by Lauren Beebe, NCCWSL Scholarship Recipient
The AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders was a life changing experience. From memorable speakers to invaluable professional and self-improvement workshops, all three days were filled with moments of self-discovery and growth. Even more meaningful than the provided informational and educational sessions were the private conversations that I had with other attendees. Being in an environment of like-minded and inspirational women was an experience I will be forever grateful for.
Upon arriving to the University of Maryland’s campus I was filled with nerves, expectations, and anticipations. Once I registered and introduced myself to my roommates, the nerves immediately melted away and I was left with unadulterated excitement for the future events and dialogue. My roommates were confident, intelligent, successful, and motivated women who I immediately got along with. Throughout the conference we bonded over common ideals, discomforts, and obstacles associated with being well-intentioned and achievement-oriented women. Our conversations ranged from the current political climate to the sociological meaning behind ghost stories to the calculus involved in economic development. These two new friends expanded my understanding of feminism and humanity. I am looking forward to future conversations and to maintaining our new friendship.
On top of the personal growth that I gained from meeting my roommates and other women at the conference, I also gained valuable tools in navigating my own career path. I learned the best way to obtain an appropriate and deserved salary and how to approach stressors in life in a mindful and productive way. Furthermore, I was able to meet other professionals in my career field and gain insight into the positives and negatives that women in engineering face in today’s society. As a woman, I am valuable in that there are not many female engineers; however, being a woman also places complex ideals for our behavior in the workplace. We are asked to choose between being either assertive or collaborative. These two qualities are placed in conflict with one another. If assertive, then the extreme personality trait of aggressive and bossy is assumed; but if collaborative, we are assumed demure and easily manipulated. If we as a culture aim to develop a more nuanced understanding of personality and behavior—we can be both strong and nurturing. That is what makes us a formidable force in the workplace. We can demand what we deserve, but also ensure that our peers have the same level of respect.
The opportunity to attend NCCWSL was an amazing one and I am beyond grateful for it. Those three days, although short, were powerful and I know that it has propelled me forward both personally and professionally. I made connections that will aid me in my future academic and career goals, and I built relationships that will encourage me to continue to be a confident and self-motivated woman.