On Tuesday, April 25, the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) hosted a virtual event titled “Taking Initiative: Addressing the Challenges Facing Young Women Leaders.” The event was hosted by WSRC Resident Scholar Phoebe K. Schnitzer, Student Partner Thea Rose ’23 and Carissa Durfee, the Assistant Dean from the Dean of Students office.
During the event, Schnitzer discussed her ongoing project aimed at fostering leadership skills among young women and how Brandeis University can further help women in taking initiative. She presented a progress report from the three-year project that aimed to address the challenges that young women face in leadership positions. Schnitzer shared many different quotes from interviews she conducted with juniors and seniors at Brandeis University who have years of leadership experience and are the head of many clubs. The quotes revealed that women often doubt themselves to the point where they talk themselves out of taking initiative, fear creating negative consequences for others and fear criticism or being perceived as bossy.
Schnitzer addressed the internal factors that place a challenge on young women taking initiative and proposed ways in which Brandeis can foster leadership skills for young women. This includes workshops on effective communication skills and assertiveness training, as well as mentorships for individual support. She also provided direct recommendations to Brandeis University, such as supporting a diverse faculty and administration, providing resources for student initiatives and connecting with outside women’s organizations for female empowerment.
Rose was a student partner for this project and shared her own experiences with self-doubt, including rejection and competition in school and after-school activities. She emphasized that facing rejection was not all bad as it can be beneficial in the long run by opening new doors and beginnings. Thus, Rose reflected how rejection helped her realize her own potential and helped shape her goal and aspirations in her desired work environment.
Durfee then discussed how Brandeis is addressing this issue by incorporating this data and is trying to create various mentorships and training for different students. She also highlighted existing programs such as the bystander training from the Prevention Advocacy and Resource Center, which can help more people access and receive similar training sessions.
This event hosted by the WSRC aimed to provide insights into the challenges faced by young women in leadership roles. The discussions centered on the ways in which universities can help young women overcome their internal barriers to taking initiative, including effective communication skills and assertiveness training. Offering concrete recommendations for how Brandeis can help young women overcome these challenges and thrive in their careers, this event has brought attention to the significant impact in fostering the next generation of confident and successful female leaders.