Monday, December 23, 2013

Must Read: I am Malala

My favorite book I've read this year has to be I am Malala. I highly recommend you read it! I couldn't put it down.

As an American, every day we hear about terrorism and the growing tension between our country and Pakistan. Malala's book does an excellent job at painting a detailed landscape of what it's like to live daily with the Taliban in your neighborhood. With so much misunderstanding in our culture about Islam, Malala a devout Muslim, defends her faith yet criticizes the complexities of how it's manifested in her world. American readers can gain a better understanding of Pakistan, Islam, and more importantly our nation's need to seriously evaluate our use of drones. 

As someone who clung to my books and always wanted to be at the top of my class, I deeply connected with Malala's story.  She just wanted to study and learn so she could best use her talents to help her society.  Every person on the planet has the right to develop themselves and apply their talents. Your gender or what country you were born in should not change that.  In the United States, our founders proudly declared this as "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

I believe in Malala's vision of education for girls and boys everywhere. This is absolutely possible. It's not a disease in need of discovering a cure. It's a societal problem that the world has the capacity to solve.

We can all play our part in that solution. First, educate yourself and learn from Malala's story. Read her book. She co-founded an organization The Malala Fund so please follow them on Facebook and Twitter and consider making a donation. You can also support local girls in your community as a volunteer. 

Happy Holidays and thanks so much for reading this blog! Cheers to the power of young women and girls! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Cards: The Perfect Networking Tool

Holiday cards are the perfect way to cultivate your network. What better way to reach out to someone for no particular reason but to say happy holidays! Sending a card to someone is a nice way to say, "Hey, I haven't forgotten you. Please don't forget me!" 

In addition to your normal card recipient list of family and friends, think of whom you are grateful for in your professional network. Who would you like to get to know better or possibly work with in the future? Did you meet someone once for coffee, but haven't reconnected in awhile? Send them a holiday card! 

You can buy nondenominational holiday cards from your local CVS or Duane Reade. In recent years, I have ordered customized cards from The inside of the card has a short printed message, my name, email, and cell. I write each person's name in the card and a personalized message to them, just a sentence or two. I generally send about 100-150 cards. This takes a lot of work, but people definitely notice and appreciate it. As long as the card reaches them by the first week of the new year, I have succeeded! 

Happy Holiday card writing! Share the joy of the season with your networks!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So You Want to Write an Op-Ed?

     I recently had the exciting opportunity of publishing an op-ed in The Los Angles TimesI am deeply grateful for the amazing collaboration with my co-author Shauna Shames.   I am also incredibly grateful to Linda Forman-Naval for her political astuteness and to the Scholars Strategy Network for being the premier place to bridge the gap between academic research and policy decision-making.

     I hope you are thinking of op-ed writing!   You have valuable opinions that deserve to be heard. More voices of people from diverse backgrounds need to share their ideas through op-ed writing.  According to the Op-Ed Project, men are 80-90% of contributors to key opinion forums; 84% of T.V. pundits on Sunday morning talk shows; and 87% of Wikipedia contributors.  More women's voices need to be in these spaces! 

     So how do you publish an op-ed?  My first suggestion is to get some formal training.  I am an alumna of the Op-Ed Project and Progressive Women’sVoices.  Both are training programs that empower women to find their voices and give them the technical skills to share their message.  I can’t emphasize enough how crucial these programs were for me to demystify the media pitching process, and to believe in the possibility of actually getting my voice heard.   If you are currently in school, see if you can take a writing class.  If you are a young professional, many professional membership organizations offer media training opportunities. 

Own Your Expertise

     You are an expert!  Believe it!  Own it! Each of us has our own story.  Due to our various life experiences, we see the world in a unique way.  We have different ways of understanding what is happening around us.  You are never too old or too young to write an op-ed.  Who better to comment on higher education debate than a college student? When you write your op-ed, make sure to proudly declare what makes you a credible thought leader on this topic. 

Find Your News Hook

     One of the most important aspects of what makes op-ed writing different than other forms of writing is timeliness.  A media outlet wants to publish op-eds that are relevant to what is currently happening in the news.  How do you connect your idea to what’s going on in the world at this specific moment?   I published my first op-ed earlier this year.  I felt very strongly about the article giving advice to young women in Princeton’s and Harvard’s campus newspapers.  I took the opportunity to write a similar article for the newspaper for my alma mater.  Similarly, Shauna and I used the hook of JFK’s anniversary.  Timeliness is key!

Try, Try, and Try Again

      I first took the Op-Ed Project training in 2011.  I have been pitching op-eds for about two years.  I have had many rejections, but I didn’t give up.  You need to just start writing, try pitching, and be resilient. 

