Kiki McLean
Kiki McLean, Counsel for Porter Novelli
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HOUSTON – National public affairs strategist Catherine “Kiki” McLean breathed belief into nearly 100 women who gathered in the CityCentre campus on Jan. 15. Her interactive presentation, “Making It In a Man’s World — A View from Inside the Beltway,” elicited laughter, groans and applause.

“Women have always been capable, but not necessarily qualified, to rise to the top of public service,” McLean said. “It has evolved to common culture for women to have a place at the table, but not always to be a leader. We now have women who can run for the top offices — governors and president — and we have women running those campaigns and serving as a separate marketplace in bigger numbers than ever before.”

McLean’s presentation was the second in a series of seminars known as the “Women’s Leadership Initiative,” hosted by the MBA Programs Office at Mays Business School’s Houston CityCentre location. The series by and for women is the brainchild of Dr. Mary Lea McAnally, assistant dean for graduate programs, who noted that the percentage of women in business school drops from 53 percent at the undergraduate level to around 30 percent in MBA programs and that fewer than 5 percent in top leadership positions at Fortune 500 firms are held by women. “This initiative provides an opportunity for female leaders to become aware of the issues we face, to build connections and gain the tools for continued success,” McAnally explained at the onset of the series.

The speaker at the first event was strategy consultant and executive coach Rebecca Cooke, who is scheduled to present again on the topic of exercising power and influence on April 2 and next fall on the topic of defining effective roles. “This is a program we have long needed,” Cooke said. “This energy is exciting.”

Female influence in the political arena continues to rise, McLean asserted, citing numerous examples. The 2012 election represented a significant battle for the presidential nomination, and 2014 will be a year of solidifying that momentum. She described such organizations as Burning Glass, an organization charged with getting the women’s vote, and the Walmart Moms research project, which gauges opinions of women with children age 18 or younger at home and who shopped at Walmart at least once in the past month. “With 14 to 17 percent of the electorate, Walmart Moms are the swing vote.”

McLean is a veteran of six presidential campaigns, including the historic 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign. During the 2008 election season, she was senior advisor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. McLean’s approach is non-partisan. She co-founded No Labels, a national grassroots movement dedicated to solving problems by engaging people of all party affiliations.

McLean shared this advice for women:

  • Model leadership behaviors for other women
  • Mentor another woman
  • Get involved in politics at the local level, such as city council, school board and homeowners associations
  • Keep up with major issues
  • Watch candidate debates, then act on what is said
  • Drive other voters to a polling place

“I have this to say to all of you: Urgency creates opportunity, and there is no place that is more urgent than politics,” McLean exhorted the women in attendance at the Jan. 15 event in Houston. “Not everyone is ready for state and national politics, but we can all cheer on those who are. If you know a woman who gets a place at the table, encourage her to stay there, not walk away. It’s the walking away that kills us.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.