Meet the newest member of the Women LEAD team: Erinn Bernstein. Erinn will be working with us as our Team LEADer in New York City.
Erinn is originally from a small town around Syracuse, New York. She had always excelled in school, and knew that she wanted to place her efforts in something that she was passionate about. However, she didn’t know what that passion was. As an undergraduate student in Buffalo, New York, Erinn majored in psychology. Erinn became very interested in mental health–particularly, women’s mental health. She continued to graduate school, where she earned my M.A. and Ed.M. in Counseling Psychology at Teachers College of Columbia University. At Teachers College, Erinn conducted research on the topic of poverty, mental health, and empowerment interventions. As a graduate student, Erinn also became interested in the feminist approach–both in regards to counseling psychology, and to leadership. Erinn worked as a Wellness Coordinator for a college, where she implemented a campus initiative called ‘Body Positive’, based on the organization ‘The Body Positive’ and its principles, that works to decrease body-shaming culture on campus. Through her experience, Erinn stated that she found not one, but several things that she is passionate about: this includes women’s mental health, youth empowerment, women’s leadership, and strengthening communities.
Why do you want to become involved with Women LEAD? Why do you care about young women’s leadership?
I want to become involved with Women LEAD because I am passionate about empowering young women and helping young women to take on leadership roles in various domains. I am passionate about making steps to change the deeply embedded system of patriarchy that exists in many cultures that is so tragic for women and our wellbeing. I believe that the high rates of mental health issues for women, as compared to men, have much to do with the sexist and patriarchal context that many women live in. I have grown up in the United States, with a culture which encourages women to believe that our values lie solely in our appearance and our service to men. In this way, I can relate to girls around the world, such as in Nepal, who may face similar obstacles. Finally, I believe that by increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions, as cliché as this may sound, the world will truly be a better place.
Why do you think you would be a good Team LEADer? How would you contribute to the program? What do you hope to gain from the program?
I have the many abilities that will help me succeed in the role of Team LEADer. Firstly, I am highly organized, and have thrived with leadership positions in the past; these skills will allow me to effectively organize a team of leaders and volunteers, and to successfully organize a culminating fundraising event for Women LEAD. I am also knowledgeable about social networking, and have excellent interpersonal skills, and thus will be able to contribute by representing Women LEAD at formal and informal networking events, as well as in social media. Through working as a Team LEADer, I hope to further develop my leadership skills, and encourage other young women to develop as leaders. Most importantly, I will be personally fulfilled by volunteering for a cause that I am passionate about, and by taking steps to encourage young women worldwide to become leaders.
Name one woman leader who you think has made a difference or impact in her community/country or globally and what she did to make a difference.
I have recently been quite impacted by Jennifer Siebel Newson, who wrote, directed, and produced the documentary Miss Representation. This document helps uncover the blatant sexism in America’s media culture, and the harmful impacts of this culture. The film relates this media culture to the lack of women in leadership roles, and calls for change in how women are portrayed in mass media. Miss Representation has been lauded for its raw power and honesty, and its message has reached millions in America. I think that this film speaks to the power of media, and how important it is to fight back. Jennifer Siebel Newson recognized that mass media messages are hurting women, and in turn used the same media to fight back. These actions, and her messages, are both inspiring.
What is your most significant accomplishment to date?
My most significant accomplishment to date is my completion of a two-year Masters program in Counseling Psychology at Teachers College. I am aware of my privilege to attend such a prestigious institution, and I made sure to make the most out of my time as a graduate student. I did this by excelling in my courses, joining clubs and taking on leadership positions, and doing research that I am truly passionate about.