A life of public service

Relly Nadler: Today, we are very excited about having Betsy Myers. We are going to talk about a life of public service.

Let me tell you a little bit about Betsy. Betsy Myers most recently served as a senior advisor to Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign. She joined the campaign in January 2007 as the chief operating officer tasked with the challenge of building a $1,000,000 organization and establish the campaign with a business model in customer service mentality.

Betsy also represented the campaign as the chair for Women for Obama.

Prior to this appointment, Betsy was the executive director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a track record of strategically building and realigning organizations.

Betsy focused the Center’s teaching and research around personal leadership and being a fully integrated person.

She believes that the hardest person we will ever manage is ourselves.

That’s something very true that Cathy and I resonate with.

As a senior official in the Clinton Administration, she was the president’s most senior advisor on women’s issues.

In a previous post, Myers was the director of the officer of Women’s Business Ownership at the SBA, where she served as an advocate for the 7.8 million women-entrepreneurs in our country.

So, we are really delighted to have Betsy on the program today.

Betsy, do you want to say hi and we will ask you a couple questions down the line?

Betsy Myers: Sure, great to be here. Thanks so much.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Well, thanks.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Thanks for being with us, Betsy. We’re really excited to have you with us today.

I was very fortunate to meet Betsy at a conference, this winter – in November, with linkage and Betsy was one of our speakers. I’m so happy to have her on the show, as you can tell.

I’m very excited because we also had her sister, Dee Dee, in our book, What Happy Working Mothers Know. I’ve also been spending a little bit of time with her youngest sister, Jojo.

So, we’ll learn a lot about Betsy and her family, today. Hopefully, as we learn about her as a professional and how she’s going to help us learn more about leadership development.

That is the topic of today’s show, believe it or not.

Obviously, we have someone here who has a very strong affinity for helping those in the public domain achieve greatness.

As you said, Relly, Betsy most recently served as a Senior Advisor to Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign. In fact, she was instrumental in helping the campaign set a business direction and setting up an operational model in a very strong customer service mentality. Which, as you know, served that campaign extremely well.

Betsy, hopefully, today you’re going to share some insights on how you did that and a little bit about your new book.

Betsy also represented the campaign, as you said so well, Relly, as the chair for the Women for Obama functions. I actually attended one of those functions in July, so, we will talk a little bit about that.

She’s travel extensively in the 2008 campaign, she traveled, speaking to undecided voters and concentrating on women’s outreach.

These efforts included a working partnership not only with Women for Obama but the Democratic National Convention’s Women’s Leadership Forum. She spent a significant amount of time, during that relationship, working on unity efforts. Meeting with the Clinton supporters across the country to hear their concerns and invite them to join the Obama efforts which, as you know, became extremely successful.

Prior to that appointment, Betsy was the executive director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and that’s where Betsy and I share a love for a common philosopher by the name of, Warren Bennis.

She came to the Center for Public Leadership in 2003 and bringing with her a proven track record of building, growing and funding both strategically realigning organizations to manage themselves and to better behave as organizations in a strategically, fundamentally aligned way.

She’s definitely one of my favorite people these days and she’s known for bringing her focus to the Center’s teaching and research which also increased the Center’s effort around women and leadership. She, of course, worked closely with the Harvard’s Women’s Leadership Board.

As a senior official in the Clinton Administration, I could go on forever, she was the President’s senior advisor on women’s issues. In this capacity, she helped ensure that such issues as domestic violence, reproductive choice, breast cancer, and women in business figured prominently on the administration’s legislative agenda.

Betsy has a huge following, she is an advocate for so many and, obviously, her work in the US Small Business Administrations, first as the director of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and later as the Associate Deputy Administrator for entrepreneurial development has made her a favorite of many in women in business.

She was responsible for the agency’s technical assistance management and distance learning programs, which is certainly an important way to help others understand and know more about the importance of women in business.

Prior to joining the Clinton Administration, Myers spent 6 years building Myers Insurance and Financial services based in Los Angelos. She specialized in the small business in women’s market providing insurance and retirement planning.

