8 Women, 8 Different Ways to Lead with AAUW

March 23, 2016

As our research report Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership highlights, men vastly outnumber women in leadership positions, from board rooms to executive suites to the Hill. Changing the face of leadership is beyond the scope of any one program, but AAUW is working to change that imbalance through a plethora of programs that support women from middle school all the way through retirement.

Check out these eight AAUW stars who are proving that women can be powerful leaders on campus and beyond. The face of leadership doesn’t have to be male.

1. Gaining confidence at NCCSWL

Blossom Brown

Woman speaking in a conference room.

Blossom Brown speaks at NCCWSL.

Blossom Brown, an active member of the AAUW student organization at Mississippi University for Women, attended the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) in 2015. “I became more empowered to fight for trans women’s rights,” she says of her experience. The country’s premier leadership conference for college women, NCCWSL provides a transformative experience for attendees and prepares them to be the next generation of leaders.

 2. Changing the conversation with an AAUW Campus Action Project grant

Bree Best

Bree Best on her Telling Our Stories: I’m Not/I Am campaign poster.

Bree Best on her Telling Our Stories: I’m Not/I Am campaign poster.

In 2015, Bree Best, a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, helped start a poster campaign to reaffirm the strength and diversity of women of color on her campus. The AAUW CAP project, titled Telling Our Stories: I’m Not/I Am, went on to inspire dozens of graphics, a Tumblr site, and more. And Best presented the project to a packed room at NCCWSL, sparking a dialogue about shared experiences with racism and sexism that created a sense of community among the attendees.

 3. Running for office with Elect Her

Molly Rockett

Molly Rockett stands in front of her 2014 campaign signs.

Molly Rockett stands in front of her 2014 campaign signs.

Molly Rockett attended her first Elect Her workshop during her freshman year at the University of Connecticut. Elect Her encourages and trains college women to run for student government and future political office. “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 and to assume leadership roles,” says Rockett. At just age 20, Rockett became a resident adviser on campus, president of the College Democrats, and an elected member of the Board of Education in her hometown of Somers, Connecticut.

4. Growing a professional network with the AAUW National Student Advisory Council

Shannon Cholakian

Shannon Cholakian (center) with her fellow peer counselors at Tech Trek in 2010

Shannon Cholakian (center) with her fellow peer counselors at Tech Trek in 2010

Shannon Cholakian is an unstoppable SAC member from Santa Clarita Valley, California. She started her university’s first Queer Identity Advocacy Scholarship for students who identify within the LGBT spectrum and serves on her school’s President’s Commission on the Status of Women. SAC members serve as AAUW ambassadors, advise AAUW staff on the needs of college students, and lead gender equality projects on their campuses.

5. Gaining community leadership through AAUW branches

Penney Hoodenpyle


Penney Hoodenpyle, fourth from left, at the signing of Oregon House Bill 2007. The new law, signed by Governor Kate Brown in September 2015, will help protect employees who inquire about or discuss any information about their wages. Link http://seaside-or.aauw.net/district

Penney Hoodenpyle, founding member of the AAUW of Oregon Online Branch, harnessed her leadership skills when her branch was on the verge of disbanding. She organized the women of the branch to develop an online model so that they could continue to gather under the AAUW mission. With 1,000 branches around the country, AAUW relies on volunteers like Hoodenpyle to organize and lead on behalf of women and girls in their community. Hoodenpyle went on to co-chair the AAUW National Membership Committee and advise staff on how to grow membership around the country.

6. Getting empowered in STEM with AAUW Tech Trek

Ellen Le

Ellen Le (second from left) with other Tech Trek campers

Ellen Le (second from left) with other Tech Trek campers

Ellen Le attended an AAUW of California Teck Trek camp for girls in 2004. She describes her experience at the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) camp as “this amazing environment where I felt supported and empowered to be the best that I could be in the science and math fields.” AAUW research has shown that exposing girls to opportunities and role models early on is just one of the many ways to move the needle for women in leadership and STEM. Le went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in chemical engineering, worked for a start-up company for two years, and now attends Harvard Business School.

7. Continuing education with AAUW fellowships

Joyce Kim

2003–04 AAUW Selected Professions Fellow Joyce Kim

2003–04 AAUW Selected Professions Fellow Joyce Kim

“The simple truth is that it is expensive to be poor,” says Joyce Kim, a 2003–04 AAUW Selected Professions Fellow and the founder of the nonprofit Stellar. After receiving her law degree from Columbia with the help of her AAUW fellowship, Kim founded Stellar to help immigrants save money on their remittances (money transfers sent by workers to their home countries). The idea for Stellar could have been applied to a for-profit enterprise, but Kim, a daughter of immigrants, focused on improving circumstances for disadvantaged and immigrant communities instead.

8. Leading on campus through AAUW student organizations

Theresa Johnson

College student standing with AAUW sign around her head.

Theresa Johnson is a National Student Advisory Council member and an AAUW student organization leader.

Students involved in founding and volunteering with more than 80 AAUW student organizations lead the women’s movement on their campuses. As president of the AAUW student organization at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, Theresa Johnson has credited the organization with helping her stay motivated as a student parent and find a safe place to continue developing as a leader.

9. YOU!

You can be the next great leader, and we want to help. Join AAUW to get in on exclusive benefits for all these programs and more. If you’re a student, we have special membership deals for you!

Why do men still vastly outnumber women in leadership positions?

AAUW’s newest research report, Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership, explores this question, and provides recommendations change the climate.

This post was written by AAUW Website Production Intern Alexandra Braxton.

By:   |   March 23, 2016