Our next Career Now article examines how students can use their careers to get involved in the community and to give back. Our Why Millennials Matter partners interviewed Courtney Emerson, the co-founder and COO of All In Together, a campaign meant to empower women by providing the resources to effect change. Find out more about Courtney and her mission below.
WMM: Describe your career journey after college?
CE: My career journey started with a number of internships and non-profits, mostly in New York City. I was blown away and inspired by the people and their passion within these organizations, fighting to see social change, policy change, and culture change. I went to Princeton University and, while I was there, I fell in love with the Arabic language. I spent a summer in Morocco. I thought I wanted to be in foreign service, so I really wanted to learn Arabic and know a relevant language for that career path.
WMM: How did this lead to your discovery of wanting to start a nonprofit and live in New York?
CE: When I was in Morocco, I fell in love with the Arabic world and culture- the openness and the warmth they shared with me, especially as an American studying there. I became in involved with an organization called Seeds of Peace. I was the communications intern for them one summer, followed by an internship at the American Civil Liberties Union. After 9/11 with a lot of racial profiling, they did a lot of work trying to build awareness, bringing justice for people that were wrongly detained or held. That culminated in me writing a senior thesis on Women’s Rights Movements in Morocco and Egypt.
Upon graduating, I really wasn’t sure what to do. I had friends working for these amazing companies and big organizations – the McKinsey & Company and the Goldman Sachs of the world. It took me a long time to figure out how all of my experiences and accomplishments really fit into where I wanted to go now in my career. Soon, through a friend from school, I found the Center for Talent Innovation. While I was there, I ran the women’s leadership programs and worked with companies to help build awareness of the challenges and build solutions.
WMM: What is the All in Together Campaign?
CE: One thing I learned while I was at the Center for Talent Innovation was how research and awareness-building can really drive change. I think a key moment of that was when Sheryl Sandberg released her book, Lean In. It sparked a huge conversation within corporations. This kind of thinking for me showed me that it’s an incredibly important conversation to have, but we need to expand this conversation beyond that. The mission of the All in Together Campaign is to ensure that women’s voices are heard to the scale that they should be. Women make up 50% of the population, but are certainly not represented in political leadership at that level or in any engagement beyond voting. We see this gap at all levels. Many women in college don’t believe they have the qualifications to run for office, while many men do. Millennial men and women are both motivated to drive change in their communities, but women consistently do not see policy and policy change as a way to do that.
WMM: How can somebody get involved?
CE: We just want more. More engagement. More talking about these issues. It’s uncomfortable. People have different views and opinions on these topics, so it can sometimes be uncomfortable. We do know that women are more likely to walk across the aisle than men, they are more effective in the senate. Have more conversations. Write a letter to your representative about a topic that inspires you. Congress actually can’t spend any time reading letters from people that are not their constituent. Use Popvox.com to submit a letter online to your representative as a constituent.
WMM: How can we all work together to manage conflict?
CE: It’s important to remember that we all share the same values – we all want a better world for ourselves and the next generation. This is a conversation that just started. How do we make policy change easy & accessible to everyone? Policy affects us in so many way. You don’t have to care about big things that Congress is talking about. You can care about the arts, health care, technology…
WMM: Any advice to the other young Courtney’s out there?
CE: Pick your head up – look around. It’s easy to get caught up in writing the perfect essay. We always underestimate how important relationships are and how important relationship building is. It’s important to build strong relationships with people that are willing to go to bat for you.
Reach out to people. The worst that can happen is they can’t meet you or they don’t respond. The best that can happen is that you have an amazing conversation that leads you to down an unknown path.
Like what Courtney had to say? Find out more! Keep in touch with her here:
#Passion2Action | ACTION ITEM: Start the Conversation
Create an account on popvox.com and write a letter to your representative. As Courtney said, anyone can write to Congress, but they really only want to hear from constituents (people who live in their state/district and vote in the area). POPVOX simply verifies that you’re actually a constituent and guarantees that your message will be delivered. Pick a topic that inspires you, and share an experience you’ve had around that topic. Sharing your story helps policy makers make more informed decisions to improve our society!
Career Now | Podcast Series
Feeling inspired? The #Passion2Action podcast has even more information and tips. Our partners at Why Millennials Matter post new episodes each week, featuring bonus information and additional exclusive interviews. Tune in and tweet us your thoughts or questions – tag them #CareerNow!
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