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Fall 2013
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ON POINT

Summer program fosters female presence in politics, leadership roles

Every summer, women studying at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law have the opportunity to attend the weeklong NEW Leadership Institute, which aims to energize women and encourage their involvement in leadership and politics.

Female Moritz students can become involved in the NEW Leadership Institute through the Program on Law and Leadership (PLL), which integrates leadership education into the academic experience. The program seeks to serve as a catalyst for students to use their legal education to serve in leadership positions. This is where the “natural” partnership grew between The Glenn School of Public Affairs’ NEW Leadership Program and the PLL

“Because both the NEW Leadership Institute and the PLL are focused on leadership development, and Moritz is always on the lookout for more opportunities to advance women in leadership, the partnership between the two programs was natural,” said Annina Parini, program coordinator for the PLL.

The institute tackles the underrepresentation of women in politics, while working to inspire a new generation of women in politics and policymaking. Though typically reserved for undergraduate women, female Moritz members of the Program on Law and Leadership also have the opportunity to fill a select few spots at the institute, bringing a new perspective to the group, as they come in with a different level of experience.

The 2013 institute was held May 13-17. Speakers throughout the week included female CEOs, entrepreneurs, professors, state representatives, judges, and a former speaker of the Ohio House.

3L Alexis Cole, who hopes to run for public office someday, said the program reinforced her belief that women should be ready to step up and run for office because they bring a different perspective to the table.

“We are 51 percent of the population. We are nowhere near that percentage of legislators,” Cole said. “We were just celebrating this past election because we hit 20 of 100 in the U.S. Senate. I mean, that’s great, that’s progress. But it’s 2013, we should be beyond 20 of 100.”

Christine Frankart ’13 added that women ought to be more civically involved because all issues affect women, but not all issues are considered from a woman’s perspective.

“A lot of things get coined as ‘women’s issues.’ Reproductive rights are women’s issues, child care is a women’s issue. Well actually those are men’s issues too; those are everyone’s issues. And every issue is a women’s issue,” Frankart said. “There’s nothing in our society that is untouched by women. So why are we not at the table having our input heard, taken seriously, and then acted upon?”

One day of the conference was dedicated to visiting the Ohio Statehouse and hearing from Ohio representatives and other women involved directly in politics.

3L Priya Sonty said the speakers stressed the idea of perspective over experience when considering running for office.

“They spoke about how to discount the idea of experience,” Sonty said. “I think a lot of people are concerned about not having enough experience to run for office, and they all said it’s about perspective and what you can offer as a young woman.”

Two speakers, Denise King, executive director for farmland preservation at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and Amy Taylor, COO of CDDC/Capitol South, also encouraged the importance of being proactive when pursuing a career in the public sector.

“The people that stand out, that employers want to be successful and that they will mentor are the ones who go around looking for extra projects,” King said. “The ones who say, ‘Is there something else I can help you with?’ It’s that level of effort that makes them stand out.”

Taylor echoed this sentiment.

“It’s not often what you say, it’s how you say it,” she said. “Reach out to people in the field that interests you and don’t feel like you’re bothering them. I’m re-energized about my job by talking about it.”

Barbara Jordan ’13 said the lessons she took away from the week were encouraging.

“It’s really transformative. I think it’s inspiring regardless of the level at which you want to be involved,” Jordan said. “It’s just important for all of us to be more civically involved at whatever level we might feel more comfortable with. You can start with the smaller things and feel like you’re a part of the larger effort.”

She said some of the things she learned throughout the week tied into what she’d picked up in the social aspect of attending Moritz.

“The atmosphere at Moritz with the student groups really fosters that kind of bigger awareness of the environment you live in and the issues that are affecting everyday people.”

Frankart agreed.

“One of the most important and outstanding things was just having women in politics come and talk to us,” Frankart said. “It was very interesting to listen to them speak about their own time, and while most of it didn’t directly relate to Law school, I think there are all of these underlying themes that I’ve been getting over the last three years that sort of come out in these folks.”

NEW Leadership Ohio was developed in partnership with the NEW Leadership Development Network established by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The John Glenn School of Public Affairs works with the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies to present the program each summer.

Posted in: Fall 2013, On Point