I speak on a panel about Public Service every year and the women who attend PLEN are just amazing! The staff is fantastic and every participant I meet gushes about the program. They all tell me how grateful they are for the opportunity to come to DC and participate in the program and I am honored to be a small part of that experience.
I work closely with college student leaders at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles who participate in PLEN's seminars and each one of them returns from Washington, DC with a fire within them. PLEN does an excellent job meeting student needs, inspiring them to pursue public leadership roles, and providing them with a life-changing experience. I wish we could send even more students to participate! I'm grateful PLEN exists and that our institution has had a long-standing relationship with them.
The US currently ranks #84th in the world in terms of gender parity in government (Inter-Parlimentary Union 2014). Politics, a space of formal power and authority, needs to also be a space where women have a legitimate voice in how decisions are made that affect their lives. Very few organizations aim at providing women access to government so that they can see themselves in these positions of power. PLEN, the Public Leadership Education Network, is one of the most critical organizations that helps college-aged female students see themselves in positions of political leadership.
As a PLEN Coordinator at Douglass College for Women, Rutgers University for four years, I heard numerous stories from students who said that this was one of the best experiences of their collegiate life. PLEN shows women that they can work in Washington DC and make powerful decisions. The PLEN programs provide access to women in positions of power that these college students would not otherwise have. Students that attended the PLEN programs still write to me how amazing it was for them to meet these women, such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or US Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Considering that the lack of women's political ambition is one of the root causes of why women are not running for elected office, and that this begins at an early age for women (Lawless and Fox 2013), it is critically important that PLEN continues to not only offer the vital programs for college-aged women students to visit DC from around the country, but also that PLEN expands to reach more students and provide more scholarships for students that need them.