From the moment I walked up the steps of the Albanian Embassy on Thursday, March
2nd, it was clear that the night would be an unforgettable one. The event in question was a salon held by Coach Kathy Kemper, Founder & CEO of the Institute For Education (IFE), and a
kick-off to women’s history month. The Albanian Ambassador, Floreta Faber, graciously hosted the event at the Embassy of Albania in DC and had been in the works for three years prior. Needless to say, it was a highly anticipated event. Panelists included Kathi Vidal, Catherine Bohigian, Lindsay Parker, Caitlin Gandhi, Krista Kinnard, and Jennifer Rudy. After hearing their words of advice, the importance of three things stuck with me: proper representation of
women, mentorship, and self-advocacy.
The opening remarks were given by the Albanian Ambassador, who relayed some of Albania’s greatest accomplishments in regard to women’s rights, women in positions of power, and representation of Albanian women in STEM fields. Hearing that over 50% of the Albanian government was made up of women, I was pleasantly surprised. Albania’s dedication to gender equality was also evident in hearing Madame Ambassador speak about the programs in Albania to give young girls the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Hearing about their progress was inspiring, and I was, and am, grateful to them for setting the example for the broader global community to follow suit.
After her remarks, Madame Ambassador passed the mic onto Coach Kemper, who introduced the event and talked about the IFE’s mission to provide diplomacy around the world through education. Coach Kemper lit up, talking about why the night’s event was important, and it was obvious how proud she was watching her scan the room and see so many women in positions of power. Likewise, Catherine Boheigan, the head of government affairs in DC, affirmed that to have a workplace representative of the world truly, women need to be in those positions of power. She reported that 53% of the individuals working in positions above vice president were women. To hear these women push the importance of representation inspired
me to always challenge the idea of what women can accomplish.
She then invited Kathi Vidal, the USPTO Director, to say a few words. Vidal had founded Camp Invention for six-ten-year-olds, a camp with the goal of exposing kids to innovation from a young age. The curious thing about the program was that it mainly attracted boys, but once the program implemented an artistic aspect, it attracted girls as well; the girls, in fact, became more invested than the boys once they had joined. It seemed as though, although the girls hadn’t been the most enthusiastic at first, as we live in a world where this topic isn’t deemed “stereotypically feminine,” once they got the opportunity to be excited about innovation through the camp, they were. To push the envelope of what’s societally accepted and bring a unique opportunity to
girls who were once like me was a wondrous notion to hear about.
The next speech was by Lindsay Parker, DC’s Chief Technology Officer. She started off with an anecdote about how all 15 years prior, her bosses had been men, and then she was lucky enough to end up with a woman boss who helped her push the envelope and challenge what was possible for women in the workforce. Parker reported that out of the 220 people working for her, 150 of them were women, and I was absolutely blown away by those numbers. I couldn’t have agreed with her more when she acknowledged how inclusion innovation was 10 times better looking around the room at all of the accomplished women.
Catherine Bohigian also gave a word of advice to those who feel hesitant to ask for more without feeling like bragging; she pushed those people to speak up and ask for what they want. The only way to learn, she urged, was for individuals to put their thoughts out there and lose their fear. She ended by highlighting the importance of mentorship, to which she relayed how she would not be where she is today without those who had mentored her along the way. This struck a chord, as I know that even in my early professional life, I would never have gotten to where I am now without the benign mentors that have never stopped believing in me.
In a similar fashion, Krista Kinnard shared her story in the next speech. After relaying how she had taken a position of power amongst a place where only a few women had been before, she urged the audience of leaders as well to get to the top of their professional pathways and reach a hand back to those who will follow next. I felt seen as I heard her speak, and I am grateful for her words of thoughtful mentorship.
Last but not least, I was inspired by Jennifer Rudy, who told her story of entering the
tech world with next to nothing. She reminded the audience with her words that no matter a
person’s background or experience, they should still choose to reach out and self-advocate.
Even if individuals aren’t “technical people,” she relayed, there is still a place for them in the
To be invited to the event that night was a life-changing experience and one that I will not forget. The notions that I took away will stick with me as I carry forth into the broader business world.
View event photos