On Sunday, I joined a group of young Arab women at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to discuss the importance of educational opportunities and the value of public service for women in countries around the world.
I stressed the benefits to the security and development of every society that come from the advancement and equality of women around the globe. I told them that President Obama and the United States are committed to working with our international partners to help ensure that all women have opportunities in education, public service and the global economy -- a big part of the reason why we formed the White House Council on Women and Girls.
The students at Zayed University responded with questions about everything from U.S. foreign policy to the challenges and excitement of running for office. They were especially interested in what it was like to become the first female U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. I told them it was an honor to serve alongside the numerous extraordinary women who serve the Obama administration in Cabinet-level positions.
I also had a chance to learn from the students. They told me about the progress the UAE has made in advancing educational opportunities for women, encouraging public service and expanding the roles of women in society and government. My hosts told me that, in recent years, the UAE has undertaken extensive education reform efforts in order to enhance the nation’s growing economy and culture and provide young Emiratis with a competitive option to complete their studies at home rather than abroad.
After working to advance equal opportunities for women throughout my career, seeing the progress women have made in UAE firsthand was exciting. These young women are poised to become the world’s next generation of leaders, and their success -- whether in economics, security, or public service -- will benefit us all.
Janet Napolitano is Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security