Gale McKoy Wilkins

The Rise of Women
Guest Editor: Christina Hawes

Upon receiving my internship with the North Carolina Council for Women, I was initially intrigued. The North Carolina Council for Women has an established record of serving as an advocacy agency to the Governor, the state legislature and state departments on key issues impacting women. What attracted me most was how they planned to reach out to young girls and young women in a new way; by hosting an initiative. The Inaugural Women & Girls Initiative was held at the Executive Mansion on October 22, 2014. The event featured representatives from across North Carolina such as Kristen Fields, Chief of Staff, Office of the First Lady Ann McCrory and Dr. Amie Hess, Sociology Professor at Meredith College to name a few.

It was incredible to witness and assist an advocacy agency take a different approach to bring awareness to other areas such as education, career paths and leadership skills that impact women. Aside from the known work the Council does in providing grants that aid families affected by domestic violence; this initiative for women and girls was innovative in my eyes. As the Social Media intern, I was tasked with making contact with the middle and high school age girls using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I also reached out to the women using email. The central purpose was to establish a relationship and get the girls and women thinking about the theme for the initiative: Competence, Confidence and Courage.

Throughout the actual event I interacted on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the audience to get the event trending. The Governor Pat McCroy made an appearance and spoke with the women and girls about “the importance of using your voice, and being a leader in your community.” When the Governor spoke it seemed to add importance to the empowering atmosphere surrounding the guests in attendance. His words resonated with me, specifically the importance of using your voice and gaining confidence. Growing up in Wilmington and observing my peers, I noticed how lacking confidence created a shortfall in one's ability to be productive.

Gale McKoy Wilkins

Following the presentations, I immersed myself in conversation with Alyssa Shepard of Girl Talk Foundation and she mentioned “I feel like I have a voice and I feel like I matter.” It was touching to hear those words, and see how guests were moved by the Council's effort in showing girls why they matter. Teresa Pierrie with Wake Education Partnership was among the stellar group of women who spoke at the Initiative. She challenged us to "encourage and empower one another not compete with one another". Adding to Pierrie's words of empowerment, The Council's Executive Director informed participants that “A lot of great things are happening with women. More women have achieved advanced degrees as compared to men. We need to celebrate these achievements and encourage more of it.”

It was almost as if the Inaugural event was foreshadowing an unseen greatness. History was made on November 4, 2014, as Saira Blair became the youngest woman elected as state legislator in West Virginia. What struck me was how this 18 year old woman, followed her dream, and executed confidence, competence and courage. Blair won her seat using a different approach to campaigning. She lobbied primarily from her dorm, rather than touring throughout the state.Two other women joined Ms. Blair in making history. Elise Stefanik became the youngest woman elected to the House of Representatives from New York and Mia Love won Utah’s 4th district, the first African American woman to do so. These women embody and portray in my eyes the rise of women. I say this because these women are proving to be persistent and enterprising. Their efforts are victorious and inspirational for me. There isn't a dominant portrayal of women in politics, however November 4th depicts the gradual shift in gender representation. Women are stepping outside of the preconceived roles placed upon them and rising into positions of influence and power.