This summer, I was in a room with over 1,000 collegiate women, energetic and passionate about creating more female student leaders. I was at the 2014 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders as Georgetown’s American Association of University Women liaison, and I have never seen a community of women more supportive of each other.
After seeing that liveliness, I knew that I could do anything because I had found a community of women — both my peers and role models — who would support my every endeavor. I realized I wanted to bring that energy to Georgetown and I was able to do so when last weekend Georgetown put on its third annual Elect Her Women’s Leadership Conference.
Elect Her, an AAUW program that encourages and trains young women to run for student government and other leadership positions on campus, is held across the country throughout the year. Elect Her recognizes that there are a lot of problems facing women in leadership, and it helps move the conversation beyond just the statistics.
It is very easy for people to laser in and focus on the facts that only 18 percent of members of Congress are women and that women need to be asked seven times to run for office before they actually do, while men don’t even need to be asked.
Instead, Elect Her asks women what issues they care about and how they can tackle these challenges so that they can be the best leaders possible.
To me, however, the best part of Elect Her is that it shows the myriad examples of female leaders in our community in order to inspire and train more women to join their ranks. We have so many powerful, influential women who run Georgetown. From the College Democrats, School of Foreign Service Academic Council, International Relations Club, Georgetown University Student Association and Asian American Student Association, women are in charge.
But most importantly, we see more female leaders who are willing to help each other and want each other to be the best that they can be. These leaders, usually upperclasswomen, are willing to sit down and have coffee with anyone who asks, to share their stories — their struggles and successes. These women want to help other women succeed, and the helped women in turn want to talk and mentor more women.
Many women on our campus have great ideas and the drive to make a positive impact on our campus. It is, however, very easy to get lost in our own fears about not being good enough, confident enough, insert-whatever-out-there-in-the-world enough. I had those fears.
But the best thing I ever did as a sophomore was ask an upperclasswoman I worked with in one of my clubs to coffee so that I could ask her how she got to her current position. I learned that she used to have — and still had — the same fears that I did. The female mentors in my life, formal and informal, are the ones who always inspire and push me to be the best that I can be.
We continually need programs like Elect Her because they create a community. The participants get to meet their peers, who care about seeing more women student leaders in the world, but they also get to meet upperclasswomen who they can look up to as their role models.
We need to do everything we can to promote a community of kind, energetic, and above all else, supportive women. Ask to get or offer coffee, and create the formal and informal mentorships vital to this goal.
Eng Gin Moe is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.