     I am always eager for guest bloggers to contribute to Women on Top.  You can write about any topic of your choice, broadly related to the power of young women and girls.  Please email me if you are interested in writing. 

     Happy writing!  Your voice is valuable and deserves to be heard! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Elect Her!

Last week, I had the exciting opportunity to facilitate an Elect Her training at the University of Louisville.  Elect Her – Campus Women Win is the only program in the country that encourages and trains college women to run for student government and future political office.  Elect Her is a nonpartisan collaboration between the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start.

The earlier a candidate begins to run for office, the better are his or her chances of climbing the political ladder faster. Twelve of the last nineteen U.S. presidents started their political careers before age 35. When the path to achieve significant political influence and chair a committee is based on seniority, a candidate benefits from being elected when they are young. Additionally, over forty percent of the women who currently serve in Congress began their political careers by serving in student government in their youth. 

A recent study by Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox showed that the gender gap in political ambition is evident in college students.  My personal experience concurs with their research. Ten years ago at UC Berkeley, I ran for External Affairs Vice President.  I had over 2,000 votes, but lost by 72.  I considered it the greatest failure of my young adult life.  Ultimately, I feel I lost because I didn't believe in myself.  I wish I had the opportunity to gain confidence through a program like Elect Her.  

Regardless, running for student government was one of the most transformative leadership experiences I have ever had. I expanded my comfort zone in ways I never thought were possible.  I gained valuable public speaking experience.  I learned how to network and present myself professionally.  I built relationships with people who are still my best friends ten years later.  Win or lose, running for student government is a leadership endeavor more young women need to pursue. 
2013 Elect Her by the Numbers
  • 88 percent of the 2013 participants who ran for student government president WON! 
  • 20 percent more students plan to run for student government and political office.  
  • 100 percent of participants reported that they would recommend Elect Her to a friend.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ten Years Ago Today I Realized My Vocation

 *The following may contain triggering language to survivors of violence*

As I get dressed up to go out and celebrate Halloween tonight, I sadly remember how after a night of similar festivities ten years ago changed my life forevermore....

Ten years ago, I awoke to my passion in life.  I realized my vocation was feminism.  For the past ten years, I have dedicated my career and personal mission to advancing the status of women in the world.  For the next decades of my life, I vow to continue to strive for those goals.

I was a sophomore and the fall of 2003 was my first semester being a resident assistant (RA).  On Saturday night, the all male dorm had a Halloween party. I was not officially on RA duty that night, but I went to celebrate.  I saw two of my female residents at the party and talked to them.  When I saw them again on Sunday morning, all of our lives changed.

I don't remember exactly how I was notified, but on Sunday morning, I was informed that two of my female residents were raped that following night.  I was close with these two women.  I knocked on their door, and walked into a dark room of heavy sadness.  The two rape survivors and a few of their close friends were sitting on the floor in silence.  The lights were off.  It felt as if someone had died and we had just come from a funeral. I sat down on the floor with them.  All I could do was just sit there and be with them.  Eventually, they shared their tragic details with me.

The women had been to the hospital, but one of them was still in pain.  Official RA policy restricted me from personally driving her in my car to the hospital.  But, I called up the RA chain and was given permission to go back to the hospital with them.  I waited for her in the emergency room.

I was in shock.  I was overwhelmed.  This was the first time in my life I was exposed to the violence women and girls disproportionately experience due to their sex.  How did this happen?  I knew one of the perpetrators.  He was in one of my classes, and I frequently had to see him after this case.  I don't think he knew I was involved with his situation.  He seemed like a good guy before this happened. I was shocked he was the rapist.

There was only so much I could do to help these two survivors.  The police were not helpful, and the women did not feel supported as they were interrogated.  How did I live in a world where such violence was a common reality?

Sadly, I soon found out that many of my other girlfriends and sorority sisters were also survivors of rape and sexual assault.  I felt deeply compelled to do something about this issue.  After this experience,  all of my volunteer and extracurricular activities were related to feminism.  I should have been a gender studies major, but ended up pursuing an M.A. in Applied Women's Studies at Claremont Graduate University.  The past seven years of my career have been working in the field of gender equality.

Earlier this week, I met up with a girlfriend in her early twenties who is trying to figure out her passion in life.  I shared this story with her.  For better or worst, through this experience, I clearly found my passion in life.  I am deeply grateful to these rape survivors and all the others who have shared their story with me.  I am so inspired by the incredible power survivors have to reclaim their lives and not give up. 

For those still searching for your passion in life, that's OK.  Be patient.  You never know where or when you will learn what it is.  I suggest volunteering or getting involved with different organizations and causes.  You need to learn what you hate to help figure out what you love.  Take new classes, and try to learn new skills.   Check out this previous blog post to find more resources for discovering your passion.

