By By Michelle Hodge .

October 14, 2019

Spotlight Series: Michelle Hodge’s Leadership Journey

Tag: Leadership

Michelle Hodge is pursuing a degree in environmental science and policy with a minor in non-profit leadership and social innovation at the University of Maryland.

She was a mentee in the inaugural UMD G4G mentorship circle in 2019 and is now founding the student group, Women in Economics. She envisions herself furthering environmental initiatives with a focus on the intersection of identity with environmental policy. When applying for and voting on new leadership, as a nation and as individuals, I’ve noticed these questions sit in the back of our minds: “who looks like they have the qualities and potential of a leader?” “are they likeable enough?” In my experience, often, when women and minorities are applying for roles, these thoughts tend to echo more. This was especially true when I was in the process of applying to become the president of the UMD’s chapter of AIESEC, an international non-profit for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. Leading up to the speech before elections, I had worked in a leadership capacity for the organization for a year, coordinating to send students abroad on volunteer trips. I was confident that this role made me the most qualified candidate. Yet, as I read my speech and glanced at the faces of fellow members, I knew I would lose. I thought to myself: ‘I didn’t have the stereotypical qualities of a leader because I’m not loud; I’m not overly opinionated’. These were the thoughts I trapped myself in. I assumed that the women leaders I looked up to never had these doubts. I thought women leaders were immune to self-doubt and born with true confidence. After losing, I stayed on in the same leadership role executing meaningful work in the non-profit. At the same time, I was undervalued in the organization and left after completing my second year. My departure was disheartening because I was very confident that after graduating from college, I would land in the non-profit sector and continue to pursue that career for decades. I didn’t occur to me, at the time, that I would find other careers just as fulfilling. After leaving AIESEC, I joined the University of Maryland’s Project Girls for Girls and gained confidence in my leadership skills again. I learned the necessity of believing in your own abilities, and how that can be a starting point for so many different career paths, not just the non-profit sector. G4G gave me insight that there is no one path towards the same end goal. The women that came to guest mentor us were strong, successful, and driven. They had crossed industries, state lines, and sectors, and navigated point-to-point as they saw fit. G4G taught me our focus should be on how one is valued when doing work, not necessarily which sector the work is in. There is positive impact being made in all sectors. I learned that successful, more established, women navigate the same issues and world as young women. They often have had the same doubt, “am I likeable enough?” “do I have the qualities of a leader?”. Society holds women up to the standard of being perfect. But, the reality is that we have to rely on our strengths, and that doesn’t equate to perfection. Aiming for perfection can make competition harsh. We need not see the spaces women take up as a reason for competition but a reason to call more women in. After I left AIESEC, I encouraged women to apply to be the president of the chapter. Seeing the challenge of diversity and rising up to meet others there is a challenge in comradery and not competition. I used to put women on a pedestal who have achieved so much, and yet the women around me as competition for one spot. We cannot afford this kind of thinking. We need to lean on women and girls for support and guidance in male-dominated fields such as economics, engineering, and computer science. We need mentors and mentees to guide and propel us forward. We cannot sit in feelings of envy towards our successful female peers. We need to learn from them, befriend them, and cheer for them. Thank you to Professor Bory for introducing me to Project Girls for Girls, and Sarah Ahmed for making sure I attended. A huge thank you to Shira Miller and Morgan Johnson, for their dedicated work launching G4G at the University of Maryland. I’m continuing the work that they started by founding Women in Economics, which will build a community of women who are already interested in economics and connect them to professionals in the male-dominated field. As I experienced the benefits of Girls for Girls, I want to be a leader in that type of space, where women tend to be outnumbered but not outspoken. By embracing Girls for Girls, I was able to see a future for myself beyond the non-profit sector, one lost leadership role, and past self-doubt. My goal for this organization is that these women will look around the room at the blank faces of decision-makers, believing in their real potential for the leadership position or job in a male-dominated space. For more information about Women in Economics, go to, or fill out our interest form

By Michelle Hodge


By Michelle Hodge


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