Many young women attended The Young Women’s Political and Civic Leadership Program on April 25 at the USC Radisson Hotel where they were inspired to live lives centered around politics and leadership.
Dan Schnur, director of the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, said the need for more women to become involved in politics is clear as only 20% of state senators are women and less than 20% are the members of the House of Representatives.
Indeed, the main focus of the conference was to encourage the young women who attended to become more politically involved within their communities. Speakers at the event were all well-educated female leaders within their communities.
Among some of the more notable speakers was Mayor Lindsey Horvath of West Hollywood, who stressed that “everything you need to know… you actually already know.” She hoped this would encourage young women to believe that they are good enough to accomplish their dreams.
Horvath, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a double major in political science and gender studies, was first elected to a city council at age 25. She said women are less likely to feel that they are qualified for public office. On average, women need to be asked to run for a position three times, compared to a man who only needs to be asked once.
After relating her journey on becoming a mayor, she stressed how important it is that young women consider careers in politics.
“We need you. We need your voices and your perspective, and we need them now,” said Horvath. “Just because you’re feeling self-doubt, doesn’t mean you’re incapable or under qualified.”
Attendees also heard from young politicos who gave advice on how teenagers interested in politics can get involved. They spoke about the importance of finding a mentor, someone who knows your goals and can help you reach them. Many stressed exploring various interests while in college because it is the best time to discover yourself.
“Don’t turn something down because it’s not in your plan. Don’t let fear get to you,” said Megan Rodriguez, program director for GOPAC, an organization dedicated to educating a new generation of Republican leaders.
The keynote speaker was Mona Pasquil, Appointments Secretary for California’s Gov. Jerry Brown. She talked about the importance of knowing oneself and pursuing one’s dreams: “We all have great big dreams. Don’t be worried about just that. Enjoy the ride to that dream, but be open to something else.”
Attendees also heard from current USC students, including the president and vice president of student government, who recounted their own journeys in discovering what they were passionate about and how they could make a difference in their communities.
Rini Sampath, current USC Student Government President, faced racist remarks through social media apps such as Yik Yak during her campaign, but advised young politicos that “when other people’s attitudes are negative towards you, use it as fuel to keep you going.”
Rachel Scott, a student executive producer and reporter for USC Annenberg TV News, advised young female students to “[not] take any of your failures as the end all be all.”
She shared her experience with failure when she was initially rejected by USC when she applied as a freshman. The rejection motivated her to work even harder and to apply again that next fall as a transfer student. Not only was she accepted, but she also ultimately received a fellowship with CBS news and a six-month internship at the White House. She did not let her initial rejection keep her from attending her dream school. Her message — no young woman should ever let one simple comment or rejection keep her from fulfilling her dream — was heartfelt.
A networking reception ended the day, allowing young attendees to meet with the speakers and ask questions or take a business card for later contact.