I am recent graduate from California State University, San Bernardino joining the Peace Corps in Botswana. I first heard of PLEN while browsing the Internet in an effort to find conferences for women interested in policy, law, and advocacy. I soon realized that no one on my campus had heard of such an organization and my university was not a PLEN member school. Fortunately, PLEN offers a scholarship opportunity, which allowed me to afford my trip to Washington D.C. This opportunity not only allowed me to confirm my career goals, but also ensured that the graduate programs I am leaning toward are the perfect match for the career I am pursuing.
Attending the 2016 Women in Global Policy seminar made a profound impact on my ability to pursue a career in foreign policy. I left Washington D.C. with a better insight on international relations, policy planning, and the various careers which exist, many of which are not broadcasted and allow women to make contributions nationally and internationally. PLEN allowed me to build a network in D.C. who showed through personal stories that there is no linear path to a career in foreign policy or in D.C. Additionally, PLEN and many of the panelists mentioned that academic institution is less important than the skills an individual has, which helped alleviate anxiety about attending a state school and pursuing a career in a town like D.C.
Finally and the most important lesson from PLEN was that women ARE changing the face of policy, domestic and international. The panelists represented the small disproportionate number of women, yet as a young woman this made all the difference for me. I can have a mentor now who can guide me through D.C. and who I can learn from. Women have done great work in policymaking and the numbers continue to increase. Discussions focused on a wide range of topics; anywhere from global health and environment to current events in the Middle East and North Africa.
PLEN brought speakers who were honest about work-life balance. As women, sometimes we shy away from asking these types of questions; however, I believe this is pertinent for any successful career person. One of PLEN’s Board of Directors shared that many times career goals change and during those times it’s important to just focus on the skills you have to offer. Realizing that you have the ability to get the job done will take you far. I am grateful for the opportunity that PLEN gave and all the amazing women that I met; I am more confident and assertive because of it.
Kamalpreet Padda attended the 2016 Women in Global Policy seminar as a senior at California State University San Bernardino.