When women succeed, America succeeds.
At least that was President Barack Obama’s sentiment in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. And Penn feels the same way.
On Saturday, the American Association of University Women brought a workshop titled “Elect Her — Campus Women Win,” to campus for the first time. Elect Her is the only national program that encourages college women to run for public office.
The Women’s Political League and Running Start coordinated the workshop with the AAUW. The workshop, which had more than 30 attendees, was held in the Terrace Room of Claudia Cohen Hall.
“I started my career as a chef,” New Jersey Assemblywoman and director of Business Services at Penn Pamela Lampitt said. “[But] I didn’t like the way Cherry Hill looked so I joined the zoning board.”
“As a woman, you have to wait for the right time,” Lampitt said. She said that she waited until her children were grown to get involved in politics, a restriction that Penn President Amy Gutmann acknowledged earlier this week in an interview with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.
“Women learn very early on about relationships and they’re caregivers … [They learn] that the way you get satisfaction and the way you make progress is sometimes giving other people credit for what your idea was,” Gutmann said.
City Representative and spokesperson Desiree Peterkin Bell also spoke. As Peterkin Bell detailed her roles in Cory Booker’s Newark mayoral campaign and in Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s campaign, she too admitted that the job was a new one for her.
“Mine was a baptism by fire in communications,” Peterkin-Bell said. “When your work speaks for itself [and] you are invested in the purpose, people will hire you.”
The Elect Her workshop also featured a session with female panelists from student government, where Class Board 2015 President and College junior Ariel Koren encouraged the women in the room not to allow lack of experience to deter them from running for leadership positions.
College freshman Mackenzie Bortner said the workshop had changed her views. “Before I felt like politics would make me compromise my values,” Bortner said at the end of the workshop. “It’s not about changing your view but about [sticking] to yourself.”
“I know now I definitely want to do advocacy,” said College junior Shakele Seaton. “This workshop reinforced for me as long as you try, at least there’s a foot in the door.”
Workshop coordinator Christine Hernandez, who now works for the AAUW, encouraged The Women’s Political League to apply to host Elect Her training after reading an article in The Daily Pennsylvanian about the lack of female representation in student government at Penn.
“The problem with Penn is not that we’re not electing women,” College junior and WPL President Madeleine Stevens said. “It’s that Penn women are not stepping up … [and are] going out for lower positions.” Stevens hopes that the training will change that phenomenon and motivate Penn women to apply for leadership positions in college and in the future.
Lampitt added that female progress in leadership is not without obstacles. “You can get claws on your back from other women. There are few positions at the top,” she said.
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