CEO speaks about the role of women in the economy

Barbara Barrett, interim president of the Thunderbird Business School, speaks about women in the world economy Wednesday on the fifth floor of Cashion Academic Center. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor
Barbara Barrett, interim president of the Thunderbird Business School, speaks about women in the world economy Wednesday on the fifth floor of Cashion Academic Center.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Rob Bradfield
Staff Writer

The Hankamer School of Business played host to a CEO, a backup astronaut and a former ambassador Wednesday night.

Ambassador Barbara Barrett has been all those things as well as a mountaineer, pilot, aviation negotiator under the Reagan administration and interim president of the Thunderbird School of Business in Arizona. She spoke at the opening dinner of Baylor’s Global Business Forum 2012: Women in the World Economy.

The focus of Barrett’s address was what she referred to as “the untapped economic potential of women,” and closing the gaps in women’s rights and literacy in the world.

“There are a variety of ways to overcome the gender gap issue and sometimes you have to be a little creative to get things done,” Barrett said.

Improvements in education, health care, civic involvement and entrepreneurship can drastically improve both the lives of women and the plight of the countries they live in, Barrett said. To that end, Barrett and the Thunderbird School have begun Project Artemis, which Barrett calls a “mini MBA” program for Afghani women.

“America has a certain responsibility [to Afghanistan],” Barrett said.

Project Artemis began in 2005 by bringing 16 Afghani women to the United States to train them in entrepreneurial decision making.

The women, who until recently lived under the fundamentalist and oppressive Taliban regime, were encouraged to start small businesses and make economic decisions.

The program eventually opened facilities in Afghanistan and continues to train women, even as violence continues.

Projects educating women across the globe have already had a huge impact on poverty, infant mortality and women’s rights, Barrett said.

“I think there’s a lot of promise, but we have a lot to do,” Barrett said.

Barrett is just one of the eminent guests at Baylor’s 2012 Global Business Forum. Guests at the opening dinner were treated to a special video address by former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet. The forum continues todaywith a whole series of speakers.

In a welcoming address, business school dean Terry Maness thanked Stephen Gardner, the program’s coordinator and director of the McBride Center for International Business, for his work.

“Through this event, Steve and his people have [brought] quite a few important people to Waco and the Baylor campus,” Maness said.

Some of the important people speaking to the forum Thursday include Paula Caldwell St-Onge, Consul General of Canada; Michelle Vaca-Senecal, international trade consultant for the Bush administration, and Sano Blocker, senior vice president of public affairs for Energy Future Holdings. Forums begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue through 3:15 p.m.

All events except for the luncheon are open to the public, and a full schedule can be found on the McBride center website — http://www.baylor.edu/business/international/index.php?id=87849.