Reading Hannah Seligson's recent NYTimes article "Girl Power at School, But Not at the Office", I had deja vu - or at least an interesting experience very close to deja vu. Seligson's article read much like the mission statement of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, the non-profit organization for which I currently work.
Exploring why some young women find the transition from undergraduate life to the professional work world more "wobbly" than their male counterparts, Seligson notes that
outside forces [ie, sexism in the workplace] are only part of the story. I have also seen young women — myself included — getting in the way of their own success. I have found that we need to build a new arsenal of skills to mitigate some of our more “feminine” tendencies. Having lived in a cocoon of equality in college, we may have neglected these vital, real-world skills.Wende Jager Hyman, Woodhull's executive director, often explains Woodhull's powerful trainings as giving women the tools to "get out of their own way." Without passing judgment on habits, traditions, and other comfortable ways of being, the Institute's curriculum strives to help women understand how they are being received in the world and what tools are useful to them in helping to shape this outside perception.
Uncomfortable asking for a raise or tooting your own horn? Cringe whenever constructive criticism is shared? Feel paralyzed by perfectionism? Find yourself always taking on the mess in the office kitchen? Hate public speaking? A large number of women feel unprepared to handle such dilemmas and the Woodhull Institute's goal is to provide the skills and empowerment needed to "get over" these issues. In other words,
the Woodhull Institute trains women in the practical steps needed to implement their ideas and transform their ambitions for leadership into reality. There is often a gap between a woman's private aspirations and her accomplishments, the Institute's training is intended to bridge this gap by offering leadership training and providing access to colleagues and mentors who will counsel and encourage these women throughout their careers. Woodhull offers empowerment courses on financial literacy and basic business skills, public speaking, negotiation and advocacy, writing, ethics in the workplace, networking and acquiring mentoring relationships.Which is exactly the type of professional development that Seligson is arguing that women need to succeed in today's work world.
Please note that as my M.A. thesis project is complete, the George Washington University is no longer overseeing research conducted in conjunction with this blog (effective June 2007 to present). The Informed Consent Materials created while this blog was under GWU's IRB oversight are still available for your information and the principles outlined in them are still being used as a general guide for my continued work.