Women in Power Conference

From left to right: Rep. Kesha Ram, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Rep. Stefani Carter and Rep. Lori Ehrlich

From left to right: Rep. Kesha Ram, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Rep. Stefani Carter and Rep. Lori Ehrlich

Over 400 students descended on the Kennedy School campus at the end of April for the very first entirely student-run Women in Power Conference. 

I had the honor of joining a panel of inspiring elected officials including, Betsy Hodges, former mayor of Minneapolis, and Stefani Carter, a former representative from the Texas House of Representatives. The panel was moderated by Kesha Ram, an HKS midcareer student and former representative in the Vermont House of Representatives. 

The panel engaged in a discussion about the obstacles and opportunities that women face when running for office and what it is like to represent women’s interests in male-dominated elected bodies. The path that we each took to get to where we are today involved following the trail that was laid down by the women who came before us, but we each also created our own routes along the way in pursuing our passions and interests.

Women and men will tell you that it is tough to advance in the workplace. But, women face unique challenges-- whether it's sexual harassment, gender stereotypes, or the gender pay gap. We also tend to view leadership in starkly different ways. Women tend to equate leadership with the need to be perfect in a way that men do not. Men from an early age are taught that success doesn't require perfection-- it's their ambition that is all that is needed to succeed. Yet, we know that half the workforce is women. It's not our competence that is in question but our confidence. 

Mayor Hodges, Rep. Carter, Rep. Ram and I can call tell you that you do not have to be perfect to be successful. Truly. You just need to believe in yourself and be motivated and strategic to take down the barriers that are put in place to hold women back. There are numerous obstacles any woman who tries to advance in the world will encounter it is imperative, however, to trek on and not let them get in your way on your journey to making the world a better place. 

I was energized by the stories of other elected women and the way in which they have overcome and continue to overcome the obstacles that come with being a woman in elected office. I hope our stories and those of other women will inspire the next generation of women to never doubt that they are innate leaders. 

Senator Maggie Hassan

Senator Maggie Hassan

Lastly, I loved reconnecting with U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. Amber Tamblyn, Brittany Packnett, and many other amazing people were on hand for insights. 

Thank you to the incredible students, Tess Bayer and Sarah Canny, for putting together this powerful event! 

Preyel Patel