Thursday, June 27, 2013

Evidently, We are Less "Ambitious..."

Different studies provide evidence that young women are less ambitious than our male counterparts.  I am incredibly grateful that researchers are prioritizing young women as a demographic to study.  They recognize our power as key players to breaking the glass ceiling.  However, as a young woman, I wonder what are we to make of these studies?  Do we allow them to confirm our alleged complacency, or do we use them as motivation to change the statistics?

Less young women want to rise to the top of large organizations. According to a recent study by the Zeno group, only 15 percent of women between ages 21 and 33 would want to be the top leader of a large or prominent organization.  A major finding in the survey was that millennial women feel women leaders have to make more sacrifices than their male counterparts.  Moreover, millennial women do not think these sacrifices are worth it.

Similarly, less young women want to run for political office.  Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox recently released a study Girls Just Not Wanna Run- The Gender Gap in Young Americans' Political Ambition.  In their nationwide survey of college students, they found that "young women are less likely than young men ever to have considered running
for office, to express interest in a candidacy at some point in the future, or to consider elective office a desirable profession."  Sadly, they also discovered that the gender gap in ambition already exists by the time women and men enter their first careers.

Based on my extremely biased sample of highly motivated girlfriends, I have to disagree with the data.  However, for millennial women at large multiple studies seem to prove otherwise.  Perhaps, exacerbated by the economic crisis, much of this comes from the changing economic reality.  People no longer stay with one company for the majority of their life, but constantly change careers.  Additionally, millennial women saw how unhappy many of our parents were from the single lifetime career, and we don't want that. Similarly, many of us may see how dirty politics is and we feel we can make a better impact through nonprofit careers.

It's a complicated reality for young women.  I know a successful young, female attorney who chose to work at a corporate firm so she can pay off her student loans to eventually be a stay at home mom when she plans to have children soon.  Who am I to judge her choice? Isn't that amazing that she will have been able to work hard to have the freedom to enjoy motherhood and be a "successful" mom! We all have different definitions of what success and happiness mean to us.  I believe the ultimate success of feminism will be when all women are free and able to pursue their own path to happiness.

Read below to learn how other women reacted to these studies.  How does the research make you feel?  Does it motivate you to keep climbing the career ladder or run for office?  Does it make you angry that we are not succeeding based on society's definition of success? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Young Women Don't Think They Want to Run
By Kate Farrar and Jessica Grounds

Research Says: Millennial Women Burn Out Early
By April Sweazy

Millennial Women Supposedly Don't Care About Success, Won't Lean In
By Erin Gloria Ryan

Millennial Women Don't Want to Be CEOs, And That's Okay

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sororities: Training Grounds for Women Leaders

Sororities are strong training grounds for young women to begin to practice their leadership skills.  Moreover, since sororities offer volunteer leadership opportunities for alumnae, they are a space for women to continue to develop their leadership over their lifetime.  Both historically and today, many of America's most accomplished women first got their start in sororities.  These women leaders include suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former CEO of Kraft Foods Betsy Holden, among countless leaders in other fields.

I am a proud sister of Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) Sigma chapter at UC Berkeley.  Being surrounded by strong women in my sorority during college helped me cultivate my feminist identity, and inspired me to launch an online feminist t-shirt business.  My first job after college was serving as an AOII Resident Consultant to launch a new sorority chapter.  While going to graduate school full time, my sorority job paid for housing and food, in addition to a monthly stipend to help ameliorate graduate school debt.

My sorority was the first place I truly learned how to network and be professional.  The recruitment process, commonly known as rush, was the perfect training ground for me to learn how to work a room and talk to strangers.  I learned how to dress and act like a professional woman.  This is now a crucial part of my career as I regularly attend networking receptions in DC. For women whose parents did not teach them these career and life skills, sororities can be a safe space for young women to gain an advantage and finally learn etiquette and business manners.

