Judith Brown Clarke is Stony Brook University’s chief diversity officer. Stony Brook’s chapter of Leading Women of Tomorrow held a discussion with her on Nov. 11 about women in politics and powerful positions. RABIA GURSOY/STATESMAN FILE

Following the historic election of Vice President Kamala Harris, Stony Brook’s chapter of Leading Women of Tomorrow met with Dr. Judith Brown Clarke to discuss the growth of women in politics with powerful positions.

Clarke is the vice president for Equity and Inclusion and the chief diversity officer at Stony Brook University. In years past, Clarke has served the role of councilwoman on the Lansing Michigan City Council. She is also an Olympic athlete and a three-time Pan American Games champion. 

In a general body meeting with Leading Women of Tomorrow on Nov. 11, Clarke made a presentation entitled “Goal Setting with Savviness: You Either Win or You Learn!” She encouraged young women to make lofty goals and shared advice on how they could attain them with self-awareness, emotional flexibility, mental agility, and other useful tips meant to guarantee success. 

Clarke emphasized the idea that “a goal without a plan is just a wish,” and acknowledged the pressure that women and other minorities may feel in a field like politics, where white men make up the majority. She then encouraged women to aspire to take on a leadership role in a setting where they might rarely see someone that represents them. 

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“Many times you may have a high goal,” she said. “But if you don’t see anyone that looks like you there, then it does seem like more of a plan or a dream.”

For many young women and people of color, a shared dream became reality when California Sen. Kamala Harris was named the 2020 vice president-elect. Until recently, the White House was an example of a workplace where women and people of color were not represented. Harris’s election marks the first time in the history of the United States that a woman and person of color will hold the position of vice president. 

In her victory speech on Nov. 5, Harris addressed the nation with a special message to young women who are finally able to see themselves in a position of power on such a large scale. 

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” Harris said.

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Clarke’s presentation supported this message, assuring the meeting attendees, “As a female, you’re going to be ‘the first’ a lot of the time.”

Acknowledging the lack of female representation in leadership positions, Clarke motivated her audience to work for goals that were not necessarily based on what they see in the workplace today. She noted that in the 21st century, “slowly but surely we’re seeing that scale tip where the number of women that are representing policy, voice, vote, and so on, is representing the same percentage [of women] within our society.” 

To finish the presentation, Clarke addressed a number of topics including mentorship, the pitfalls of oversharing, and the importance of recognizing failures as opportunities to learn through optimism conditioning.

“You know better, you do better, you are better,” Clarke said. “Optimism conditioning is your ability to take [failure] and internalize it in a way which is growth. It only makes you better.” 

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