women entrepreneurs in the cultural and creative industries (CCI) in Mexico.

    “While women play a central role in CCI in Latin America, … little research has been done to explore the impact of indigenous women’s involvement in the informal creative industries...” Read more

    A Seat at the Table: Equity for Women of Color in the U.S.

    SAIS students provide Ashoka Changemakers a strategy for identifying and supporting social entrepreneurship led by women of color, enabling the organization to more effectively bring about positive social change in the United States.

    “Social entrepreneurship is creating avenues for innovation and rapid change in the social sector. With greater flexibility of funding models and organizational structure, changemakers have the freedom to tackle long-standing problems in new ways and to take risks in order to achieve results. However, the American social sector is overwhelmingly white…” Read more

    Women, Peace and Security Course

    Professor Kent Davis-Packard

    Spring Semester at SAIS

    “I failed to find a course that connected with me on a deeper level until I took the Women, Peace, and Security class during my final semester at SAIS.”

    - MA ‘18 Global Theory and History student in WPS course


    “As a Strategic Studies student, I had no idea how negatively impacted women

    are by most decisions made in my field. I’m thankful that I now have the

    knowledge to consider the fate of women as I move into a career that too often

    overlooks them.”

    - MA ‘18 Strategic Studies student in WPS course


    Students engage Ambassadors Lana Nusseibeh and Melanne Verveer on women and countering violent extremism at the 61st United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in 2017

    In this course, students explore the relationship between women’s status and the political and economic security of nations and the international system. Through gender based analysis (GBA), they develop a theoretical and historical understanding of the mechanisms by which women have been excluded from political and economic power structures and the contributions they have made to the transformation of the international order despite this exclusion.

    Guest speakers in the security sector, case studies, and analyses of the historical and cultural framework of the global women’s movement give students the tools to articulate to policy-makers best practices for creating more peaceful, secure societies and nations.

    This course includes a two-day study trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City during SAIS spring break in March as part of the SAIS Women Lead Program. Course and study trip are open to SAIS women and men.

    Student Publications from the Course

    Guest Speakers

    Power of Womenomics

    A recent study of a community in South Asia revealed that 51% of families had killed a baby girl after birth. Among the rural poor in India, infanticide results in the death of over 16 million female babies each year. The majority of the world’s poorest billion people are women and girls, with the share of women employed outside of agriculture remaining as low as 20% in South Asia. Meanwhile, the McKinsey Global Institute reported that economic parity for women could add as much as 60% to the Indian economy in 2025.

    With this in mind, in January 2018, a small group of students traveled to Bangladesh and India with Dr. Kent Davis-Packard to meet with those working to put into practice the power of womenomics. ‘Womenomics,’ a term coined by SAIS alumna and Chief Japan Equity Strategist at Goldman Sachs Kathy Matsui, demonstrates that empowering women in the labor force leads to a nation’s overall economic growth and prosperity.

    The Power of Womenomics Study Trek to Bangladesh and India Blogs, Photo Journal

    UN Commission on the Status of Women Study Trek

    Dr. Kent Davis-Packard's Women, Peace, & Security Course features a two-day study trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City during SAIS spring break in March as part of the SAIS Women Lead Program. Course and study trip are open to SAIS women and men.

    Women of Promise Fellowship Program

    The evidence is clear: women’s advancement brings about a healthier, more prosperous and stable world. Placing more women in leadership also improves the success of businesses and organizations. Despite the understanding of women’s positive influence in economic, political, and social life, there is little formal training in the field of international relations that specializes in the study of how women can advance, how to measure their impact, and what this means for the trajectory of global politics. Men hold the majority of elected and appointed office worldwide, and the United States ranks 72nd in a global ranking of women’s representation in national legislatures and parliaments. Only 15% of corporate board chairs are held by women. The “gender gap” persists in other measures of equity such as wage equality and education.

    To address the demand for women’s leadership, Johns Hopkins SAIS will provide fellowships and a new curricular track for the academic study, practical training, and social capital required to develop women’s leadership potential. Our co-curricular programming offers a wealth of mentoring, networking, and skill-building so that participants gain optimal benefit from the program.

    In 2018, the first cohort of “Women of Promise” fellows will arrive on campus thanks to a new partnership with Asian University for Women (AUW). In future years, the school will recruit Women of Promise from universities around the world.

    Fellows in the program may concentrate in any of the school’s twenty-plus regional and functional areas of study, and also specialize in the women’s leadership track. These young leaders will serve as ambassadors from their countries of origin, and will be invited to speak about issues concerning their experiences and areas of study.

