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Marne Levine: Powerful Women of Washington

This article is the first in a series giving a new meaning to #wcw that features successful women in Washington, D.C. with powerful jobs and remarkable career paths.

Who says women don’t run the world? Just because high school history books only tell the heroic stories of influential men in history, in great detail one might add, and save “the role of women” during the time period for the last half of a page of each section, doesn’t mean women haven’t had a significant role in history. Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers, Susan B. Anthony was a key leader in the women’s suffrage movement, Katharine Hepburn refused to play movie roles that belittled her for being a woman, and in the twenty-first century, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful business people in the country.

So yes, women do run this world! Take Marne Levine for example. Probably not a common name thrown around at the dinner table, but she holds, and has held, numerous powerful jobs in the District.

This past October Marne Levine became Instagram’s first ever Chief Operating Officer (COO). As the new COO, Levine is responsible for Instagram’s human resources, communications, and business partnerships. Hiring Levine is a huge step for women in tech. Women make up 49% of the United States workforce, yet only 29% of the STEM workforce. The number of men working in a STEM job with an undergraduate or master’s degree is triple, or even, quadruple that of women with the same degree.

Previously, Levine served as Larry Summer’s Chief of Staff when Summer’s was the President of Harvard College. Later, Summer was appointed to the Secretary of Treasury under the Clinton Administration and Levine served as his Deputy Assistant Secretary (every SPA student’s dream, right?).

But then Levine took a break from the government world and began a tech career in the private sector for a few years. During this time she also married her husband and had two children.

If you thought serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury was cool, you might start drooling to hear that after the 2008 presidential selection, Levine was asked to join Summers’ team when he was selected to be the Director of the National Economic Council at the White House. It must have been a no-brainer for Levine to say yes, right? Wrong.

On her Lean In profile page, Levine writes:

“I was thrilled, but also anxious. I was young and single during the Clinton Administration when I worked at the Treasury Department; I understood how intellectually engaging, but also how demanding these jobs could be. Now with an infant, a three-year-old and spouse to consider, I was unsure I would be able to commit to the fast-paced lifestyle of a White House staffer.”

Although Levine was hesitant to take the job, her husband convinced her that working at the White House was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Levine explained to Lean In that the job was demanding but also flexible, stating she sometimes missed a meeting to attend her child’s soccer game.  Eventually Levine realized it wasn’t going to be a sustainable job in the long-term and the best fit for her family, so she moved on and became Facebook’s Vice President of Global Public Policy.

Levine also became a board member of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In organization. Reflecting on her jobs at the White House and Facebook, Levine writes, “most importantly, I was able to give our boys the kind of example my husband and I wanted them to have and still be there to fulfill the needs they had at that juncture in their lives. If I wanted their world to be filled with female “astronauts,” I needed to strive to be one myself.” 

Emma is a sophomore at American University, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science and Women's Studies. She loves to write, journal, and blog in her free time. Emma is a Communications Intern at the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), a non-profit in DC. She is a social media editor for Her Campus American.
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