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"Still We Rise"

Each year as I walk the UCLA campus during these chilly months, I continually hear students complaining that Winter Quarter is the absolute worst!  It's the time during the school year when students bear a heavier course load, the weather is cold and rainy, and the only place to hang out seems to be the library.  Fortunately for me, I’m blessed to be a part of Bruin Belles, which has hosted several stand out philanthropic and Women's leadership events that have kept me happily on my toes this quarter!
My personal favorite occurred this past weekend when our Women's Leadership Director, Ankita Handa, lead the annual Women's Leadership Conference aptly themed “Still We Rise” from the eternally relevant work of Maya Angelou.  It was a wonderfully thoughtful and engaging session, with multiple speakers reflecting on both their personal and professional journeys. One speaker, Nadia Allaudin, particularly resonated with me as she spoke candidly about what it means to be a successful professional women in an unquestionably male dominated field.
As an aspiring physician this is one of the challenges I am cognizant of every day. Most of my classes are composed of men, most of my teaching assistants are men, and of course most of my professors are also men. On more than one occasion, I have been told that I don't "look" intelligent enough to be in the classes I am in which begs the question, what does a "smart" women look like?  Nadia also spoke about how she has often been viewed as “a witch, a shrew or a harpy” for taking exactly the same actions as her male counterparts.  While they are viewed as direct and strong, she is viewed as unreasonable and difficult for exhibiting the same characteristics.  Women are expected to acquiesce and agree while men are allowed to dominate and disagree.  Sadly, I have also experienced this same double standard in the classroom.  Often if a male student asks a question it is viewed as good, well thought out and edifying whereas if a woman asks the very same question she is perceived as unprepared, out of her depth or vacuous. The men are automatically given the benefit of the doubt while the women are not. 
Another common theme among these women was that they had to make compromises and sacrifices in their personal lives in order to achieve their level of professional success. This is one of the many concerns I have for the future as I know these will not be easy decisions and I’m certain the sacrifices demanded from women will be much greater than those asked of men. If I do eventually become a physician, or for that matter any working professional, I too will have to make compromises in both my professional and personal life and will rely on other strong women around me to help and guide me.
Lastly, I'd like to leave everyone with a Bible verse mentioned by one of the other speakers, the UCLA Women’s Gymnastics coach, Valerie Kondos Field, who reminded us to be anxious for nothing and grateful for all things. Today I am grateful to have the opportunity to attend one of the best universities in the country, to be a part of one of the most prestigious organizations on campus and to be surrounded by strong, powerful women who inspire and motivate me every day. As I optimistically look to the future, I am anxious for nothing as I know that with these strong women surrounding me, we can truly be the difference and manifest the change we wish to see in this world.
Thank you again to all the speakers who took the time to talk to us this past Sunday and a very special shout out to Ankita and the Women's Leadership Committee for the best Women's Leadership Conference I have ever attended!

Ally Sarkis
Distinguished Belle
Third Year Bruin Belle

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