Intern Blog | July 2012
Welcome to our Intern Blog!
Please note that the views of our interns do not represent the views of PLEN as an organization.
Heather Kaczorowski is a senior at Carlow University, studying Political Science. This summer, Heather is interning at Strategic Healthcare, and has chosen to blog about the many factors, especially gender, that influence her thoughts on her D.C. work experience. Heather is using her internship to narrow her future ideas on career paths and explore the role of women’s leadership in the political sphere.
Women’s Leadership in the Political Campaign Field- Keyword: WOMEN
After attending a PLEN seminar session in November of 2010, Women, Law & Public Policy, I knew PLEN’s summer internship program would present many more opportunities to meet inspiring women whose life stories and career paths could offer a clearer understanding as I start to decide what career I would like to pursue in the near future. One week, the panel that spoke before the PLEN interns consisted of Jen Bissett, the National Youth Outreach Director at the Democratic National Committee who has dedicated much of her life to advocating on behalf of young Americans in the Democratic Party, Jessica Byrd, a current employee at EMILY’s List who trains and supports pro-choice, Democratic women at the state and local level, and finally Kate Vlietstra, President of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee.
This panel sparked my interest immediately, as I have already begun to get involved in the political arena and hope to expand my involvement someday, which could possibly mean running for office if the opportunity presents itself. These women brought knowledge and expertise from similar areas of work but from three different backgrounds and even different political perspectives. Jessica and Kate put all their time and effort into aiding women as they fight this lifelong battle of being a minority in political offices, from federal to even the local level. Jen is also working to aide, educate, and empower another minority in the political realm, and that is the young people of the U.S. All three women seemed to come from similar areas of work but as we continued to hear their stories, each made it clear that they had different backgrounds and had different goals as their careers unfolded. However, I found it very interesting that when asked a question, each would provide an answer and feed off each other to provide an even better answer. It was almost like we were seeing three different women, from three different organizations and from different political parties, come to a consensus on one important issue, which was empowering women. Although Jen was from a youth advocacy perspective, she knew how important being a woman with authority was and how important it was to have women in office as our government continues to grow and hopefully change.
These three women were inspiring and I do not think the experience would have been the same without all three women there, building the best advice possible to provide us young women searching for answers as we enter the big sea of the real world and everything that comes with it. An overall idea to walk away from this session was that with the educated and amazing women our country has today, we need to help each other fight for the careers and power that we know we deserve; women empowering women will be where the success starts.
Mwende Katwiwa is a junior at Tulane University, studying Political Economics with International Perspectives. She is interning at the United Nations Population Fund. Mwende explores the current issues surrounding women’s empowerment policy, both domestic and internationally.
Women’s Bodies, Public Spaces
Often in the context of development, women and issues pertaining to their development are overlooked as integral to overall development. Even in so-called “developed nations”, women and their rights, especially regarding their bodies, are not seen as fundamental human rights. The present “war on women” being waged domestically in policy battles (see the reauthorization of the Violence against Women’s Act which was only recently amended, the proposal of the PRENDA bill by Congressman Trent Franks, and health coverage involving access to the critical family planning tool of contraception) further illustrates women’s rights not being treated as human rights .
Internationally, there is a tendency in our hegemonically masculine global environment to reduce issues involving women to what we term “women’s issues” which tends to neglect the impact that women have in everyday social roles as well as reducing recognition of their capacity as domestic and international change makers. Despite this, there is a vast array of literature and a proven track record that shows that investing and empowering women (socially, politically, and especially economically) can be one of the most effective tools in development, as women tend to reinvest in their communities at substantially higher rates than their male counterparts. For various reasons, it has been shown that women are far more likely to use their personal gains and resources on their communities than themselves (see the 5 part Washington Post special on Kakenya Ntaiya as a specific example). Despite this, the reality is that women make up more than half of the world’s population and are disproportionately affected by issues directly impeding overall development. These issues, most notably poverty and health related problems, often impact women at higher rates due to a lack of specialized attention to programs specific to their needs.
The more marginalized a woman or girl is however (for example rural women, women living in poverty, young mothers and brides), the less likely they are to be empowered, and the less likely they are to be seen as viable tools for development. This is often due to lack of access to empowerment initiatives, as well as structural and cultural barriers to their attainment of power. This disempowerment can be as alarmingly simple as lacking access to sanitary products for young girls when menstruating (leading to inconsistent school attendance deterring their education, one of the most powerful empowerment tools for girls), to being as complex as the use of rape as a systematic tool of disempowerment (for both women and cultural groups) in times of conflict. This has most recently been seen in the Syrian crisis, but is historically pervasive as were the noted cases in such crises as the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides. This is perhaps the most troubling reality for women in the global sphere, the transformation of a woman’s body into a platform to push political and social agendas, which by definition neglects the real needs of the very bodies being used. Ignoring the strength and ability of women in policy debates effectively serves to ignore half of the world’s population in policy implementation and makes them increasingly vulnerable to systematic disempowerment. This is especially true when trying to address issues resulting from population instability and its impact on the world’s resources, which by definition hinges on women and their reproductive capabilities and access to family planning initiatives.
