Run This World

196 – Marisa Porges from Battling Terrorism to Raising Bold, Courageous, Resilient Women

Dr. Marisa Porges might be the most impressive person I’ve ever talked to. Here goes.

Today Dr. Porges is the the eighth Head of School of The Baldwin School, a 130-year-old all-girls school outside of Philadelphia, that is renowned for academic excellence and preparing girls to be leaders and changemakers. She is an alumna of Baldwin and personally understands the power of its approach to educating girls: it provided the foundation for her own military service and work on national security and foreign affairs.

Prior to joining Baldwin, Dr. Porges was a leading counterterrorism and national security expert. Most recently, she served in the Obama White House as a senior policy advisor and White House Fellow at the National Economic Council, where she oversaw the development of domestic cybersecurity and consumer protection policies. She also has served as a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and at the Council on Foreign Relations, where her research focused on counterterrorism. In these roles, she traveled alone throughout the Middle East and Afghanistan to conduct research, interview former members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, meet with Syrian rebel fighters in hiding, and serve as an embedded civilian advisor at NATO military headquarters in Afghanistan. She also worked as a counterterrorism policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Treasury and as a foreign affairs advisor in the U.S. Department of Defense. In all these roles, she stood out as one of a few – if not the only – women present, at any given time. 

Dr. Porges started her career on active duty in the U.S. Navy, flying jets off carriers as a naval flight officer on EA-6B Prowlers. Ten years after the Navy first allowed women to fly jets into combat, she pursued her dream of being launched off an aircraft carrier while serving her country. She earned a B.A. in geophysics from Harvard, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in war studies from King’s College London. Her awards include the National Committee on American Foreign Policy 21st Century Leader Award and the NATO Medal for service in Afghanistan. Dr. Porges lives outside of Philadelphia, with her family.

See what I mean? I was literally reading Marisa’s bio to Tim the night before I interviewed her and he said, “That’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever heard. So she’s basically Carrie from Homeland?” [minus the personal issues!]

I believe the coolest part about her is that she took all of this badassery and decided to use it to help create the next generation of badasses!


In the navy she was the Goose to another’s Maverick when she was flying jets off carriers.

She’s enjoyed a “choose your own adventure” career – we could all use this for inspiration

Buy her book! What Girls Need: How to Raise Bold, Courageous and Resilient Women

Sports nurture a competitive drive that transfers into careers: 92% of successful c-suite women were athletes!

Skills needed for girls to be successful later in life: Speaking up/Self-advocating, How to ask for what you need, How to adapt to change, How to collaborate

Adaptability is TEACHABLE! The goal is to have a high Adaptability Quotient

Quick fact: Women are more likely to be interrupted than their male peers

Girls/women need both mentors and SPONSORS. Mentors give advice. Sponsors create opportunities.

Tactics to start while your kids are young: Read fiction (this creates empathy – an ability to see from the other character’s point of view), Give your child tasks that may seem above her “pay grade” (I.e. have your kid call and order the pizza. Empower her to use her voice.)

For more Marisa Porges:

Follow her at @marisaporges

Buy her book What Girls Need

Marisa is AMAZING!!!!