I can't help but end on an uplifting, perhaps cheesy note.  This video by Beyonce on World Humanitarian Day at the United Nations is one of the most inspiring videos I have ever seen.  I wish you all the best in finding and living your passion!

Resources for Rape and Sexual Assault

 Rape and Incest National Network

Bay Area Women Against Rape (the organization that provided resources to these survivors, and that I eventually volunteered with)

Break the Cycle



National Network to End Domestic Violence

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Israeli and Palestinian Girls Balling Together

PeacePlayers International (PPI) is a nonprofit organization that uses the game of basketball to unite, educate, and inspire young people in divided communities worldwide. Through year-round, integrated youth basketball programs in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel and the West Bank, and Cyprus, PPI has reached more than 60,000 participants since its inception in 2001. PPI prioritizes the involvement of girls in its programs. In Israel and the West Bank, where only 25% of participants in competitive sports are women, more than 70% of PPI’s program participants are female. PPI uses its unique curriculum to not only teach participants how to be confident, assertive athletes, but also confident, assertive leaders. Using a longitudinal model, which engages children from early childhood all the way through adulthood, PPI is creating a league of young women ambassadors for peace. PPI’s Leadership Development Program gives these young women the tools to lead the way towards peace in their local communities and beyond, and to serve as positive role models for younger girls.


PPI-ME 2012 Peace League Tournament “Israeli and Palestinian Girls Balling Together”

by | June 14, 2012 · 2:22 pm

The players take a break from their training to smile for the camera.

Intensity was high!  A year’s worth of hard work and determination at weekly practices and “Twinnings” compounded with the newfound knowledge of PPI – ME’s peacebuilding curriculum was finally culminating in a three hour event.  For the girls participating, it seemed so natural.  For onlookers, it was a pleasure to watch.

Participating teams at PPI – ME’s annual Peace League Tournament hailed from East and West Jerusalem, Pisgat Ze’ev, and Mate Yehuda.  The girls have worked so hard to get to this point, and now, this was my time to see how they have progressed in basketball and leadership skills, attitude and behavior and sportsmanship.  It was beyond the intensity on the court, but rather the chemistry that spoke loud and clear: these girls are a family!

Participants were split into three integrated teams.  Once they were divided, they began playing against each other for a total of three games. Everyone was cheering during the tournament-style event – and not just for their own teams. The girls, who come from not only different areas of Jerusalem, but from very different upbringings, took an interest in the game when they weren’t the ones playing.  They sat in the stands with the other friends and families, and watched and cheered their new-found friends on the court.

The Jerusalem All Stars (an integrated team that competes in the National Basketball League) proved to be the dominating team with some of PPI-ME’s most advanced Palestinian and Israeli players. They made their presence known on the court with an intense defense and a great chemistry on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor.

It was truly a victory for everyone!  At the end of the event, medals and trophies were distributed to all the victors.  Everyone had a great time!


Check out PeacePlayers on Facebook!

Reposted from

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Master Self-Care


What does self-care mean to you?  Where did you learn how to do this?  How do you effectively practice self-care?  How does your community provide care, or how do you provide care for your community?

These are all great questions I got to explore this weekend with a group of fellow young feminist activists at the FemFuture Retreat at the Omega Institute.  FemFuture defines itself as "an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism."  FemFuture is led by young women Courtney Martin, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Vanessa Valenti, and Jamia Wilson.  I encourage you to check out their report about The Future of Online Feminism and their recommendations for building a more sustainable feminist movement. Also, read this great article about self-care by the weekend's amazingly talented facilitator Adrienne Maree. 

I can't agree more with FemFuture about the need to insert the topic of self-care into conversations about the evolution of the feminist movement.  Activist burnout is real.  Sadly, so many "feminist" and "women's organizations" are notorious for underpaying and overworking their staff.  In the world of online feminism, even behind the layer of the Internet, activists are brutally attacked.  When the world is rapidly moving towards further discrimination and oppression, feminists activists need to be strong and supported, not burnout and abandoned.

Below are some of my main takeaways from the weekend.  Please add your ideas about what works best for you.  Stay tuned as FemFuture continues to evolve and follow the conversation online via #FemFuture. I'm very grateful to the organizers, my fellow participants, and the Omega Institute for the amazing opportunity to have participated in such a transformative event! Cheers to self-care (that may or may not include a glass of wine)!

