Athena 2020

Hello from beautiful California! As we continue our course of study, we have also been fortunate to have opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.  Last Wednesday, a group of fifteen of us elected to attend the launch event for Athena 2020 in San Francisco. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, Athena 2020 is a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of women in the professional world. The organization hopes to educate women on how to better pursue their career and life goals through networking events and online tutorials.

Prior to the event, we had the privilege of meeting one-on-one with Duke alumna and entrepreneur, Rachel Braun-Scherl.  Rachel is the Principal of Semprae Laboratories and has had years of industry experience as both a marketing and consulting expert.  As she shared the unique challenges she has faced as a female entrepreneur, we were captivated by her candor and wisdom. Rachel’s stress on the importance of authenticity in leadership resonated with both the male and female students present for her talk.

After the conclusion of our meeting with Rachel, we headed downstairs to attend a discussion on gender communication in the workplace.  The panel featured an all-star cast of men and women from diverse backgrounds (including our very own Kimberly Jenkins!), united in their commitment to help women become leaders in business world. The panel was then followed by several case studies on businesswomen in Bay Area. I was particularly interested by insight of two of the featured female entrepreneurs, both only few years older than myself. These women are a testament to the fact that gender and age should pose no limitations to the type of professional success we should strive for or are capable of achieving.

I can enthusiastically say that the Athena 2020 event was the most impactful I have attended thus far. Women’s issues have always been of a particular interest to me. Last fall, I took the Duke Public Policy course, Women as Leaders, taught by Professor Katie Hood. One of the greatest lessons I learned from Professor Hood was the importance of learning from the experiences and advice of other women leaders. It was with Professor Hood in mind that I chose to attend the Athena 2020 event. I loved connecting the lessons on leadership that I had learned in her class with the life stories of the panelists and featured entrepreneurs.

The women featured at the event were truly inspiring.    In fact, my peers dedicated the entire hour long car ride home discussing the changes we would like to implement within the Duke community to help grow an accessible network of female student, alumnae and local entrepreneurs.  As women, we cannot succeed alone. It is only through supporting each other that we will be able to create, as Sheryl Sandberg once put it, “the New Girls Network,” that will be essential to one day achieving equal representation in the workplace and beyond.

Samantha Klein
Junior, Duke University

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