Swanee Hunt is helping to shape policies that affect women worldwide. As Ambassador in Vienna, she launched the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative and Conference, which united 320 international women leaders in business, law, and politics. The conference inspired Vital Voices of Northern Ireland, the Americas, the Baltics, Nordics, Russia, and others. Today, Vital Voices is a global partnership supporting women's progress in building democracies, strong economies, and peace. Swanee Hunt has used her influence to connect with policymakers and dignitaries around the world.
When Swanee Hunt introduced the Vital Voices Conference in Vienna in 1997, she shared experiences growing up as the daughter of a wealthy Texas businessman. When she was in her 20s, she toured one of her family's new hotels. "The managers had named each of seven suites for leaders from that city's history. I noticed the names were all of men. 'Where are the women?' I asked. 'Women? We didn't find any women leaders in the city's history. There weren't any.' I was told. Somehow, I did not believe that. So I hired my own researcher and she discovered that while the men 150 years ago were building slaughterhouses and punching holes in the ground, the women had founded hospitals, started schools, and set up the post office. You see, it matters who writes the history books." Born with a family fortune and educated with a B.A. in philosophy, two masters in psychology and religion, and a doctorate in theology, Swanee has lived a life of privilege. Nonetheless, she has spent her life advocating for the disenfranchised. As Ambassador in Vienna, she extended her influence to the neighboring Balkan states, hosting negotiations and symposia in pursuit of peace. She organized projects yielding books for Sarajevo's destroyed National Library, trees for the parks denuded during the siege, and six tons of musical instruments for ravaged Bosnian schools. She worked with Bosnian women and religious leaders as they united across former war lines, and recounted her experiences in her book, "This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace". Following her ambassadorship, she began her current role as director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. At the school, Swanee created Women Waging Peace, a revolutionary program to connect women leaders in conflict areas to one another and to policymakers worldwide.
Women and Public Policy Program (Harvard University)