Maine NEW Leadership Program empowers young women
At the beginning of June, the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center held its annual six-day residential undergraduate student leadership training program, entitled Maine NEW (National Education for Women) Leadership. Young women from schools all across Maine meet at this conference to learn about, and address, the under-representation of women in politics. By gathering this group of motivated undergraduates, the goal is to educate and empower them by providing the skills necessary to become the next generation of effective civic and political leaders.
Director of the Maine NEW Leadership Amy Blackstone, Professor of Sociology at UMaine, organized this six-day program which hosted students from across Maine. UMaine was represented by four students, Casey Rogers, Social Work major and Sociology minor; Leah Turlo, Political Science major and Legal Studies and Sociology minors; Jennifer Malvin, Social Work major and Sociology minor; and Thilee Yost, Political Science and Philosophy double major. Blackstone said “watching the students go from day one, when they are unsure about what to expect and whether they are qualified to be here, to the very last day when it’s clear they’ve come to understand that they are indeed qualified and that they can make a positive difference in the world” was the most rewarding part of her directorship.
Over the six day program, the young women participate in workshops designed to elevate their leadership skills in fields such as public speaking, advocacy, and networking. They also enjoyed presentations given by politically active women, and visited with female legislators and policy advocates in the State House.
Maine NEW Leadership hopes to encourage women to actively seek out leadership roles., no matter what their career path may be. As Amy Blackstone points out, women make up half of the United States population but only hold 20 percent of seats in Congress and 7% of Fortune 500 CEOs. She sites research that points out that women are less likely than men to run for office unless they are asked to do so, and that her hope is that, “NEW Leadership empowers participants to not only say yes when they are asked [to fill leadership positions] but to also put themselves up for consideration.”
The late Senator Margaret Chase Smith was honored with the naming of this policy center because she was a model of civil discourse and integrity. The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center (MCSPC) on campus strives to “advance a tradition of independent, objective research designed to support effective, transparent, and equitable policy processes” and because of this, it serves as Maine’s premier resource for applied public policy research and engagement. Professor Blackstone points out that another important goal of the NEW Leadership program, much like the MCSPC, is to “encourage dialogue among those who may not always agree.”