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Napolitano Credits Golf With Smoothing Security Role

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Photographer: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Photographer: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

March 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano once used golf to open communication with men.

“I remember taking golf lessons in Arizona to talk to the FBI guys,” Napolitano, the state’s former governor, said at the Women in the World conference in New York. “They didn’t talk at meetings, but boy did they talk on the golf course.”

Yesterday she prodded her audience to increase the number of young women in national security and safety positions. They’ve made up about 35 percent of the profession in the U.S. since 2005, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In the decade that followed a United Nations Security Council resolution to increase women’s participation in global security and conflict resolution, fewer than 3 percent of signatories to peace agreements were women, UN figures show.

“Women tend to -- and some men do too -- try to resolve problems,” said Jane Harman, a former Democratic congresswoman from California who heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “Women are lionesses in terms of how we protect our families. That fierce instinct to protect helps all of us perform security.”

Women are also less likely to support war, Harman said at the conference hosted by Newsweek and the Daily Beast.

Atifete Jahjaga, the first female president of Kosovo or of any Balkan country, said women’s ability to listen during conflict is a unique skill.

A Unique Skill

“Our tasks and our obligations are the same; there’s no difference for being a man or being a woman,” said Jahjaga, who was elected in an 80-10 vote by lawmakers in April. “What is additional to us is that we as women are more accountable, are more responsible. The combination of the decision-making with the ability of listening is the best combination that one leader should have.”

Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she focused on taking care of her young son during the early part of her law enforcement career. Now, curtailing homicides is among her top priorities. Last year they dropped 18 percent and the department’s homicide closure rate was 95 percent compared with a 57 percent national average.

“I didn’t ever have a dream of being the chief,” she said. “I was a young single mother, with a drive to take care of my son. It was due to a few very enlightened men, like the mayor who appointed me to be the chief, that I had these opportunities.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Catarina Saraiva in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Kassenaar at

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