Emily Allender is a young woman from Maryland, USA. She is currently finalizing her studies in Public Health and Political Science. As part of her curriculum she decided to pursue an internship at the World YWCA. Emily believes  that -when given access to opportunities – young women can embrace their power and reach their full potential. She thinks it is important to acknowledge that everyone has something to offer, they just need to be given a chance to shine. We loved working with Emily and it was really interesting to hear her thoughts on leadership.

What is a leader?

I think a leader is someone who shows confidence and strength, so much so that when engaged in a group, other people pick up on these qualities. A leader is someone who is unafraid to take charge and make change when needed. They do not shy away from opportunity but rather embrace it.

How do you define leadership? What is your perspective of it?

Leadership is a quality within a person that allows them to feel empowered and confident. I think this is a quality that anyone can possess. Anyone can have leadership capabilities. With proper reinforcement and encouragement, confidence will grow. You can pick out a confident person; they not only face obstacles but help others face them as well.

Has interning at World YWCA changed your perspective of leadership?

Yes, before I came to the YWCA, I did not see how I could make an impact on people. I held leadership positions at my university and led in that way but never felt the impact. When I came here, I saw first-hand how the work the YWCA does impacts people across the globe. They are the true leaders, the young women in oppressed communities working and learning to improve their rights and make a place for all women in their community. I saw leaders not afraid to go against the norm and take all young women with them as they work to make change. Leaders are born, but they are also made and I have seen the YWCA help make leaders out of young women and girls around the world.

Why do you think we should invest in young women’s leadership?

Young women today have a vision unlike any other generation. Growing up in a technologically advanced world and seeing things change, seeing how things in different areas are growing and developing allows them to gain an open-minded perspective of the world as they realize they can shape their future. The traditional gender lines and age restrictions are being blurred to allow more young women a place in the world and we have to be there to make sure they have the support to find that place.

How do you think we can empower young women?

Listen to them, help them and appreciate them. Young women want to know they are heard, that their concerns, however big or small, are not going unnoticed. So listen to their concerns and then do what you can to help. Help them make the changes they cannot on their own, but appreciate the work they can do. This trifecta will instill confidence in young women because they will see the impact they can have.

How will you use the skills and knowledge acquired in your future?

I have seen the impact I can have while interning at World YWCA and I feel confident and ready to share what I have learned. I will be continuing my education when I return home and I am excited to share with anyone who will listen about the work I have done and the work I have seen others do. I know now what it means to be a leader and how to put leadership into my daily life. I will take this new confidence and grow my network to make an impact on as many people as possible. I no longer have to shy away from uncertainty because I have learned that great things can come from unexpected changes.

What is your advice to young women who aspire to be leaders?

Get out of your comfort zone. Leadership can be a scary thing sometimes, but when you embrace any changes that come your way with confidence, failure is not an option. Being comfortable means you are not growing and leadership is about growth for you and for others. Push yourself to see your impact, it may surprise you!