Best Practices for Self-Care

  • Regular Exercise                                                   
  • Healthy Eating and Proper Hydration
  • Deep Breathing 
  • Getting Enough Proper Sleep
  • Meditation 
  • Overcome Any Fear in Asking for Help
  • Visit a Wellness Center
  • Talk to Your Resident Assistant or Professor
  • Give Yourself Daily Validation, "What am I most proud of from today?"
  • Give Support to Others
  • Active Listening 
  • Spending Time in Nature
  • Have a Self-Care Buddy to Hold Each Other Accountable (daily text each other about how you practiced or did not practice self-care, do this for a week/month/six-months/etc)
  • Going on a Walk
  • Journal Writing
  • Therapy (The Women's Center in DC offers affordable counseling services)
  • Take a Landmark Education class
  • Spending Time with Friends
  • Checking in with a Mentor or Coach
  • Learning a New Hobby 
  • Use Vacation Time
  • Going to the Movies or Shopping
  • Read a Book 
  • Create a Self-Care Fund for Yourself 
  • Art Projects 
  • Articulating Your Needs for Yourself and Others
  • Incorporating Play into Your Day 
  • Do Whatever were some of your Favorite Things from Childhood
  • Establishing Do-able Time Management Scheduling
  • Unplug from your Phone and Computer
  • Get Grounded through your Senses (smell, touch, sounds, texture, etc)
  • Bubble Baths, Massages, Mani/Pedi
  • Maintaining a Spiritual Practice
  • Schedule Regular Time for Reflection
  • Sit in a Quiet Room Alone and Do Nothing
  • Get Rid of Habits, Structures, or People that No Longer Serve You
  • Find Healthy Ways to Get Rid of Your Anger Such as Boxing
  • Consider Alternative Healing Options 
  • Take a Self Assessment (Strength Finders 2.0)
  • Create Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Annual Strategies and Practices and Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable  


Samhita Mukhopadhyay
Samhita Mukhopadhyay
Courtney E. Martin
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:
an experiment in movement-building that develops solutions for sustainability and impact in 21st century feminism. - See more at:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Achieving Gender Parity in the United Nations (UN) System is Possible

At the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, the nations of the world set the goal a of 50/50 gender distribution at all levels of employment within the UN Secretariat by 2000[1].  Thirteen years after this deadline, the UN is far behind in reaching its goal.  According to a June 2009 report issued by the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the percentage of women at the most senior positions, Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General, are 22.2 percent and 22.8 percent  respectively[2].  Moreover, at the highest level of the Organization, the world has yet to see a female Secretary-General.  The UN can achieve gender parity through enacting flexible working arrangements and policies promoting work-life balance, improving accountability, and implementing real time monitoring, accompanied by adequate funding for each of these endeavors.

The UN must prioritize its commitment to gender parity for a number of reasons, most notably for the purpose of striving for gender equality and for the organizational benefits associated with gender diversity.  Gender parity is inherently necessary to actualize gender equality, a stated goal of the UN in its charter and the Millennium Development Goals.  As one of the world’s foremost norm setting bodies, the UN itself must first abide by its high standards to truly promote gender equality around the world.  Studies from Catalyst and McKinsey demonstrate that increasing the number of female decision makers at the table correlates with improved collaboration and productivity.

A significant impediment to achieving gender parity results from societal pressure for women to be the parent primarily responsible for child and elderly care.  For example, many women leave the workforce for an extended period of time because they are unable to balance raising a family while maintaining a demanding career. As is common practice in the private sector, the UN can create opportunities for employees to telecommute, use flextime, participate in a compressed workweek, or job share arrangements.  To implement these policies successfully, the UN must provide training for staff of all levels about how such flexible working arrangements can be utilized.  To get rid of the stigma associated with taking leave, the UN should remove the requirement for an employee to state the purpose of the leave, and be a model for not having to file a reason. Lastly, the UN can also provide daycare solutions such as onsite facilities, pre-negotiated contracts with daycare providers, and childcare subsidies that are accessible to all.  

Monitoring, reporting and accountability are imperative to achieving gender parity.  Accountability must be broken down to the individual manager and unit level.  The mere existence of potentially effective policies such as flexible working arrangements does not suffice when they are not wholly implemented as a socially acceptable option for employees to utilize. The UN should track requests for flexible working arrangements that come in, as well as the percentage accepted and declined by managers. How well a manager is performing in relation to gender parity as well as their gender sensitivity needs to be a competency for their promotion.

Current statistics on gender representation in the UN exist predominately only as snapshot reports.  Most agencies do not have computerized gender statistics in real time, demonstrating the impact of a given recruitment, selection, promotion, or retirement on a given level or in a given department. To be more useful to managers and to correct distributional imbalances within large departments, monitoring should gradually be refined and further broken down to the divisional level.  In addition, few departments collect data on a number of other key issues affecting their staff’s ability to juggle work-life balance, such as the number of staff members who head single parent households or have problems concerning childcare or care of aging parents. 

