I first learned about PLEN through a colleague in my university program of international studies. Lorena was a political science major. She told me how awesome it was to meet such empowering women in policy. In my last semester at the University of Idaho, I was asked by my professor if I would be interested in attending. Remembering what Lorena had told me about the seminar, I was thrilled to know that I was invited to such an impactful seminar. I eagerly accepted the offer to attend. Through The Martin Institute at the University of Idaho, I was able to join. Without the financial aid provided by The Martin, I would have not been able to attend the seminar.
The PLEN team put together one of the most influential and inspiring seminars that I have ever had the opportunity to attend. Even though it was virtual, it was still impressive. It would have been incredible to attend the seminar in person though. I was able to meet some of the most inspiring and brilliant women working in policy. I especially loved hearing about how each woman carved her own career path. It was relieving to know that most did not initially know what they wanted to do as a career. This is something I have been struggling with. I don’t have a secure plan for a future career yet. Hearing about their challenges created a personal connection for me. It is easy to put such amazing women on a pedestal and to forget that they are just as human as I am. They endured the same obstacles that I am currently facing. Nevertheless, each speaker expressed that they never turned down opportunities. Even if they seemed a little obscure at the time. An obscure job can turn into a profession of passion. Keep all doors open.
However, there is a door I do need to shut in my life: the lies. Listening to the women speak helped me to acknowledge the lies that I was believing. Society has created a destructive haze of what success should mean. I feel so drained trying to be what our society defines as perfect and achieve the perfect job and the perfect life. I know perfection is unattainable. Reality is a messy and complicated life. We are made for reality. But, how can I even try to be successful when there are so many barriers for women to face? This was a question I had before I attended the PLEN seminar. Women in the workforce are expected to fit into a delicate mold. A mold that inhibits the true fortitude and power of women. The women who spoke at the PLEN seminar made sure to crush this stereotypical mold. Women are not delicate. We are tenacious. We fight for injustices and for securing peace for every person. We are a part of a larger movement to build each other up and support one another. The women of PLEN told me, YOU define what success means to you. Furthermore, the PLEN seminar reaffirmed that I should not be afraid to use the power of my voice and fervently advocate for what I believe in.
The problem is, I have to find my voice first. I am not one to have the loudest voice in the room, nor to draw attention to myself. I am a quiet and reserved person. Listening is what I am good at. All of the women in the seminar seemed so outgoing and they were not afraid to speak their mind. I kept telling myself I need to push myself outside my comfort zone and ask a question. But, what is a good question? I didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking a “dumb” question. Finally, I decided on our last day of the seminar, I would put my big girl pants on and ask a question. I asked about what I had been struggling with throughout the entire seminar, “How do you break free from your natural disposition to be quiet?” To my surprise, I was advised to simply be myself and to trust my intuition. I don’t need to worry about how other people perceive me. Being meaningful is what is important. I can lean into my strengths and gain confidence through experience. Being quiet and reserved is genuine and authentic for myself, so I should cultivate it. However, I will continue to push myself to speak up about the topics I am passionate about. I will speak to be heard.
The PLEN seminar taught me life lessons that I will never forget, and it unveiled a network of powerful women supporting and encouraging each other. PLEN encouraged me to be humble, eager to learn, to elevate myself, and to be prepared to put in the effort and hard work to make the details actually happen. I feel blessed to be a part of the community that PLEN introduced me to.
Macy Petersen attended the Women in Global Policy seminar in May 2020. She received a Bachelor of Arts this spring in International Studies, Economics, and Spanish from the University of Idaho. She was active on her campus as a DJ at UI’s radio station KUOI FM. She joined the university ballroom dance team when she was a sophomore, and she is passionate about painting. She is originally from Post Falls, ID. She spends her time at the lake, hiking, making sourdough, and brewing her own beer. Furthermore, she loves to spend time learning about and making an effort to understand other cultures and languages.