The message was all about girl power Tuesday, as women professionals urged a room full of middle and high school girls to step it up.
“Don’t feel that you can’t do something because you’re a woman; do what makes you happy.”
Those were the words of Dr. Rebecca Filla, a Fairfax based obstetrician and gynecologist, who told the girls they are capable of anything, regardless of their gender.
Filla was one of four women on a panel of successful leaders in science and technology who spoke as part of Rep. Barbara Comstock’s 10th Congressional District Young Women Leadership Program.
Now in it’s fourth year, the program gives girls in their teens the opportunity to meet and speak with women who hold leadership positions in a variety of fields.
Gathered inside the auditorium of George Washington University’s Ashburn campus, the students heard from a bioengineer, a burn surgeon, and other women who provided them with advice and words of encouragement.
Students also heard a frank message from Jennifer Siciliano, vice president of Government Relations for Inova Health System: “It’s OK not to know right away what you want to do—what’s not OK is not working hard,” she said.
Siciliano told the girls that with a combination of hard work and fun, they will be successful.
Comstock said she was inspired to start the Young Women Leadership Program by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, along with her TED Talk that encouraged women to pursue leadership roles.
“I wanted to make sure that women were thinking about leadership roles in all professions,” the congresswoman said.
In its first year, the leadership program enrolled about 75 to 100 girls. Last year, 250 participated and this year, 400 have signed up.
The hope is to provide girls with the confidence to pursue their ambitions. “We always want to encourage the young women to not let whatever situation limit them,” Comstock said. “We work to provide them as much exposure in many different fields [as possible].”
When asked what advice she has for young girls on pursuing their passion, Comstock said to try different activities until you find your passion. “You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do when you grow up,” she said. “Explore, read, and make sure you’re soaking up every bit of information out there. Expose yourself to things you don’t even think you might be interested in.”
Regardless of the field, Comstock wants young women to know that great opportunities are out there. “Today there exists so many opportunities in every field,” she said. “Just don’t let anything hold you back.”
The program holds events periodically throughout the summer. Learn more at comstock.house.gov.