In July 2018, Priyanka Patel was put forward by Women of the Future to represent the UK at the Women2Women conference in Boston. A former student of our Ambassadors Programme sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, Priyanka trip was fully funded by the US Embassy – read to find out more about the insights she gained from this once in a lifetime experience.
What is your personal brand? How do you develop self-confidence? How do you successfully market yourself and your product?
These were a few questions among many that I had the privilege to address and tackle with 130 other girls, aged 15-19, from 30 different countries at the Women2Women International Leadership Programme in July 2018, held in Boston, MA (also the first year in the programme’s history to have UK delegates!). This was a phenomenal opportunity to engage with passionate and inspirational young change-makers, and successful, influential female leaders who gave presentations and ran workshops over the 8 day programme. This year’s theme was specifically focussed on ‘The Power of Women’, so amongst visits to Converse HQ, Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School and Babson College, we also engaged in sessions focussed on self-confidence, our public speaking skills, looking after ourselves (through mindfulness and yoga) and discovering the ‘Leader in You!’.
We received endless advice and inspiration on this trip, so I want to share some of the most memorable pieces with you.
Make the ask, age is an enabler – George Batah
One message that was most clear was the importance of taking the plunge to make change. We shouldn’t be afraid, and we shouldn’t let anyone tell us we’re too young. George, a Syrian activist and co-founder of ‘Syrian Youth Empowerment’, made it clear that our youth is our strength. At a young age, he orchestrated a petition to the US Government to increase the number of refugees accepted into the US. He, like many of us, experienced the challenges in his own home country and had a first-hand perspective on the issues they posed; he proved that we all therefore have first-hand knowledge of how these issues can be curtailed to improve our quality of life and success as women in our communities. We should be bold, be courageous and action any and all dreams or aspirations we have.
Failures are actually learning opportunities – Allyce Najimy
We had an extensive discussion on the notion of failure at this year’s conference, during which it became clear that there isn’t really one fixed notion of failure. In fact, Susan Duffy (Executive Director of the Centre for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College) told us that ‘Failure can be a gift’. Despite the naturally negative connotation associated with the failure, perhaps we ought to be seeing it in a more positive light, and using it as an enabler. In reality, failure is personal – it’s a measure of success. All it really means is that you’ve tried, but perhaps things didn’t quite work; but next time, things may work better. Failure is notoriously known to evoke stress, anxiety and fear, particularly in girls. But we need to embrace failure and see it as character building.
‘Trust your abilities’ – Marcia Metz
Marcia, Vice President at Solution Development Partners and part of the Council Leadership for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, encouraged us to have self-belief during her presentation on what it takes to be a leader. Self-confidence is the cornerstone of success for a female in a high profile leadership position. Trusting yourself will encourage others to trust you too if you have the confidence in your own ability to carry out your role. You do have to be strategic and calculating in progressing your career, but that should never come at the expense of your own self-confidence. Similarly, Denise Kaigler (who has worked in senior roles at Reebok, Adidas and Nintendo) told us to ‘believe you belong’, and have the self-assurance in our self-worth and position in an organisation.
Stay true to yourself – Converse
Our day at Converse HQ provided us with the opportunity to meet a variety of women from marketing executives to an intern who set up her own accessories business whilst in school, to pay for her college education (evidently the inspiration at this conference was never-ending!). We also had the opportunity to hear from some of the key women involved in Converse’s work for the Pride campaign, and their collaboration with Miley Cyrus. The pervading message was to always remember our values, and to be a human being in the work place – be compassionate, be intuitive and be a good listener. Leaders have to lead by example, so as the old adage goes, ‘treat others as you wish to be treated!’.
Hopefully this gives you a small insight into the empowering, character-building week that Women2Women provided for its international delegates. The week culminated in each delegate giving an ‘Action Plan’ presentation in the Massachusetts State House on a challenge specific to their country that they are passionate about and wish to engage with upon their arrival home. From my perspective, spending a week with such young and passionate women, as well as being inspired through the stories (both of success and struggles) of influential women, my passion for female leadership deepened. From my own experiences in a leadership role as Head Girl at Wimbledon High School GDST, I developed an awareness for the empowering nature of leadership. Unfortunately, the UK still suffers from a deficit of women in high profile leadership positions (part of the wider issue of gender inequality in the workplace), so I am committed to now making a proactive effort to inspire younger girls to become aware of and aspire to the leadership roles that await them in their futures. Women have the power to make change, that was abundantly clear from my trip to Boston, and I want to translate that message to girls in the UK so they can develop the all-important self-confidence and self-belief to attain the roles they deserve to make the positive social change that they deeply believe in.
This conference truly had a transformational effect on all its delegates. Girls who initially arrived somewhat shy and reserved, later in the week developed the courage and confidence to stand up in front of the 130 other delegates and openly, honestly and emotionally share the struggles and plights that they had endured and overcome in their home country. Unsurprisingly, the final night was full of mixed emotions – elation to have become part of a global sisterhood, and sadness that our time together had come to an end. This was an unforgettable trip, and I am hugely grateful to Pinky Lilani at Women of the Future, Wimbledon High School and the US Embassy for facilitating my place as a delegate at this incredible programme. I have come away feeling inspired, empowered and invigorated, and this experience has made me feel ready to empower my generation of young women and the next to be great leaders of our future.
“No labels no limits” – Mason West