Achieving gender parity is absolutely possibleThe System-Wide Action Plan of 2012 (UN SWAP) is a great move in the right direction.  Political will can be strengthened, policies can be formulated and more rigorously implemented, and organizational culture can be positively altered.   Flexible working arrangements and family friendly policies will reduce women’s attrition from the UN by allowing them to achieve a better work-life balance.  Promoting managers on a basis of their performance in regards to gender parity will increase their personal accountability to the issue.  Additionally, real time monitoring of gender-disaggregated data will allow the UN to respond to problems as they arise. By facilitating gender parity, the UN will be aligned to achieve other key goals such as productivity, efficiency, and coherence as well as truly live up to the high values it espouses.

More info: UN Office of the Focal Point for Women 

[1] Resolution 50/164 of 22 December 1995
[2] A/63/364. Report of the Secretary- General on Improvement of the Status of Women in the United Nations System. February 2010.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Happy Day of the Girl!

     Tomorrow, October 11th is Day of the Girl!  Cheers to the power of girls!  How will you celebrate? In 2011, the UN General Assembly declared October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.  This year’s theme is focused on “Innovating for Girls’ Education.”  According to the United Nations, “There is … overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.”
     World leaders have recognized that girls are a major target group to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Goal 3 is completely dedicated to promoting gender equality and empowerment, and Goal 2 is about achieving universal primary education, with a special emphasis on girls. If you haven’t already watched it, I highly recommend you watch this quick video about the “Girl Effect.” In short, the Girl Effect is about the power of leveraging the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families, their communities, their countries and the world.  A great film recently came out called Girl Rising that illuminates the heart wrenching challenges girls face around the world, but highlights girl leaders who are overcoming the odds of poverty, human trafficking, and lack of education.

     My favorite nonprofit organization empowering girl leaders is Running Start, which trains high school girls and young women to run for office.  The earlier you give a girl the skills and confidence to start her leadership, the faster she will climb the ladder to success.  Investing in young women and girls is the most underutilized but proven strategy for breaking the glass ceiling.  

     Together, we can all work together to give girls a better shot at life.  Below are some ideas of how you can empower girls.  Please share your stories of helping girls grow and succeed!

        YOU can make a difference for girls!
  • Mentor or tutor a girl
  • Encourage a girl to share her voice and raise her hand


Friday, October 4, 2013

What is Your Community?

What is feminism? What is a feminist community?  Do you identify as a feminist? I proudly identify as a feminist, and would only be where I am today because of the incredible feminist communities that have supported me along the way.  Interestingly, the Feminist Majority Foundation bases its namesake in the fact the majority of United States population identifies as a feminist.

The beauty and the downfall of feminism is that it allows itself to multiple interpretations.  My personal definition of feminism seeks to end all forms of oppression and discrimination.  Feminism uses gender and sex as a foundational analysis to understand discrimination. Additionally, once such discrimination is fully understood, feminism requires action to end said discrimination.  However, feminism does not just advocate to end sexism or achieve gender equality.  Feminism seeks to end racism, ablelism, ageism, heterosexism, classism, etc.   Feminism creates a world of new possibility and equality for all.   What is your personal definition of feminism?

From my perspective a feminist community is a compassionate, safe space where one can be their authentic self.   People share their vulnerabilities with each other.  But moreover, we help create growth solutions together.  We challenge and support each other in our personal journeys, as well as our quest to make society more equal for all.  People from diverse backgrounds and of all genders feel welcome to learn together.  People do not feel judged or guilty for being who they are. Feminist communities listen to each other, and also discuss divergent viewpoints in a constructive manner.   What is your feminist community?  Or, if you don’t identify as a feminist, what is your community where you feel supported by others who share your values?

Participating in feminist communities has been instrumental in my personal and professional growth.  Fortunately, a strong feminist community is thriving in our nation’s capital.  Click here to see a list of women’s organizations in DC you can join and please feel free to suggest others.  If you don’t live in DC, many of these organizations have chapters in cities around the country so check out if there is one near you. I am honored to have been selected to participate in the 2013 FemFuture retreat and look forward to creating a new feminist community soon!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School for Everyone

Now that we are fully in the back to school mode, what does that phrase mean to you?  Have you started your undergraduate or graduate degree?  Have your kids gone back to school?  Are you studying for the GRE, LSAT, or GMAT in hopes of applying to graduate school this year?  Are you preparing for your architectural exams?  Are you thinking of finishing your degree? 