Sororities offer a space for college women to run for various officer positions and truly run a small business.  A woman can oversee marketing, philanthropy, HR, or financial aspects of her chapter. These opportunities provide women with transferable skills for their first job.  The Leadership Institute is a research based nonprofit organization that documents and analyzes the leadership development curriculum sororities provide.

Encourage a young woman to try out recruitment in the upcoming school year so she can decide for herself whether this a great next step for her leadership growth!

Questions to Consider When Joining a Sorority

Did You Know That These Women Are In Sororities?


Monday, June 24, 2013

Grad School is Not a Key to the C-Suite

Recent figures from the Census Bureau indicate women now earn more advanced degrees than men. This is a vast difference from ten years ago, when men held the majority of advanced degrees. But women should not be so fast to celebrate. We are well aware that this shift has further cracked that glass ceiling in terms of women’s improved economic status, but gender parity in terms of women’s leadership still does not exist.

Advanced degrees have not guaranteed women positions in the C-Suite suit, becoming partners at law firms, or serving as elected officials. According to a 2009 report by the White House Project, a former nonprofit dedicated to advancing women's leadership in all communities and sectors, the number of women in top leadership positions in fields ranging from military and journalism to business and politics, hovers around 18 percent. This is quite puzzling. If there are more women than ever ready to assume leadership positions, why are so few in them?

Women are obviously ambitious in pursuing and completing advanced degrees. However, advanced degrees do not necessarily guarantee jobs. The missing link is what some management gurus might call “soft skills.”

The bottom line is that employees need professional skills such as negotiation, business writing, management, public speaking, and the ability to utilize social networks.  These are not always taught in the classroom. Moreover, women have traditionally been socialized against developing these skills required to break into the “old boys” network.

Take me as an example. After finishing a graduate internship at the United Nations, and a graduate fellowship at Congress, I was unemployed.  I had fully ridden the wave of opportunities given to me through my advanced degree and was stuck upon entering the workforce. Two years later, I became the Executive Director of the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), a nonprofit dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in the public policy arena by providing college women with role models and skill trainings.

How did this transition happen? I developed my soft skills and learned how to network. Thanks to the “We Lead” program and the Women’s Information Network in Washington, DC, I was able to achieve such success at a young age.

I have definitely benefited from my M.A. in Applied Women’s Studies. I am not discrediting advanced degrees. They are an essential ingredient in the recipe, but as in any delicious salad, you need the essential lettuce as well as the mouth-watering dressing. So many young women ferociously focus on attacking the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT, as if getting a good score on these tests, and getting into a top school is a be all and end all solution to success.  But even attaining a top degree from a top school does not guarantee that dream job.

Anne Moses, the director of IGNITE, a non-profit geared toward training young women to run for political office shared with the Stanford Daily, “Not only do women feel less qualified than men when they are objectively qualified, but they actually place higher value on having qualifications,” she said. “They think that you need to have multiple advanced degrees to run for office. Men don’t actually think that, and in fact they’re right.”  Rather than rely on advanced degrees, women need to be taught how to rely on their professional capabilities.

Women need to put more focus on soft skills, that dressing that will add the additional flavor to their already accomplished resumes. Let’s prioritize them as much as we prioritize those diplomas.

We must open the pipeline for female leadership by bringing professional training and mentorship to women before they enter the workforce. Young women need role models who will teach them professional skills. If a recent college graduate does not know how to negotiate her salary, then she’ll be sanctioned to a lifetime of earning less than the guy in the next cubicle. The earlier a woman begins building these skills, the farther she will go. As women advance ourselves, we will advance our societies.

The good news for advocates of female leadership is that women are not on their own in this quest. There are many amazing nonprofit organizations that help young women live up to their potential.

Here is what you can do: mentor a young female leader, offer informational interviews whenever possible, and most importantly, keep supporting crucial organizations such as the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), Running Start, Ignite, the Women’s Research and Education Network (WREI), Girl Up, and so many others.

By support I do mean funding, but additionally participating in their events, networking with young female leaders to bring them up the ladder, and if you have a daughter, keep this in mind when you think about her professional development.

