As we gear up for the 2016 Advancing Aspirations Global Scholarship (entry opening soon!) we celebrate future female leaders with an up-close look at our five formidable finalists from last year’s AAGS competition. Join us in celebrating their achievements – past and present – and the ones we most look forward to – their bright futures.
The Call to Pursue Justice
The 2015 AAGS Grand Prize Winner, Sharon finishes up her collegiate career in spring 2016 with an impressive résumé: a major in Political Science with three minors in women and gender studies, history, and organizational and leadership supervision; she studied abroad at the London School of Economics as a Hansard Society Scholar, while also interning with a Member of Parliament; and she made Purdue University history by establishing the first-ever Purdue Asian-American Cultural Center. With her sights now set on law school, and one day working with the Department of Justice, Sharon wants to help and advocate for abused persons, particularly those in racially marginalized communities.
As a young female professional just beginning her career, Sharon does have concerns about the very real realities of maternity discrimination that still exist. “I would like to be a successful career woman and a loving mother someday; those two are not mutually exclusive concepts for me. From reports of employers passing on promotions for mothers to American governmental policies not providing affordable quality childcare, I am concerned with an American workplace culture not embracing the importance of child caring and family support.”
read her essay: To.Get.Her Program
Start Change from Within
A Silicon Valley native, Sabrina is passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, and social innovation. A sophomore at Georgetown University, she’s majoring in Operations and Information Management, and minoring in Computer Science. Inspired by Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I Computer, Sabrina plans to change the tech industry’s gender gap from within, with dreams of one day being CEO of a technology company. But she knows this change won’t be easy. “I learned while writing this essay that as much as I want to be a force for good, this is a cause that is greater than myself. Real change must be systemic, and will not occur until there is collaboration among different groups and institutions (e.g., men and women, the public and private sectors).” Sabrina understands that the biggest obstacles standing in her way are “Unconscious bias, and how difficult it is to detect, measure, and mitigate it in the workplace.”
read her essay: Breaking Ceilings, Building Talent: Practical Ways to Promote Workplace Flexibility and Wage Equity
Live Beyond the Stereotype
Just finishing up her freshman year at the University of Texas Austin, Priyanka is studying government and economics, with a passion for promoting the advancement of women in their communities. Still early in her collegiate career, she doesn’t have a specific dream job in mind, but knows she wants to focus on disenfranchised minority women in some capacity. “One of the reasons that I am pursuing the career path that I am is because of role models that told me that I could be who I wanted to be,” says Priyanka. With one of these specific role model being Mindy Kaling. “She was one of the first Indian people I saw on American television who was not playing a stereotypical role that solely relied on her race to define her personality. As I began to solidify my passions and my career decisions the presence of Mindy Kaling in mainstream media was a constant reminder that I didn’t have to be my stereotype.” Already getting her foot in the door to start such change, Priyanka has worked with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Battleground Texas, and with Texas State Representative Dawnna Dukes. At UT Austin, she is also an active member of Women in Foreign Affairs, University Democrats, and the Liberal Arts Honors Program.
read her essay: Glass Ceiling No More: The Complexities of Barriers to Female Leadership
No STEM Too Big
Passionate about all-things science, technology, engineering and math, Lakshitha dreams of working as a production engineering manager in the petroleum industry. And even though she’s still deciding on exactly what company she will grow with, she does admit that given the right opportunity, she’d love to live in Paris. “I’ve had that cliché dream of living in Paris from a very young age,” Lakshitha admits. “And while it obviously has no influence on my choice, I do have soft spot for French desserts!”
Inspired by the work of fellow engineer Debbie Sterling, Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, Lakshitha is working to implement a program that will encourage young girls to pursue STEM fields, giving them access to industry-related role models, as Sterling has been to Lakshitha from afar. “We must purposefully increase the exposure of young girls to female role models – politicians, CEOs, principals, athletes and entrepreneurs. As the saying goes, seeing is believing and presenting young girls with successful women in the workplace is a lot more effective than simply telling them that they can achieve something.”
read her essay: Confident Girls to Workforce Leaders: One Barrier at a Time
Thin Mints All the Way
A rising junior at Wellesley College, Leilani has no doubt where she sees herself in 20 years: CEO of the Girl Scouts. A Gold Award Girl Scout herself, Leilani is passionate about advocating for women’s rights. ”In writing this essay, I was reminded of how much we still need to open the dialogue about gender equality.” No stranger to advocacy – locally and abroad, including an internship in 2015 in the Press Office of the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lisbon – Leilani admits she was shocked at how “dismally uninformed” she was about her rights as a women entering the workforce. “At the end of the day, I think this lack of awareness speaks to the shortcomings of policies, such as Title IX, to always be implemented in practice. By the time I was done researching, I realized that I have to be a part of that practical solution by starting the conversation about informal changes in how we perceive equal opportunity for women.”
read her essay: Building Confidence: From Policy to Practice