These so-called “women’s issues” need to be put into a global and human rights context, as is being done by some agencies such as UNFPA, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and scores of other organizations, many of which are involved in the upcoming London Family Planning Summit this July. It remains to be seen what other international agencies outside the population development field will do to incorporate women rights and issues into their development agendas, but as we quickly approach the end of the deadline for the Millennium Development goals, it will become increasingly more critical to engage women in the achievement of international and domestic progress in development initiatives. Women want sustainable development, and indeed it is impossible to assure the successful development of women as one of the most marginalized populations without securing development for the rest of the world. If the words of the Combahee River Collective can be manipulated into the international context, it would read, “If [all marginalized] women were [developed], it would mean that everyone else would have to be [developed] since our [development] would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”
Grace Kenneally is a graduate of Tulane University with a BA in International Relations and Russian Studies. She came to Washington, D.C. to intern at Women in International Security while beginning her job search. Grace’s blog discusses the challenges and rewards of the D.C. job market.
The Job Search
I’ve recently graduated from college, and so I am trying to take this summer to look for jobs. As an intern with Women in International Security (WIIS) at CSIS, and doing the PLEN Women and Public Policy Summer Internship program, I am learning a great deal about the D.C. job market. Then, after I work all day, I spend my nights scouring the web for job postings.
The great thing about my work as an intern is the new opportunities that are opening up and the new ideas I am presented with every day. For example, last week, through PLEN’s Board member, Ellie Shaw at American Express, a group of young people was invited to a “Jump Start Your Career with Lisa Ryan” breakfast event. Not only was Lisa Ryan’s advice illuminating and helpful, it was great to meet with other interns at different organizations to hear about what they were doing. It helped me to realize that there are many different opportunities for employment, many more than I could think of on my own. It also helped me to realize that I am qualified for more jobs than I originally thought.
I’m also learning more and more about “networking”. It is something I had not really made an effort to do before I moved to D.C. Now, I am reminded at every turn about the importance of networking, meeting people, and building connections. At the behest of pretty much everyone I’ve met here in D.C, I finally created a LinkedIn account, and I’ve been adding people left and right! I’m still a bit uncertain about approaching new people in person, but I’m sure that will get easier the more I practice. I was intimidated at first, when I realized that I needed to establish myself in a city where I have almost no previous contacts. However, I am slowly building a life for myself, and PLEN is helping me look in places I never have before, and I’m learning how to reach out to people. I joined LinkedIn and already I’ve become part of the Tulane Alumni network and the PLEN network. I’m meeting many successful and interesting women through PLEN and WIIS, all of whom are great role models.
I’ve only been living in D.C. for a few weeks, so I can’t imagine what I can accomplish during the rest of the summer! I look forward to all the opportunities PLEN, WIIS, and CSIS will provide, and I hope to make progress in my job search!
Clare Kane is a senior at Tulane University, majoring in Sociology. She is interning at First Book and learning how to better advertise her skills to potential employers. Clare shares tips on good research techniques as well as her experiences meeting influential women in Washington, D.C..
Marketing Your Skills to Potential Employers
During one of the weekly summer PLEN seminars, my fellow interns and I had the privilege of meeting three remarkable women working in Washington, DC: Jen Bissett is the National Youth Outreach Director at the Democratic National Committee; Jessica Byrd works in the Political Opportunity Program at EMILY’s List; and Katie Vlietstra who serves as president of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. They each offered a great deal of wisdom about what it means to be a woman in politics. I was especially excited to see how energized the women were to discuss our futures – asking whether we hoped to run for office or go into fundraising. We interns posed questions as well, the final one being:
What is the skill you consider most important for recent graduates looking to enter the workforce?
Jen Bisset’s answer was business writing. Intern supervisors don’t have time to teach us how to write, so scrap those paper-lengthening techniques you’ve all used on 10-page political science analyses and get concise. Ms. Bisset suggested practicing writing proposals and memos to prepare yourself. One source I’ve found is the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
Jessica Byrd said she thinks that using Excel is the most important skill for recent grads. She particularly emphasized the ability to use formulas. Did you know Microsoft Office Online has free help and tutorials online? If you understand the basics, but have forgotten how to implement a function, the site’s tutorials should do the trick.
Katie Vlietstra encouraged us to be adept at research. Many of us have called on Google and Wikipedia bibliographies when beginning research at school, but for new employees coming to Capitol Hill, consider poking around THOMAS to see all it has in store.
So far in my summer internship, I have found that all of these are important. As I consider my post-graduation plan, I am thankful for these suggestions.
Alysia Libby is a junior who attends Penn State University, studying Journalism with minors in Business and Political Science. She is interning at the National Academy of Public Administration and is excited for the many opportunities life in Washington, D.C. has to offer her.
A New Home: Washington, D.C.
This summer I am interning at the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). I am extremely excited and nervous about working for such a prestigious organization. Prior to the start of my internship, I spent time adjusting to Washington, D.C. This city is incomparable to any other. I have been to many great cities in the United States, but none of them are like Washington, D.C. This city is overflowing with enthusiastic people. I see interns daily, and I hear them marveling about what their internships entails. People here have a passion that I have not seen in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, or even New York City.
Washington, D.C. is the perfect place to have an internship. The opportunities here seem endless, and I am lucky to have been accepted into PLEN and NAPA. I am excited to see what this summer will entail. Since I envision myself one day working in D.C., these internships should give me a taste of what that would be like. After one week in Washington, D.C., I already feel at home. I can see myself working here for years, although personally I am not a “city” person.
I am anticipating working on budget and financing programs through NAPA, since that is what they described as their number one focus right now. Overall, I am ready to begin my internship, and I am excited to see what this summer will hold for me.