    For more information about how to support our Women of Promise Fellows, click here.



    Women Who Inspire Lecture Series

    In 2015, SAIS Women Lead launched its flagship Women Who Inspire lectures, a series of conversations using the power of example to motivate students to become pioneers in their chosen occupations. Bringing two to three exceptional high-profile women each year to explore different facets of leadership, the program features conversations with trailblazing women from a variety of career and life paths.

    The series was started and is moderated by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, herself an inspirational leader who was appointed as the first Ambassador for women's empowerment by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice among many other accomplished posts throughout her career in government.

    To support the Women Who Inspire Lecture Series, click here.

    Previous Speakers:


    Upcoming at SAIS Washington, D.C.

    2019 SAIS Global Women in Leadership Conference 

    April 4, 2019


    Engage. Claim. Change.

    The 7th annual SAIS Global Women in Leadership conference will bring together a diverse group of voices to share lessons about how to claim and exercise power to effect social change. Participants will engage with leaders from diverse backgrounds, learn strategies to claim their own power, and leave with a deeper understanding of how they can change existing inequalities.

    Event Highlights



    March 2018: International Women's Day with SAIS Women Lead Practicum student Azhin Fuad, featured in the SAIS Alumni Magazine

    November 2017: Abenomics and Womenomics with Kathy Matsui, Vice Chair, Goldman Sachs Japan

    April 2017: UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks with Senior Advisor at the World Bank Dr. Jeni Klugman on barriers in the workplace for women.

    October 2016: Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shares stories from her long career in government and diplomacy.


    Get Involved

    We want to hear from you! SAIS Women Lead is dedicated to realizing the collective advantages of women’s political, social, and economic leadership. Collaboration is innately part of our approach, and we invite your investment, participation, and thought leadership. There are many ways to be involved, including:

    Mentor a Woman of Promise fellow

    Tomorrow’s leaders will be from every corner of the world. They will be globally-minded. And they will be ready to transform the world. Join their journey and contact GWL Alumni Relations Coordinator Stephanie Haven to learn how you can mentor a student to learn how you can mentor a student..

    Donate your Expertise as a Skills Course Instructor

    Johns Hopkins SAIS welcomes senior alumnae to donate their talents as instructors for skills workshops and courses. For more information, contact Marshall Millsap.

    Take Action with the SAIS Women's Alumni Network (SWAN)

    Join an active community of alumni and make an impact in women's leadership and professional development. Sign up to be on the SWAN Speaker Bureau as a panelist, moderator or facilitator for an event or for the SWAN Documentary Film Forum. Take initiative and facilitate a professional skills workshop, speak on a career panel in your city, or get involved with SWAN Action. Connect with alumni on social media or subscribe to our global newsletter for upcoming events. To learn more, visit us or email Dara Iserson (B’08,’09) and Rachel Dunsmoor (B’07, ‘08), Acting Co-Chairs, Global SAIS Women’s Alumni Network.  

    Join the SAIS Women Lead Mailing List

    Receive our newsletter and invitations to program happenings and events. Click here to join our listserve.

    Give to SAIS Women Lead

    To support annual operations, name a practicum, name a Women of Promise Fellowship, support the student-run Global Women in Leadership Conference, or create an endowment, visit us or contact Maya Shih, Associate Director of Development. Please note that your tax deductible gift is in support of the SAIS Women Lead.

    Thank you to our SAIS Women Lead Supporters

    Through SAIS Women Lead, the leaders of tomorrow will receive a world-class education together with specific training and mentoring preparing them to remove barriers to women’s advancement. The program has come to fruition thanks to the partnership of individuals and organizations who have made founding investments of $25,000 or more in the initial stages of development. We are grateful to the founders named below, as well as to the many sponsors of the Global Women in Leadership Conference.

    Founders Circle of Johns Hopkins SAIS Women Lead:

    • Henna Babar Ali
    • Marshall H. Millsap
    • Peter and Sarah O’Hagan
    • Kathleen M. Pike
    • Edith Quintrell
    • Starr Foundation “Understanding Asia” Endowment

    Additional supporters:

    • Veronica Baruffati
    • Elizabeth A. Corwin
    • Leanne D. Galati
    • Terri L. McBride
    • Elizabeth Madigan Jost
    • Maureen H. Norton
    • Sara S. O’Rourke
    • Alison von Klemperer


    Student Publications

    Professor Kent Davis-Packard


    SAIS Women Lead Newsletter

     Sign up to receive the newsletter in your email inbox here — and check out our first newsletter below.


    SAIS Women Lead: Our First Year (March 8, 2018)