Back to school can mean many different things to many people.  How are you pursuing continual education, either formally or informally?  We are never too young or too old to learn new things.  Have you wanted to learn a new skill or language?  Below are some ideas on how you can continuously learn and grow.  Take advantage of this time to create new opportunities for yourself.  Please post additional comments on how you're going back to school!

10 Ideas on Going "Back to School"
  1. Take a class.  Check out free online courses such as Coursera or Udacity. Does your city offer free or affordable classes at recreation centers? 
  2. Learn a new language.  In the Washington, DC area, I have taken affordable language classes through the Graduate School and the GLN.
  3. Join a professional membership organization.  Click here for a list of DC women's professional organizations.  Do a Google search for organizations in your area.  Search "women" and your specific interest such as "government relations."  Or, do a search for "young professional" and your specific interest.
  4. Join a book club. 
  5. Join a Meetup group near you to explore new interests and meet people who share your passion.
  6. Go to your local library and check out some free books!
  7. Participate in webinars and join listservs to stay current in your field.  Click here for a list of nonprofit career resources.
  8. Find a mentor or career/life coach who can help guide you through your next step.  Also consider how you can mentor someone else.  Mentoring is up, down, and all around.  You are never too old or too young to be a mentor, and to be mentored.
  9. Pick up a new hobby.  I took affordable golf classes in DC through DC Golf.
  10. Visit a museum.  Learn more about history in your area.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the March

Pamela O'Leary, Julian Bond, and Tyrik McKeiver
Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 50th anniversary events for the March on Washington. These are events I will remember as long as I live. I believe it's incredibly important to have events like to this to commemorate how far we have come, but also to make a call to action for what still needs to be done.  I asked my classes at American University and Trinity Washington University two main discussion questions.

If you were in your same position in life fifty years ago, would you have attended the March on Washington? Why or why not?

Fifty years from now, what will the 100th Anniversary of the March on Washington look like? Will it merely be a commemoration or still be a call to action?

Think hard about these questions. Discuss them with your friends and colleagues. Personally, I hope I would have taken the risk, stood for my values, and marched 50 years ago. I pray I will be able to attend the March again 50 years from now. Sadly, I don't think full equality will be realized, and many communities will still be fighting for their rights. I imagine the Latino community will have a dominant presence at the 100th anniversary. I also believe the LGBTQ community will hopefully no longer be fighting for marriage equality, but will still be fighting against many forms of injustice. As our environment continues to degrade, I envision various forms of access to quality air and water may further divide the American public, so environmental justice will be an issue at the 100th Anniversary.

Change takes a long time. The fight for women's right to vote in America began in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. Seventy-two years later in 1920, women in America finally won the right to vote.  In 1923, Alice Paul drafted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), but today in 2013, the ERA has not passed and women still do not have full constitutional protection against discrimination.

What will you march for today? What will you march for in the future? I'm grateful for everyone who marched 50 years ago, and those who carry the torch today.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Young Women Gave Us the Right to Vote

Women's Suffrage Monument in the Rotunda 

Ninety-three years ago today, women in American finally won the right to vote.  On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law and declared "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."  To date, the Equal Rights Amendment has not passed, so the Nineteenth Amendment is the only Constitutional protection explicitly including the term "sex."

The fight for women's right to vote began in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention.  However, it took 72 years of activism to successfully achieve suffrage.  Young women such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns carried the torch that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony first lit.

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were American students who met in London while protesting with the Pankhursts, Britain's suffrage movement.  They were inspired by the militant tactics of the Pankhursts which included mass public protesting.  Upon returning to the United States, they joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  NAWSA was using traditional lobbying methods to advocate for suffrage.  Alice and Lucy thought these strategies were ineffective, so split and formed the National Woman's Party (NWP).

If you pass by the White House today, seeing protestors in front of it is a common sight.  However, the first political organization in the United States to picket the White House was the NWP, founded by young Alice Paul.  The NWP still exists today and you can become a member!

The women picketing the White House used nonviolence, and stood for hours in the cold, well dressed, holding banners with political messages.  At first President Wilson tolerated them, but not once the nation moved into World War I. Alice, Lucy, and the young women leaders of the NWP decided to still picket even through the country was at war.  Not much later, the suffragists were arrested on the bogus grounds of obstructing traffic.

The women were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse where they were treated poorly as common criminals.  The prisoners, including Alice and Lucy, went on extended hunger strikes.  They were violently force fed, with tubes painfully shoved down their throats.  Once the public learned of this brutality, Wilson had no choice but to support suffrage.  While not entirely historically accurate, a recommended film to learn more about this is Iron Jawed Angels featuring Hillary Swank.  You can also visit the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum in DC or the Alice Paul Institute in New Jersey to learn more about Alice Paul.