I celebrate the fact that so many women are now achieving the highest levels of education.  However, I eagerly await the day when women’s leadership is 50/50 with that of men’s. I want to see the day when half of our elected officials are female. I know that with your help, that of your daughters, and your continued support of the great organizations above, we will soon see that day.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Defining Your Leadership Style: Masculine or Feminine?

When preparing young women to be leaders, who can young women look to for role models as we define our leadership styles?  Do we have to be aggressive like men, or can we find more "feminine" leadership styles?  Do we still have to be masculine and fight hard like many of the original trailblazing women, or can we embrace our "more collaborative" nature?

In the second wave of feminism beginning in the early 1960s, very few women were breaking the glass ceiling.  Often, they were literally the only woman in a room full of men, and the only way for them to succeed was to act like men.  These trailblazers had to take on traditionally masculine behaviors of being aggressive, competitive, and individualistic to succeed. Without their paving the way, many of the doors open to young women today would not exist.  Today, thanks to the activism of the feminist movement, young women are now able to work where laws protect them against discrimination, sexual harassment, and provide them with basic maternity care.

These trailblazers serves as role models to young women today, and many of them give back by mentoring the next generation. However, many of these trailblazers were often disliked by many co-workers and often labeled as "bitches."  Sometimes there is inter-generational strife between these older women and younger women in the workplace.  Perhaps, an older woman who vehemently fought against so barriers to get where she is may feel threatened by ambitious, younger women with an eye on her position. Also, she may feel these young women take for granted the rights they have today, and do not know what true discrimination was like.

Over the decades, as women now earn more bachelor's and advanced degrees than men and are entering the workforce in droves, the glass ceiling may not be as tough to break as it was in earlier decades.  Moreover, enough time has passed that scholars have been able to research the different leadership styles of women and men.  Studies by Catalyst and McKinsey show that women have a more collaborative and inclusive decision making style that actually proves profitable for companies.

These female leaders who embody a more feminine leadership style are still emerging leaders, so not as many of them may exist as obvious role models for young women.  So as young women trying to create ourselves, who to we look to? Do we learn to conform to the male power hegemony and master things like golf so we can prove ourselves in men's traditional playing fields of power?  Do we have to be like the "bitches" of the past and just be aggressive women?  Do we try to create new gender norms, "lean in," and embrace our more inclusive, "natural" decision making processes?

These are very real questions that many women's leadership development training programs face.  Do we encourage young women to play the status quo game or do we challenge them to change the game?  Ultimately, these decisions need to be made by each individual female leader.  There is no clear right or wrong, it's whatever works best for you.  However, I doubt many young men experience the double bind of choosing masculine or feminine as they discover themselves as leaders.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

You Should Run for Office: Part I

While the percentage of women in Congress has recently increased to around 18 percent, the percentage of young women in Congress is still only less than 1 percent.  So if you are a young woman, you're not exactly represented by someone who is coming from your same level of life experience. In the United States, an individual must be at least 35 to be President or Vice President, 30 to be a Senator, or 25 to be a Representative. YOU should run for office!

Win or lose, the earlier you run for office, the greater are your chances of success.   Nineteen of the last U.S. presidents first ran for office before they were 35 years old.  Of the women currently in Congress, 54 percent of them participated in student government. One of the most powerful positions in Congress is to serve as a committee chair.  The only way to get there is through seniority, so if you enter Congress when you are younger, you have a better chance of truly making an impact by serving as a committee chair. 

Below are organizations that support women running for office.  Consider attending one of their trainings, donating money or volunteering for them.  Running for office is a topic we will continually explore in this blog, so stay tuned for more discussion!

Ask a Woman to Run for Office!

Feel free to add a comment and share other resources!

