High school students across California attended the Young Women’s Political and Civic Leadership Program at the Radisson Hotel at USC on Saturday where they listened to keynote speakers discuss the importance of women taking on leadership positions in politics, government and public affairs.
The event was presented by the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, Women’s Student Assembly, Political Student Assembly, Arsalyn Program of the Ludwick Family Foundation, Junior State of America, California YMCA Youth and Government, California Women Lead and Alliance Patti & Peter Neuwirth Leadership Academy. Representatives from the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Community College District Board and the Price School of Public Policy were in attendance.
Dan Schnur, director of the Unruh Institute, kicked off the event by giving a brief opening statement to the students and by introducing two USC student leaders and co-moderators for specific panels, in the realm of politics: Sarah Dhanaphatana, news editor of the Daily Trojan, and Camille Patrick, a junior majoring in business and cinematic arts. During the introduction, Dhanaphatana and Patrick explained the importance of the event and encouraged the young high school students in attendance to take action to bridge the gender inequality present in politics.
Dhanaphatana explained there must be a shift of discourse when it comes to talking about women in politics. She said that individuals must change the question from “Are women capable of fulfilling a role in politics?” to “Yes, women are capable; now what steps will they take to successfully shape politics?”
Following that introduction was a brief panel featuring Kyle Finck, the section lead for the High School Insider of the Los Angeles Times, and Suzy Jack, vice president of projects of the Los Angeles Times and USC alumna, provided the young women with advice on how to kick-start their careers in politics at a young age.
The next panel featured Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath of the city of West Hollywood, where she discussed the challenges she faced as a woman in the political realm. She recognized that many women do not feel confident in the political arena, and she encouraged them to reverse that stigma.
At the end of her speech, Horvath gave out her phone number so that the girls could reach out to her.
Guest speakers also included Mona Pasquil, former deputy lieutenant governor for California.
In the afternoon, USC students participated in a panel where they provided the young women with networking tips.
Jordan Fowler, Undergraduate Student Government vice president, told the girls about the importance of staying true to themselves.
“It is so important to remain confident,” she said. “You are all so amazing and leaders in companies can learn as much from you as much as you can learn from them.”
Shyann Murphy, executive co-director of the Women’s Student Assembly, spoke to the girls about failure.
“Failures are going to happen, but it is through failure that we learn most from,” she said.
Murphy also addressed the importance of getting involved.
“Really jump in and get involved as much as possible and find something that you are truly passionate about,” she said.
Fowler said that these events are important to empower women to step up and take on leadership roles.
“I was really shy when I was growing up, and it is so important for young girls to constantly be encouraged. Growing up, if I would not have had people telling me to get out of my comfort zone, I definitely would not be where I am now,” she said.
Rini Sampath, USG president, talked about the reception after the event where the girls had the opportunity to network.
“These girls are so talented and they benefit a lot by hearing from college students,” Sampath said.
Sampath said that the program throughout the years have given her the opportunity to meet young women and hear about their journeys to positions of leadership.
“Last year, I met a young girl at the reception of this same event and we kept in touch,” she said. “She ran to be president of her class and won.”