Karen Davis’ ’83, G’90 desire to create a welcoming environment for all has permeated every corner of the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS). Building the college’s career services from the ground up and becoming the assistant dean of…
Women in Leadership Initiative Hosts Gloria Somolekae G’94, H’22 on International Women’s Day
In celebration of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8, the Women in Leadership Initiative (WiL), in partnership with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, the School of Information Studies and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is pleased to bring Gloria Somolekae G’94, H’22 back to campus for an in-person keynote talk titled “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality: Challenges and Prospects.” This presentation will give a global focus on technology and education, with an emphasis on how women and girls across the globe can be empowered in the digital age.
The event will be held in the Goldstein Auditorium at the Schine Student Center from 1 to 2 p.m. All students, faculty and staff are welcome and encouraged to attend. Registration is required in advance and can be done online.
As a barrier-breaking academic in her home country of Botswana and a dedicated public servant, Somolekae has been a leader in women’s rights, democracy and development in Botswana and throughout southern Africa. Somolekae, who earned a Ph.D. in public administration from the Maxwell School, was the first citizen of Botswana to earn a Ph.D. in public administration, and the first woman in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of Botswana—a trailblazer as one of only a small number of women in academics at the university at the time. In 2022, Somolekae was recognized with an Honorary Degree from Syracuse University.
More About Somolekae
Somolekae earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration and political science from the University of Botswana and Swaziland in 1981. She then earned a master’s in public policy and administration at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague in 1983, before coming to Syracuse.
After her studies, Somolekae returned to Botswana where she became a senior lecturer at the University of Botswana. She then worked in various policy advisor and director roles for foundations in Botswana, including as a policy advisor on rural development for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, before entering government service. The president of Botswana appointed her first to a position in the 10th Parliament of Botswana, and then to the position of deputy minister of finance and economic development. It was another first for the nation—the first woman to serve in a senior position in the Ministry of Finance. She was tasked by the president to review the country’s rural development; the Somolekae Report led to major policy shifts in the country’s rural development programs.
Along with her public service, Somolekae has had a deep presence in leading civic engagement projects, helping to energize voters and engage more citizens in politics in Botswana. She co-founded and directed the Democracy Project in Botswana, which was organized to help preserve and strengthen democracy through education of the public on their rights and responsibilities in a democracy and monitor elections. She was a board member of the organization Emang Basadi, which successfully challenged a number of laws that discriminated against women, and helped conceptualize the organization’s effort to encourage women to get involved in politics.
Currently, she serves as senior research fellow and head of the Governance and Administration Unit in the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis. She is working to build capacity in governance, advocating for evidence-based policymaking.
In recognition of her public service and engagement with the citizenry, she was awarded the Presidential Order of Honour by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, the highest civilian honor in Botswana, in 2008; was named one of Botswana’s 50 Inspirational and Formidable Women by W.A.V.E. as part of Botswana’s independence celebrations in turning half a century in 2016; and was named by the All Africa Council of Churches, based in Kenya, as an Eminent Persons for Peace in Africa.
More About WiL
The WiL Initiative seeks to catalyze the personal and collective advancement of women on campus. To learn more about WiL or get involved in upcoming programs, visit the initiative’s website. Programs are open to all community members, regardless of gender identity or expression.