Check out this other comprehensive list:

Running Start- trains high school and young women to run for office

Name it, Change It- work to end sexist and misogynistic coverage of women candidates by all members of the press

Ignite- trains high school students to run for office

Susan B. Anthony List- Pro Life Women

Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute- Conservative Women

The 2012 Project- encouraging more women to run in 2012

Emerge America- training program for Democratic women

Congressional Black Caucus Internship Program

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Internship Program

Women’s Campaign Forum- a non-partisan national network dedicated to achieving parity for women in public office and

EMILY’s LIST- elects Pro-Choice, Democratic women

The White House Project- provides different leadership trainings nationwide such as “Go Run”

Women Under Forty PAC- the nation’s only non-partisan organization that identifies, encourages, and supports women 40 years of age and under running for local, state and federal office.

American Association of University Women (AAUW) Elect Her Program- trains college women to run for student government

Women’s Research & Education Institute (WREI)- Congressional fellowships for women

National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum

Disability, Power, & Pride

Sewall-Belmont House & Museum- women’s suffrage museum in Washington, DC

Women’s Information Network (WIN)- Pro-Choice, Democratic women’s organization in DC

National Women’s Political Caucus- multipartisan, multicultural, grassroots organization dedicated to increasing women's participation in politics 

Women’s Media Center- makes women visible and powerful in the media

The Op-Ed Project- media trainings for women

National Congress of Black Women

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund

United4Equality- a social justice enterprise dedicated to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by 2015

American University, Women & Politics Institute and DC based training program We Lead

Rutgers University, Center for American Women and Politics

The Women’s Campaign School at Yale

The Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy

National Democratic Institute- women's political participation abroad

Women's Democracy Network- International Republican Institute's initiative for women's political participation abroad

Women's Campaign International- women's political participation abroad

Political Parity- nonpartisan initiative to double the number of women at the highest levels of US government by 2022

Latinas United for Political Empowerment

National Hispana Leadership Institute


She the People- news about women & politics in The Washington Post

Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Go Golf Ladies

Young women need to be present in informal power environments.  The strongholds of the "old boy's network" are often bars, cigar lounges, fantasy football leagues, casinos, and sadly sometimes even strip clubs.  Perhaps the ultimate power playground is the golf course. These are places where men meet for business and informal social bonding.  These are the places were crucial professional relationships are cemented and business deals are made.

Ladies, it's summer, get out on the golf course!  June is officially Women's Golf Month!  But also, learn how to play poker, drink Scotch, or join next year's March Madness team.  Until we have a critical mass of women in power to change the game, for now, we need to know how to play men's power games. We need to take our seat at these tables. Women's voices need to be in these spaces. For many years, I was one of the few young female members of the National Democratic Club. People always thought my boyfriend was the member, but no, everything was actually on my account.

Not even a year ago in August 2012, Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters golf tournament, finally opened its doors to women and extended membership to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.  According to the National Golf Association, women represent less than 20 percent of all golfers. Golf is an ideal sport for socializing, meeting new people, conducting business, and getting great exercise.

Last summer, I finally took affordable golf lessons at a public golf course in Washington, DC.  Golf is definitely something you need to be taught, and it has a strict etiquette you need to know before you just go out and practice.  Many golf courses have classes for women only, and especially in June, many places have discounted women's clinics.  Check out your local women's golf association.  Let's take our place on the golf course. Happy golfing!

Ladies Professional Golf Association

Women's Congressional Golf Association (in DC)

Executive Women's Golf Association

Monday, June 17, 2013

Your Professional Name vs. Childhood Nickname

Call me Pammy or Pamela? I find that many young women, including myself, start introducing themselves by different names as they progress through their career.  I believe this name change is a way professional women choose to exert a powerful, mature persona.  Some of my male peers have also changed their name, but I feel more young women experience this dilemma than men.

For example, my entire life I have been called Pammy, and I actually really like being called that. However, as I started growing into my career, I really started to feel insecure about my name. Interestingly, even though I worked for extremely feminist supervisors, early on in my career, two female supervisors insisted I start calling myself Pamela. I actually don't like Pamela, and moreover  when people presumptuously shorten that to Pam without asking, I especially hate being called that. I have always been Pammy, it's just who I am.  I have never known this Pamela person.

