You are here

Ruth R. Harkin, JD

2018 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree: Ruth R. Harkin, J.D.

“Ruth has been an outstanding leader and a trailblazing female role model for many of us. Ruth led investment mission trips to places where host delegations were not exactly accustomed to engaging in international finance, law, and diplomacy with a woman as head of delegation.”

-- Written by Judyth Gilbert, Bethesda, MD in a letter of support

Picture of Ruth R. Harkin

Ruth R. Harkin was born on August 27, 1944 in Vesta Minnesota into a family who believed in women having their own careers. Growing up Ruth learned that "everything is possible." Her life has proved that claim.

Ruth graduated from the University of Minnesota and Catholic University Law School and then dedicated her career to one of public and private service. She was County Attorney for Story County, Iowa from 1973 to 1979 and the first woman to be elected Story County prosecutor. From 1979 to 1981 she became the first female to serve as the Deputy General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. While in Washington, D.C., Ruth also worked for the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld law firm working with U.S. companies.

In 1993 President Bill Clinton chose Ruth Harkin to be President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, becoming the first female President and CEO in its history. OPIC is a government agency that encourages mutually beneficial American private investment in developing countries and newly emerging free market economies. Under her leadership OPIC increased its activity to the highest levels in the agency's history. She also served as the first female Senior Vice President at United Technologies; the first woman on the Board of Directors of Conoco Petroleum Company; and was the first woman on the Board of Directors of Bowater Company.

In 2013, Ms. Harkin led the effort to establish the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University, helping to convene a bipartisan national advisory board and raising private funds for its educational mission. Throughout her life, she has encouraged, inspired, hired and promoted women and sought equal rights and opportunities for women in both her professional and personal fields of influence.

She is the wife of former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. Ruth and Tom have two daughters Amy and Jenny, and three grandchildren.

An interview with Ruth R. Harkin, JD: