In the Spring Semester of 2020, I received an email from Professor Adams (who is the head of the MPP Program at Mills College) with information about a seminar that highlights and celebrates women who are in the field of Global Policy. Now, being a student in Public Policy myself who aspires to one day hold a high position in government, this sounded very appealing to me. After doing some research and perusing the PLEN website, I decided that this seminar would be an impactful learning experience and I had better apply for a scholarship in order to attend.
Financial aid to this program was important to me as I am a full-time student who only works part-time hours, I live on my own, and receive no aid from family, etc. Shortly after completing the application for the scholarship, I received notification that I had been accepted and that I would be able to attend. This was exciting because, without the scholarship, the PLEN Women in Global Policy Seminar would have been an experience I would have been forced to miss as I could not afford this on my own.
The seminar lasted five days and was jam-packed with knowledgable and experienced women who were more than happy to shine their accomplishments on all 70+ of us. Going into this, I honestly had no idea what exactly to expect as I had never attended something like this before. I was impressed at PLEN’s ability to move the entire seminar online due to COVID19 and appreciated the obvious effort that the team put into this event to ensure that it was a positive experience for all of us.
Looking back, I cannot pick one exact moment that stood out to me as my favorite. There were too many strong, powerful women who spoke to us, and too many important lessons to learn. One thing that surprised me, that was repeated several times throughout the seminar was the importance of being bi-partisan and working together across parties. This shocked me because, just like everyone else who watches the news, all I see is fighting and disagreement between the two parties.
Because this seminar was all virtual, I did not feel like I made as many personal connections as I could have with both the attendees and the speakers. But in the times of a global pandemic, one should be grateful to even be able to participate in events like these. There were a few glitches, but I have yet to attend a conference or teaching event online that has run smoothly without a single bump in the road.
This seminar left me feeling affirmed in the career and life path that I have chosen for myself. While I do want to make changes, I am not sure that a politician’s life or a life in public office is exactly for me. I want to make an impactful change as a strong community advocate, and while this does not require me to run for office, it will require me to work with people who hold these positions, and I do respect them for the work that they do.
Walking away from this seminar, I only had two critiques for the team at PLEN and the speakers who honored us with their time. One: I fully understand and respect the difficulties women face in jobs and fields that cis-gendered men dominate, but women are not the only gender minority facing difficulties and prejudices. It is my wish that moving forward, PLEN and all people who want to speak for gender minorities, will remember that there are also Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming individuals who exist in this platform whose experiences are the same or even worse. Second: I do not believe that dressing up for an online seminar (or any seminar) is absolutely necessary. Elitism is rampant in the political field and often discourages individuals who do not come from wealth to pursue careers in this area. Appearances (and the appearance of money) should not define individuals in their ability to lead.
I would like to thank PLEN for the opportunity and for making this a possibility. I would like to thank all of the speakers who attended and shared their knowledge with us. I would also like to thank all of those who attended and made this experience the positive experience that it was.
Leo Cranney is set to graduate from Mills College in the PEPL (Politics, Economics, Policy, & Law) Program in December of 2020, their focus is in Public Policy and Law. Leo attended the PLEN Seminar for Women in Global Policy. They have a special interest in the intersection of legislation, campaign work, local government, and policy work. Leo is continually seeking opportunities to leverage their experience and skills in policy analysis, intentional community advocacy, and political leadership in order to effect meaningful change in communities and governments.