So after about two years after college, I started introducing myself as Pamela.  I felt I looked very young, so it couldn't hurt to have an older sounding name.  I wanted to command respect by senior colleagues. I wanted to show them that I could play at their level.  But it was weird because colleagues I had met earlier in my career who first knew me as Pammy still called me that, but others called me Pamela.  In my last job, all the older women on the board knew me as Pamela, but I preferred having my staff who were young women call me Pammy. I also hate that sometimes people get confused by all this and I definitely don't want to make them feel awkward.

Why do we do this?  I can't help thinking of the song from Britney Spears, "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman." Similar to the last post about attire, overcoming the barrier of age can be a potentially difficult challenge for young women climbing the career ladder to navigate. I still introduce myself as Pammy to new people I meet socially. I'm still uncomfortable with being called Pamela.  Sometimes I debate whether I should just "own it," and start branding myself as Pammy across the board and introduce myself as that to everyone, regardless of their age or the social context in which we met. Couldn't that potentially be a unique way of reclaiming and standing on my own rather than just conforming?  I'm still thinking about this so I'll keep you posted! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Young Women and the Pay Gap: Better or Worse?

On Monday, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.  The wage gap research has interesting data about young women. According to a 2010 report from the Department of Labor, women under 35 who work full time earn around 90 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Yet women over age 35 earn only about 75 percent compared to their male peers. Nonetheless, according to research from Catherine Hill at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), young women fresh out of college experience a 7 percent wage gap compared to their male peers at their first job.

Single, childless, women under the age of 30 as a group actually earn more than their male counterparts. According to a 2010 study by Reach Advisors, this group of women earns 8 percent higher than their male counterparts. A main reason to explain this reverse wage gap is that more women from this age group are going to college than men.  Sadly, this group of women is the only female demographic to experience a pay advantage.  Reach Advisors found that this early advantage disappears when women have children.

Where you live and work plays a factor in the gender pay gap.  In a 2013 Gallup study, women in the District of Columbia experienced the smallest wage gap compared in the United States. In the District of Columbia in 2011, women earned 90% of what men earned.  Comparatively, in Wyoming, women earned only 67% of their male counterparts'. 

However, we find disappointing data when we examine the the wage gap between men and women graduating from top MBA programs. In 2002, women at the top 30 MBA programs earned 98 percent of what their male peers earned.  In 2004, this figure fell to 94.1 percent and never really went up from then.  In 2012, women were earning 93.2 percent. Moreover, in 2010, research from Catalyst found that women MBAs were being paid $4,600 less in their first job than men.  This disparity grows to around $30,000 by mid-career.

So what does this all mean? Do we need to stop worrying about the pay gap since younger women seem to be doing better than previous generations? I think it's too early to call.  Discrimination is the work place is still rampant, family responsibilities still mainly fall to women, and legislation in the United States lags far behind other countries in terms of work-life balance policies. Women need to learn more about salary negotiation and actively practice it. We need to advocate for better maternity, paternity, and paid sick leave laws. Young women have a crucial role to play in eliminating our own pay gap. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Five Tips for the Shy Networker

We’ve all heard it a million times: DC is a networking town. That simple truth sent shivers of anxiety through me when I first moved here. I have a more introverted personality so the idea of walking up to a complete stranger at a happy hour and introducing myself made (and still makes) my stomach churn. But that’s ok. Being shy or introverted doesn’t mean you can’t network. It just means you need to find the networking opportunities that work for your personality.

So here are my top five tips for the shy DC networker.

  1. Find a buddy. Networking happy hours or receptions are infinitely more comfortable if you have someone to walk in with. Having a buddy also improves your chances of meeting people since your buddy might be able to introduce you to his or her acquaintances.

Of course, it’s not always possible to have a buddy, so here are some tips for when you need to go solo.

  1. Seek out smaller events. I love small networking events. They are much more comfortable for me because they don’t feel so overwhelming. A perfect example is WIN’s Linking Leaders dinners. These are dinners for a small group of WIN members with an advanced professional who is there to answer questions and offer career advice. Generally, you’ll have plenty of time before or after the dinner to chat with people around you. You’ll all likely be standing in a living room so starting conversation feels less awkward. 

