By Chelsea Feuchs, JWI Intern
Over the course of the summer, through sweltering DC heat, JWI held three workshops for young professional women. Covering topics as diverse as professional development, sexual assault, and financial literacy, the programs demonstrated JWI’s commitment to providing tangible resources to build a generation of informed and empowered women.
The Summer Series for Interns and Young Professionals is one of JWI’s initiatives to create strong female leaders. Over the past 8 years, over 400 young women have benefitted from these breakfast briefings. Summer Series is unique in that it does more than simply affirm the already-empowered women who attend; it gives them specific, practical skills to plan for their own lives and for their communities.
The first workshop, titled “Being a Young Professional Woman in D.C.” exposed participants to the realities of finding work and improving professionally in today’s economy. Speakers from both the office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz and of OMP, a consulting firm specializing in non-profit organizations, spoke honestly about career advancement. They challenged those in the room to think honestly about their assets and to articulate their desires with directness that most women shy away from. As a result, one attendee decided afterward to “come up with a list of my assets, what is in my ‘tool box’ so to speak.” That type of self-assured frankness is uncommon among this generation of women, yet incredibly important in interviews and salary negotiations.
The second seminar, on sexual assault, taught participants how to be effective advocates for the rights of survivors on their college campuses. The Assistant Dean of Students for the Catholic University of America thoroughly and eloquently covered this serious topic. Hearing an administrator’s perspective was helpful and new, according to one attendee. Additionally, the speaker discussed a university’s legal duty to provide accurate information about their policies on this issue to all students, as well as how to confront university authorities when they shirk this responsibility. JWI Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist, Miri Cypers wrapped up the morning by providing information and resources about JWI’s advocacy work on related initiatives such as VAWA reauthorization and Campus SaVE.
Finally, participants learned how to take control of their funds and plan for their future with “Economic Empowerment and Women: From the Personal to the Political.” JWI Director of Programs Deborah Rosenbloom gave participants a taste of JWI’s signature financial literacy program, Life$avings: Financial Literacy for Young Women. Beyond simple discussions of credit and debit cards, this workshop covered topics females are often taught little about, such as retirement and investing. One woman learned, “The importance of the Roth IRA, mutual funds, [and] how savings accounts really should just be for emergencies and short term goals.” This knowledge at a young age can save women thousands of dollars and set them up for a comfortable financial future.
While many organizations offer programs for summer interns, JWI’s Summer Series stands out for its focus on empowerment. Says one participant: “The Summer Series was great! This was my first experience with any kind of professional development series, and I could not have asked for a better introduction. [The sessions] were extremely useful and interesting, so I hope you hold Summer Series every year. It’s a great service to the intern/young professional community!” We hope to see all of you readers here learning with us next summer!