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!