  2. Volunteer. Volunteering for the Women’s Information Network or another group is a great way for a shy person to meet people with similar interests. As a co-chair of the WIN feminist conversation series, I have an automatic reason to introduce myself to people who attend our events and an automatic reason to introduce myself to other WIN leaders. Volunteering is also a great way to build skills for your resume and make yourself known to other people who may be looking to hire or might know of open positions that would be good for you. 

  3. Talk to your friends. TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS. I cannot emphasize this enough. Does your roommate know someone at an organization you’re interested in? Does your neighbor work in your desired field? If you have a direct contact in your desired  field or at your desired organization, ask to sit down and chat over coffee or drinks. If a direct contact has valuable contacts, ask for an introduction. My favorite networking format is the one on one coffee/drink meet-up. I like this format because it’s longer and the parameters are already laid out. Our mutual friend has already made the introduction so my new contact has a basic understanding of my goal for the meeting. I have the time to do my research and prepare my questions. I can bring along a notebook and take notes. And most importantly, I don’t have to worry about standing alone awkwardly. 

  4. Push yourself and reward yourself. Sometimes you need to try something outside of your comfort zone. For some people, that means base jumping off a cliff. For other people, that means going to a networking reception alone. You might rather eat glass than attend a networking reception alone, but every so often, it might be worth it to push yourself to do it. If you end up at this dreaded event, don’t expect yourself to perform like an Olympic networker. Just try not to cower in the corner. You might only make it 25 minutes. That’s ok. You tried. Pat yourself on the back for trying something scary. Buy yourself a frozen yogurt or a new nail color. Feel good about your act of courage. And then do it again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Persistent Inequality on the 50th Anniversary of Equal Pay Act

Fifty years ago today, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law.  In short, the Equal Pay Act prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 has never been updated, but some legislators have introduced the the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act.

However, today, women still earn only 77 cents to a man's dollar.   Sadly, the gender wage gap has widened recently. The gender wage gap was wider in 2012 than in 2011. According to research from Catherine Hill at the American Association of University Women (AAUW), young women fresh out of college experience a 7 percent wage gap compared to their male peers at their first job.

What does this mean for me?

Basically,  unequal pay means you are not being fully compensated for the equal work you perform compared to your male peers.  You are not being paid what you deserve.  Over the course of your lifetime, this all adds up and can hinder your financial independence.   According to one estimate by AAUW, over the course of over the course of a 35 year career, an American woman with a college degree will make about $1.2 million less than a man with the same education.

Think about it, a lifetime of lower pay means women have less income to save for retirement and less income counted in a Social Security or pension benefit formula. When moms are now the sole or primary breadwinner in four out of 10 households with children, less money is earned for working families.  Imagine would you could do with all that extra money you worked so hard for and are fully entitled to?

What can I do? 
  • Learn more about equal pay and discuss this information with your male and female friends
  • Always ask for more during salary negotiations!  We will continually explore this topic in this blog, but read this advice about salary negotiation for recent female graduates. 
  • Support passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Share this sample petition with your local elected officials to encourage their support of equal pay

Friday, June 7, 2013

Nineteen year old in D.C. Experience

Katelyn and Pamela O'Leary at WODW

Hello dear readers,

I am Katelyn O'Leary, little sister of Pamela O'Leary who is the creator of this blog. She asked me to write a piece on my my experiences while in the Capitol of the United States. Last night we attended WODW (Women Opening Doors for Women) event hosted by WIN (Women's Information Network). It was my first time at any WIN event. To begin the night off, we went to the networking reception. My sister, of course, was a powerhouse knowing and talking to numerous women there. I, personally, felt a little overwhelmed. I believe it probably takes a certain type of person to be able to navigate the networking world of Washington, D.C. Don't get me wrong though. I am a very sociable person who can talk to just about anyone no matter what race, religion or age. It's just overwhelming to think you are in a room filled with women who all are in some way or another gunning for a certain position or advance in their career and will do so by getting to know the right people in the position to accelerate their career. And true, I understand this can be seen throughout with any career or social setting but I feel that it is on a whole another playing field than normal here. So am I personally cut out for living in this D.C. world, I highly doubt it. Why?  I know I could do it. The only thing is that I don't think I would want to. So please take into consideration this is a purely objective opinion on the networking world of D.C. I do not want to discourage any woman who thinks she can do it. More power to you lady! If you can excel in that environment, there is probably no limit to how far you can go with your career. You go girl!