Thanks to the sacrifice of young women activists such as Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, YOU can vote! Women in America have only been able to vote for less than 100 years, so use your right and vote in all elections, from municipal to presidential.  Women voters make or break candidates.  In every presidential election since 1980, a gender gap has been apparent.  In 2012, women voters favored the successful candidate Barack Obama ten percentage points over Mitt Romney.  Women in the United States are 51% of the population, 53% of voters, but hold less than 20% of elected offices in America.  Let's change those statistics.

Alice Paul was 35 years old when the Nineteenth Amendment passed.  Alice and Lucy are role models to show us you do not need to wait until you finish school or have decades of experience to start changing your country and the world.  The fight for women's equality is not complete.  What torch will our generation carry?  The movement begins today!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

So You Want to Be an Adjunct Professor?

Last year, I had the great honor to become an adjunct professor at American University and Trinity Washington University.  This semester, I am excited to teach "Gender, Power, and Politics" at American University and "Women and Leadership" at Trinity Washington University.  So what exactly is an adjunct professor and how do you become one? 

From an undergraduate student's perspective, they generally don't know the difference between full time or adjunct faculty members.  Basically, an adjunct professor is a part-time professor who is not on the tenure track.  You don't necessarily have to have a PhD. You are hired to teach a certain class for one semester, and are not necessarily guaranteed future employment. You generally do not receive benefits and most adjuncts are paid less than $5,000 per class.  For all the hours you spend teaching, grading, planning, and doing office hours, this is a job you do for the love of it rather than for money.  However, the adjuncts at American University recently unionized, so I am excited to learn more about the potential professional development opportunities and pay increases I can receive.  As universities and colleges nationwide are experiencing budget cuts, more and more school are hiring adjuncts, so more teaching opportunities exist for your taking.

Know What You Want

As with anything in life, I strongly believe in the power of knowing what you want far in advance of it actually happening.  For many of life's great accomplishments, you must dream your dream for many years, and take baby steps along the way to build your path. For example, in graduate school, I always knew I eventually wanted to teach, and participated in my school's Preparing Future Faculty program.

Know the Right People

I knew that many Washington, DC schools had adjunct opportunities, but I just didn't know how to connect to them, and thought I had to wait until I was older with more experience. However, one day I randomly received an email from a friend who used to teach saying her school needed someone last minute.  I asked if you needed a PhD, or just a master's.  She said all you needed was a master's degree.  She recommended me, I quickly interviewed, my experience spoke for itself, and I was hired.

My other teaching opportunity randomly came through LinkedIn.  A professor I did not know invited me to speak to her class.  The students ranked me as their favorite guest speaker that semester.  The professor and I began a professional relationship, and she gave me free executive coaching.  When she was thinking about creating a new class, she invited me to apply to teach it.

All of my friends who are adjuncts all knew someone where they applied, and did not apply cold.  The chair of a department generally does the hiring, so they are the right people to know.  If you are not yet connected to an academic community, create those relationships now.  Go to events on campus.  Offer to be a guest speaker.  Meet with professors for informational interviews.  Introduce yourself to department chairs months before the semester starts and suggest classes you can teach.

Also know that many adjunct opportunities arise right before a semester starts.  Look through the schedule of classes.  If a class does not have a professor's name attached to it, they are probably still looking for someone to teach it.

Know Your Stuff

So in addition to knowing what you want and knowing the right people, to be an adjunct, you have to know your stuff!  You really need to be an expert in your field.  You generally have a have a relevant graduate degree.  I have an M.A. in Applied Women's Studies.  Prior teaching experience or working with students is valued.  Publications definitely help.  As academia begins to value scholar practitioners more and more, having significant professional experience and demonstrated leadership in your field is important.

Own your expertise! I became an adjunct professor when I was 28.  You don't have to wait until you have decades of work experience to become an adjunct professor.  While it is a demanding job, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions.  Higher education needs more committed people wanting to teach!

More information about adjunct professors

Follow the adventures of my friend Michael Rodriguez as he follows his passion to teach architecture in Guatemala- Arch Abroad

Adjunct Project 

Adjunct Nation

Adjunct Professor Online

Friday, August 9, 2013

How Do You Decide?

How do you effectively make decisions?  What new approaches are you willing to try to better make decisions?  How has the way you make decisions changed from when you were 21 to 29?  Do you make personal decisions the same way you make professional choices? 
How does Hillary Clinton decide if she wants to run for president?  That's a tough one, good luck Hillary!  I do hope she will run! I do hope you will decide to keep reading please!

I believe one of the most important things to a happy and successful life is to know where you want to be going.  You've got to know what you want, in a clear way you can visualize it so you can then take actions to make that possibility your reality.  So how do you decide what you want?  Below are some strategies I have tried, some more effectively than others.

