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Empowering Young Women to Lead

Empowering Young Women to LeadWASHINGTON
Learning how to become a leader comes from one’s first environment — the home. This was the shared opinion of 20 young women participating in a workshop in which participants discussed the differences between female and male leadership styles as well as what makes a leader a leader.
The workshop was just one of approximately 40 workshops held during the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) held at American University last month.
NCCWSL, sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), has held the two-day conference in Washington, D.C., for the past 17 years for college women student leaders. This year’s conference “Women in Charge” offered sessions such as “What’s at Stake for Women in 2002”; “Women in Sports Management”; and “Strategies to Improve Women’s Treatment in the World.”
In a workshop titled “Women’s Leadership: Perception vs. Reality,” led by Laura Osteen, assistant faculty director of College Park Scholars Public Leadership Program at the University of Maryland, participants concluded that society still views the man as the natural-born leader.
“Internal Rewards, External Results: The Art of Self-Motivation,” a workshop led by Dr. Margaret Higgins, workshop leader and dean of students at The Catholic University of America, says three characteristics help make a leader: authenticity, taking risks and developing a passion or a vision.
In traditional theories of leadership development, leaders delegate to followers, and the leadership is seen as a hierarchy.
Cristin Reeder, 20, a student at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., says the workshop taught her how motivation and good organization go hand and hand.
“I’ve learned the importance of motivating other people to feel important creates a good organization,” she says.
Higgins says women leadership in America has changed, but it’s missing a lot of values.
“You don’t see strong activism. I see complacency since the feminist revolution in the ’70s … things have changed, but when you really look at it, they haven’t changed drastically,” she says.
Drastic change will occur if participants like Nicole Merritt have anything to do with it.
Merritt, 24, a student and Student Government Association vice president at Howard University, says the conference helps women find their voice in society.
“This conference helps you find your own voice in a male-dominated environment. It empowers you…I guarantee you, we’re going to be like, ‘I can do this’ when we get back to our campuses,” she says.  — By Gabrielle Finley

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