From Girl Up to the ‘Real World’

Events , Leadership

By Archu Somasegar

As I walked out of Johnston Gate at Harvard College for the last time this past May – it is difficult to recount exactly the feelings that wrestled within me.  The moment I received my diploma, along with a whispered “congratulations,” appeared to be the finish line – a symbol of not just academic achievement, but of personal development that was hard to fathom. 

However, as I stepped out of the gates, the sheer vastness of the unknown that awaited me began to settle in. I was fortunate to know I would be starting a job at a wonderful company soon – but the details were lost amidst a swirling depth of I don’t know. And that was terrifying. Gone was the quiet comfort of school, the safe environment full of learning opportunities, and the diversity of inspiration all around me.

Indeed, as I entered “the real world”, I began to find myself in an assortment of situations that were certainly new. Fortunately, my new firm values diversity, actively invests in my growth and development, and creates a warm and welcoming community. Nonetheless, I began finding myself in rooms where I was frequently the only person of color. The only woman. The youngest. In this new job, there were no grades to validate my performance. Feedback flowed and ebbed, and I struggled to define for myself what I wanted my personal success to look like. It was even harder to build a path to success that integrated not only my aspirations for a seat at the boardroom table one day, but also my personal goals. After all, I needed to strike the perfect balance to attain true happiness, right? 

“[The Girl Up community], I realized, was what made these questions that threatened to consume me just a little less terrifying.”

In navigating this confusion and uncertainty, I reflected upon the value that Girl Up and the United Nations Foundation brought to me and women like me around the world during pivotal moments of our lives. Girl Up’s mission of uplifting women begins with connecting women to one another to learn and grow through a shared sense of community. This very community, I realized, was what made these questions that threatened to consume me just a little less terrifying. 

Girl Up inspired me to create Girl Talks 2019– a forum to bring together young female professionals like me with successful, influential female leaders. Centered around the theme “Redefine Possible”, these female leaders will come together in San Francisco on March 9thto share personal stories that highlight a time where they broke through a ceiling, created something new, or empowered themselves/others to pave their own path. By harnessing the power of community and storytelling, Girl Talks 2019 will showcase the strength of women from all walks of life to inspire a new generation of leaders. 

Indeed, my experience working with Girl Up and our speakers on our inaugural Girl Talks 2019 has been nothing short of inspirational. The pure level of drive, ambition, and achievement of the speakers astounded me. But even more awe-inspiring was the willingness of women with back-to-back professional commitments and familial responsibilities, to chat with and support me in the quest to uplift young women. As I hope all attendees will discover at Girl Talks 2019, when women come together to share, learn from, and support one another, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.