1) Know your strengths and weaknesses and how they impact your decision making style.

One of my favorite books is Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  You actually need to buy the book rather than borrow it from a library because you need a special code to take a strengths finders assessment online.  You then read the book based on those test results.  At the end of each chapter, you learn how your different skills manifest in your interactions with others, and how they influence your decision making habits.

2) Seek out the opinions of mentors and your kitchen cabinet of close advisers.

If you are exploring a new path, seek out the advice of those established in those areas.  Go on informational interviews with many different people. Work with a career or life coach.  Also, gauge the opinions of people from different communities in your life such as your friends, family, colleagues, mentors, etc.  However, set a limit for yourself on how many opinions you will consider.  Ultimately, you need to make this decision for yourself and not be too influenced by what others think.

3) Make a list of the pros and cons of not making a certain decision.

My girlfriend who is an architect recently told me a best practice she learned from one of her professors.  Usually when we make a pros and cons list of our potential decision, we generally only list the pros and cons of making that decision.  However, we can also consider the pros and cons of not making that decision.  Her professor taught her that is the best way to prove her design was the most effective choice.  

4) Retreat and reflect.

Spend time alone to sit with and process your thoughts and feelings.  Meditate.  Spend time in nature.  Go on a retreat.  I am really excited to do my first silent retreat next week at the Omega Institute.  I'll let you know what I discover soon! 

5) Find examples of what you definitely do not want.

On the path to figuring out what we really want, learning what you really do not want can help us figure out what it is we really do want.  Even if you have a bad experience, take it as a learning opportunity to clarify what really makes you happy.  

6) Recognize how you are influenced by societal expectations, and choose how much value you place on those.

I'm about to turn 30, so I should be financially stable, have finished my education, be buying a home, be getting married, etc.  Watch for your use of the word "should."  Why do you think you should be at a certain place right now?  Is that coming from what your parents  think you should do?  Is that coming from your religious background?  Is that coming from peer pressure or the need to keep up with your peers?  Reflect on where this influence is coming from and how important that really is to you.

At the end of the day, only you can create your life, and make whatever decision is right for you.  Trust yourself! I support your path of decision making!  Please share your journey with us by commenting below.

Friday, August 2, 2013

So You Want to Be an Executive Director?

When I first came to Washington, DC almost six years ago, my career goal was to become the executive director (ED) of a nonprofit.  At the age of 26 my dream came true, and I became the ED of Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN).  PLEN is a small nonprofit that trains college women for careers in public policy. So if you have career ambitions to become an ED in the future, what can you be doing now?

While nonprofits will definitely hire EDs who come from the private sector or government, a past history of working for nonprofits demonstrates your commitment to the sector.  It would also be helpful if you currently or previously served on a nonprofit board, so you can bring multiple models and past experiences to your new job.  An ED is expected to be an expert in whatever cause your nonprofit serves, so you will also need to demonstrate a track record of knowledge and experience in your area.  For example, since PLEN worked with women and public policy, my past experiences working for my sorority, Congress, a campaign, the United Nations, and the women's suffrage museum definitely helped my candidacy.

Develop Your Skills

An ED needs to have a variety of skills, including budgeting and financial management, marketing, public relations, and communications, volunteer management, human resources, business administration, and managing board relations.  The number one skill set an ED should have is fundraising, which is particularly true for smaller nonprofits.  If your current job does not allow you to grow in these areas, volunteer for an organization.  For example, I learned grant writing by volunteering for my local United Nations Association, and I later served on the board of that organization. 

Develop Your Network

Ideally, as with any job, you should not be a stranger to the organization. Start developing relationships now with organizations you are interested in possibly serving as ED.  Subscribe to their newsletter and interact with them on social media. Volunteer at their events.  Even if it is a small amount, donate regularly so you build up for your donor history with the organization. Get to know current staff and board members.  For PLEN, I randomly wrote about them in 2008 when I wrote a chapter about internships for UChic: The College Girl's Guide to Everything. Two years later when I was interviewing for the ED position, that book was on the shelf in their office because they knew I mentioned them!

Serving as an ED is extraordinarily challenging but rewarding.  Below are more articles about my career path as well as free nonprofit resources you can subscribe too.  You can be a great ED and you can start creating that path today!

Articles about my path to ED

From Dead-End to Dream Job: Taking Control of Your Career

How She Got There: Pamela O’Leary, Executive Director of the Public Leadership Education Network

Great Newsletters and Resources for Nonprofit Careers (I was subscribed to all of the listings below!)


Webinars (some are free)


Nonprofit trends and best practices