Katelyn O'Leary
Class of 2016
University of Central Florida
Political Science and Pre-Law Major

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Women Opening Doors for Women

Tonight is one of my absolute favorite annual events in Washington, DC.  The Women's Information Network (WIN) is hosting Women Opening Doors for Women (WODW). WODW commemorates how the organization was founded 21 years ago, when a group of women gathered around a kitchen table to support the career advancement of each other. The event starts with a large networking reception and breaks into small dinner parties discussing different topics. WIN is an organization dedicated to empowering young, Democratic, pro-choice women that has chapters in Washington, DC and New York. I am especially excited to bring my 19 year old sister to the event for her first time!

I became active in WIN five years ago when I first came to Washington, DC.  No doubt, WIN has been the foundation of my career success and personal happiness in living in DC. I can't reiterate how valuable women centered networks have been to my life.  I strongly encourage you to get involved with a women's membership organization.  They provide communities where you can expand your network and gain new skills.  Below is a list of recommended women's groups based in Washington, DC but may have other chapters.

Thanks to WIN, I was able to:
  • Find two happy homes in DC to live with amazing friends who were WIN members
  • Attend three weddings of friends from WIN
  • Travel to foreign countries with girlfriends from WIN, and thanks to WIN's travel network, finally felt comfortable traveling abroad alone
  • Find sponsors who literally helped me get two great jobs
  • Make great contacts that invited me to events at the White House and the US Mission to the UN
  • Become a published author because I met someone that I later contributed three chapters to her book 
  • Facilitate my first Live Chat for The Washington Post with a brilliant girlfriend and fellow WIN member
  • Serve on my first nonprofit board by being elected to the WIN Executive Committee
  • Serve on the board for two other nonprofits through WIN contacts

I'm sure I can think of many other ways WIN has helped me, but hopefully you get the idea! Below are some other upcoming great leadership development opportunities for young women.  These events are in  DC, but check out the organizations' websites because many of them have chapters around the country.

Upcoming Women's Leadership Development Conferences in DC

2013 Girl Up Leadership Summit
6/10 - 6/12

In collaboration with our partners, Girl Up will host the 2nd annual Girl Up Leadership Summit in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Between June 10 and 12, the Leadership Summit will convene 150 youth supporters from across the United States to dive deeper into the Girl Up campaign through three days of powerful speakers, skills-based workshops and advocacy on Capitol Hill.

Women Leading the Future

Ladies America will host the "Women Leading the Future" day-long women’s conference on June 15, 2013 in Washington, D.C. This conference brings some of the most dynamic women in America together to discuss major issues and topics that are important to women today. Focusing on women making a difference in the world, discussions will deal with where women are today and how they can become stronger, more effective leaders and why their leadership is critical as we head into the future.

PLEN 360 Summit
Summit 1: Friday, June 21 and Saturday, June 22
Summit 2: Friday, July 19 and Friday, July 26

This two-day skills training is aimed at women starting their D.C. careers. Through a series of interactive workshops, current students, recent graduates, and young professional women will gain the skills and leadership training needed to begin their careers in D.C., as well as a better understanding of the types of careers available to them. Each Summit is a stand-alone event – the topics covered in each will be the same. Participants are encouraged to choose which Summit works best with their schedule and attend only one.

Running Start's Young Women's Political Leadership Summit
7/12- 7/14

This weekend event will bring together young and established women who want to run for office, hone their leadership skills, strengthen their connections in the political world, and learn how to make it to the next level in their careers.  The Summit will feature nationally acclaimed speakers from our past programs and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

Professional Women's Membership Organizations

Most of these are in DC, but many may have chapters elsewhere. Feel free to add to this list!


