Actually She Can works to empower college women

(Left to right) Kristin McGee, Jennifer Walsh and Laura Brounstein speak at the “Path to Success” panel held in the MSC.  

The average woman in today’s workforce makes 79 cents for every dollar the average man makes.

This pay gap is a widely reported statistic demonstrative of the issues women face in society, whether it be the freedom to practice birth control, earn equal pay for equal work, or simply being confident in a world that puts more focus on body image than personality.

Instead of continuing the stereotypes of what a woman can and can’t do, students were told Wednesday that, actually, she can. 

An audience of about 100 students came to hear a message from Actually She Can, a campaign focused on empowering young women to achieve life goals, hosted by HerCampus, an online publication for women in college. The “Path to Success” panel, which was also held at the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Sept. 23, was geared toward helping women in the audience achieve their personal goals and find career success.

“You need to just know that you have power. And there will be times when people try to limit your possibilities for you, you guys are going to know enough to say, ‘Actually, I can do that,’” said Laura Brounstein, a panelist and special projects director of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Besides Brounstein, other panelists included Jennifer Walsh, business entrepreneur and founder of Pride & Glory collegiate cosmetics; Kristin McGee, yoga instructor to celebrities; and Annie Wang, co-founder and creative director of HerCampus.

The panel tackled the questions of achieving work-life balance, overcoming career challenges and expectations and finding success. 

“You have to find something that you absolutely love, that just sets your spirit on fire and make sure you schedule time for that. Put it in your calendar,” McGee said. “It has to be scheduled the same way as your business meetings are, your classes, your homework, all of that.”

Brounstein, McGee and Walsh also said it is important to have a strong support network of friends who can provide much-needed energy.

“I hear a lot of things in this industry saying ‘Oh, there’s some cattiness.’ I’m thinking, I don’t know anyone like that. I don’t know anyone that’s catty, because I don’t allow that in my circle,” Walsh said. “So I have an incredible network of women that I just can talk to … I think it’s just so empowering to support each other.” 

After the panel, there was also a question and answer session. Frequent themes were career uncertainty, sources of inspiration and college advice.

McGee said she advises interning as a way to test out any job field and try new things, while Brounstein said that volunteering is also a potential way to build skills. McGee also said to create a strong personal brand. 

“No matter what kind of job you’re going to go into nowadays, you want to put your best foot forward … make yourself look amazing. I feel like (you should develop) who you are and tie it up in a nice pretty package with a beautiful bow and say ‘This is who I am,’” McGee said. 

For creative work, Wang said the portfolio is everything.

“Once you get one example of your work out there, people will notice and ask you to do something similar. That’s actually how I got started,” she said.

During the question and answer session, the panelists also said to always say “yes” to new opportunities, to be prepared for anything and to avoid the tendency to excessively self-doubt. 

“Saying ‘yes’ is my new mantra. (I) say yes to the possibility of the moment,” Brounstein said.

The campaign also has a social media aspect which usually features women, sometimes celebrities, posing with signs bearing a positive message. Such signs were provided at the event, with slogans like “Success comes on my own terms,” “Leaving the rulebook at home,” and “Dance like nobody is blogging.” Attendees could pose with these signs for pictures after the panel.

Astra Dunbar, majoring in marketing, said the panel helped her realize how many possibilities are out there.

“The key thing I learned was success on my own terms,” she said. “I don’t know my career goals, but now I see I don’t have to have it all figured out.”