I had never attended a seminar before especially an all-women’s seminar. I was scared, nervous, and did not know what to expect. Will I make a good impression on everyone? Will I be able to share without judgment? These were just some of the questions I asked myself before attending the Women of Color Influencing Washington seminar and I was not disappointed. When I attended the seminar, I realized I was in a space that would allow me to grow as an individual and learn more about where I would like to go in the future.
I first learned about PLEN through a career advisor because I wanted to plan a seminar at my school. I also struggle with networking and being able to express my ideas the way I want. My advisor suggested that PLEN might be able to help me achieve both. I had never been to a seminar, so I did not know what to expect, but the Women of Color Influencing Washington seminar was filled with experienced and knowledgeable female panelists who exposed me to new ways of thinking about my future and the people around me.
The first day of the PLEN seminar was the one that stuck with me the most. It set the tone for how the rest of the weekend went and this was the day I walked away with a new perspective on how to approach my career, relationships with other people, and myself. I met awesome young women from different walks of life, some of which I was able to build a connection. The women speakers who took the time to share with us their insight and experiences were invaluable. The panels were the most meaningful for me as well as the networking workshop. The panels helped me learn about potential career options and gain insight into what working in Washington as a woman of color might entail. A panelist who caught my attention was Francella Ochillo, the Executive Director at Next Century Cities. Francella spoke about how difficult it is as a woman of color sometimes to work in predominantly white, male-dominated spaces and how sometimes we might feel as if we do not belong in certain spaces. She followed up by saying that we more than deserve to be those spaces and that the work we do will reflect just how qualified we are when we operate in these areas. She emphasized the importance of taking up space and that it is okay to let our voices be heard. This resonated with me because as a student who attends a predominantly white institution, I am usually the only person of color in my class, and I often find myself hesitant to speak up or participate. Through this panel, I reached an understanding with myself that I will do better and be more active in advocating for myself and in knowing when to take up space.
Since this seminar, I have reflected a lot on what I want to do and how I can the most out of this experience. I have made connections with many people and even learned about a few internship and fellowship opportunities. The Women of Color Influencing Washington was my first PLEN seminar and I know it will not be my last.