Global Women's Innovation Network

Women's Leadership Mentoring Alliance

Women in Government Relations

Women In Housing & Finance

Women's Foreign Policy Group

Women in International Security

Women's Information Network

Ladies DC

Women's Congressional Staff Association

Women's Congressional Golf Association

Women's National Democratic Club

Republican Women’s Federal Forum

Junior League

DC Eco Women

Women's Council on Energy and the Environment

Younger Women's Task Force

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Power to Ceyda Sungur, the Woman in Red in Turkey

Turkish riot policeman uses tear gas as people protest in Taksim Square
Source: Reuters

Young women in Turkey are bravely fighting on the streets to demand their rights. I had the great privilege of recently visiting Turkey in March through the Atlantic Council's Young Turkey, Young America program, funded by the State Department. Turkey is one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited, but it is definitely lacking in terms of full civil rights for all its citizens, especially women. Conservative Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has publicly advised that Turkish women should each have three children. Erdogan has also championed the use of female headscarves, although culturally and historically, most Turkish women choose not to veil.

Reports claim that many young women have fully participated in the recent protests. Most notably, the unknown "woman in red" has become an iconic image that has shocked and motivated supporters worldwide. Images of women and girls experiencing violence during protests are very common and often mobilize public support. However,  these women are often anonymous. Images of women as victims are more common than women as active protestors.

The woman in red in Turkey is a real person. I hope she's doing OK. I wonder how she feels about the use of her image?  What is her story? Why was she there? Her voice deserves to be heard!

Since most reports of the events are in Turkish, I was only able to find out her name after posting to the Facebook group from my exchange program.  Most of the English speaking media does not reference her name.  But her name is Ceyda Sungur, and she is a Research Assistant in the City and Regional Planning Department at Istanbul Technical University.  When you Google her name in English, she is more often referred to as "girl in the red dress" rather than "woman in the red dress." The only quote I can find from her is when she shared "A lot of people here on duty, they ate the gas, no different from me."

Nonetheless, her bravery was captured in photos that went viral and inspired many around the world.  Thank you Ceyda for making the choice to take the risk and publicly protest. I eagerly hope these demonstrations will lead to lasting change for Turkey.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy National Girlfriends Networking Day!

Happy National Girlfriends Networking Day!  I couldn't think of a more fitting day to launch this new blog.  Thanks for checking it out!

Women on top- what a potentially provocative blog title!  Yes, sadly, my mind also automatically thinks of a sexual connotation, but let's reclaim that! When I say "women on top," I want everyone's thoughts to go to women in top leadership positions.  I want more women as committee chairs in Congress, more CEOs of fortune 500 companies, more top ranking military officials, etc.  I sincerely believe the best way to make the world a better place is to have more women leaders in all sectors of society.  Moreover, I believe the best way to break the glass ceiling is to invest now in cultivating the leadership potential of young women and girls.

The goal in writing this blog is to highlight the significant yet often undervalued power young women and girls have in improving society.  Each week, the blog will feature a young woman leader, an organization that empowers young women, and best practices for how young women can develop their leadership. While the focus of this blog will be the United States, I hope to share stories from inspiring women and girls around the world.  I welcome your input about what you'd like to read.  Please always feel free to share your questions, comments, and concerns.

Never underestimate the power of young women and girls! In the United States, young women led organizations that resulted in the first government inquiry into working conditions. If you pass by the White House today, protestors are a common sight.  But did you know that that first political group to publicly protest the White House was the National Woman's Party, a suffrage group led by young women!

I encourage you to check out the website for National Girlfriends Networking Day.  I am deeply grateful to all my amazing girlfriends of all ages who support me personally as well as professionally.  Almost all of my past jobs and career accomplishments have directly come through or benefited from connections from supportive girlfriends.  Thank your girlfriends today for everything they do for you!