She is a public service fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, where she graduated with an MPa. She is, in fact, one of the school’s alumni and certainly a big advocate for all of the women in business.

Thank you, Betsy, and welcome to the show.

Betsy Myers: It’s nice to be here. Happy New Year.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: We always like to start our program with one instrumental question that helps our audience connect to you as a person, not only as someone in the public eye. You’re such a part of a very wonderful a dynamic family, can you tell us a little bit about who has been most influential in your life? Who are the people who have helped shape you and your career, and why?

Betsy Myers: Starting from a family perspective, is that mostly what you’re thinking? What are you hoping I answer from?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Whatever you’d like to share.

Betsy Myers: Okay.

Well, I grew up in a family as the eldest of 3 girls and we are all 1 year apart. My parents met in college and were married very young. My mother was not quite 19 when she married my father who was 23, not quite 24.

So, I grew up with these very young parents but my mother was hugely instrumental to me because in my teen years, which was kind of the height of the Gloria Steinun, Title Nine, women getting their voice. My mother, who had dropped out of college, she was very smart and had been the number one Latin student in Illinois and won a scholarship for her music. All the things that she had accomplished at such a young age, dropped out to marry my father.

He was in the military, he was a pilot with the Navy. Through his early career, she was kind of a stay at home mom.

So, we had this stay at home mom who was very attentive to our needs and a very happy person. So, we grew up with a lot of unconditional love.

Then, when I was a teenager, she decided to go back to school to finish her degree and get her master’s in psychology.

So, I, as the oldest daughter, lived through her transformation and getting a voice in her life and changing the dynamics of her relationship with my father and her relationship with us in the house.

She went back to school and finished her Master’s in psychology and then taught women’s reentry programs at a college called Cal Lutheran in Southern California.

So, I witnessed her love – she was very happy at this time in her life – of women and what women could do and take charge of your own life and get a voice. That had a huge impact on me.

What my Father showed us was he is a very disciplined person, he was very much about whatever you are going to do, do it. Get about doing it, make no excuses. Do it every day. Be the best you can be. Go for it.

So, I think it was just an interesting dynamic of a mother, I witnessed her transformation in her life, her voice, and all the stuff around the women’s issues. And then, from my father, the discipline to take charge of your life, go for it. Don’t be afraid.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Now, let’s talk about your outstanding academic work at Harvard, where you were instrumental in helping to integrate more women into the Harvard community through Women’s Board. Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about that work?

Betsy Myers: Well, my work was really, with the Women’s Board, was a piece of what I was doing. I went to the Kennedy School after my time in the Clinton Administration. Where it was really an opportunity to get my Master’s in a one year – called a mid-career program. That program was really fabulous to step back and say what have I learned? I was just at the end of my 30s, spent 7 years in the Clinton Administration and 3 very different jobs at the White House to the Small Business Administration.

So, it really was a fabulous time to not only get my Master’s but to step back, what am I good at, what am I not good at, what do I want to do with my life?

Then I found myself, the dean of the Kennedy School asked if I would stay on and run their Alumni and External Relations Office. Through that office, I worked very closely with the Women’s Leadership Board who had a new director, her name was Susan Rey at the time. The school was very much and our dean, Joe Nye at the time, was very much devoted to making sure that this Women’s Board grew and had a voice.

It was an opportunity for women outside of Harvard, who were business leaders, philanthropists, academics and other people, who wanted to participate in not only the Kennedy School and the mission of its public service but also in bringing a women’s voice perspective to the school and working closely with the students who were, who were in the mid-career program, so average age is 40 but then it had its 2 year program so the average age was about 25.

So, for the importance of the Women’s Leadership Board to play a role with the students themselves as they figured what they wanted to do next in their life in the role of public service.

I feel very honored to have had a role in that board and its growth, and did some projects with the board.

When I went over to the Center for Public Leadership, stayed involved. Went to Egypt with them in January of ’06, where we did a joint conference with Mrs. Mubarack and women in Egypt.

So, it is a wonderful board, it is still there and still growing.

Listen to the entire interview, above.


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