2 Young Elected Officials Share 4 Leadership Lessons
Allyson Carpenter and Molly Rockett are millennials who are making a difference thanks in part to Elect Her, a nationally popular collaboration between AAUW and Running Start. Proven leaders already, these women have inspiration and advice for college women following in their footsteps.
Carpenter is studying international politics abroad and hopes to one day be a U.S. senator. A changemaker who has introduced Michelle Obama at a White House event honoring the women of the Civil Rights movement, Carpenter’s résumé grows more impressive by the day. She has become a nationally recognized advocate for issues that affect all young people and the African American community in her role as a BET What’s at Stake ambassador. Complex magazine called her “proof” that it’s “never too early to change the world.” We could not agree more!
Rockett serves on the public schools’ board of education in Somers, Connecticut. Her interest and passion for local politics also began at a young age. She remembers accompanying her father, who served on the same board, to distribute literature throughout their neighborhood as a child. Rockett’s focus as a board member has been to be the “best public servant” she can be. She has been awarded a highly competitive Truman Scholarship, which provides funding for students who have shown a commitment to public service. Her hope is to go to law school and serve her mission of “show[ing] people the magnitude of their own personal power in the political system.”
Here are four leadership lessons from this dynamic duo.
1. Don’t be your own obstacle.
“One of the biggest challenges was realizing that the only thing standing in my way of getting elected to office was myself and my own fear,” Carpenter says. “There are societal challenges and systemic things that set women back in running for office, leading a business, pursuing STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] — but we can’t be a part of that. We can’t be our own obstacles. We can’t stop ourselves from taking a chance.” Carpenter says her experience at Elect Her gave her the confidence to take that chance and make history!
Like Carpenter, Rockett credits Elect Her with helping convince her that she should run. “The biggest thing I took away from Elect Her was that I didn’t have to wait until I gained more ‘experience’ to participate in local government,” says Rockett.
Rockett urges women not to hesitate. “Don’t doubt your qualifications or ability to do the job. Be confident in the value of your unique perspective, experiences, and desire to give back,” she says.
2. Get inspired.
“I attended Elect Her as a freshman, after being on campus just a few weeks, and it was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” says Carpenter. She notes that when hearing women’s political success stories, she was often left wanting to know more. What practical steps led to their success? How did they get their start? How could she do the same? She has admitted that this made her second-guess her ability to follow in their footsteps. But at Elect Her, women leaders shared their personal journeys. “They gave us a realistic way to accomplish our dreams,” she says. “They talked about where to start and how to build a support network. It was encouraging, refreshing, and exactly what I needed to hear. The next week, I decided to run for freshman class board vice president.” She won.
3. Know that you can win.
Many participants are ready to run — and win — after attending Elect Her. In 2015, 76 percent of attendees who reported running for student office won. These college women are building the pipeline of women candidates. This is hugely important considering women make up only 20 percent of the U.S. Congress, 6 percent of governors, and 24 percent of state legislators.
4. Be a role model for others.
Rockett urges other young women to run for office. She says, “Don’t doubt your qualifications or ability to do the job. Be confident in the value of your unique perspective, experiences, and desire to give back.”
Recently, Carpenter resigned from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission after receiving a scholarship to study international politics at Oxford. Before she left, however, she helped her friend Amanda Bonam petition for her seat.
This story was written by freelance writer Beth Pearsall for the 2014 AAUW annual report and updated by AAUW Elect Her intern Regina Monge.