Leading Women of Tomorrow (often referred to as LWT) is a chapter of the LWT national organization at the University of Tennessee which seeks to encourage more young women to work in public service, aiming to “bridge the gender gap among public representatives,” according to the organization’s website.
According to Savannah Hall, president of LWT UTK and public administration major, this chapter was created in September of 2019, by founder Kaylee Sheppard. Hall served as the vice president during the first year of LWT’s presence at UTK.
Along with current vice president and economics major, Ella Russell, Hall found interest in this organization because the idea of empowering all women resonated with both of them.
“We want to provide a space for women where they can come together and network with other women who either share similar career goals or are entering male-dominated fields,” the pair stated.
In general, the organization holds regular club meetings and normally would hold a variety of events on campus. Club meetings may include discussing the topic of leadership, what kind of leaders the members would like to become and any goals they have as women.
Other events have included co-hosting a watch party for “Knock Down the House,” a 2019 Netflix documentary and co-hosting prominent women in the political community such as Symone Sanders, current senior advisor to Joe Biden, and Renee Hoyos, democratic nominee for the US House of Representatives of Tennessee’s 2nd district.
The aforementioned events were able to take place in person last year; however, with COVID-19’s current stay, LWT UTK has transitioned to a virtual format. According to Hall, the transition was fairly easy, and all events will indefinitely take place virtually.
Going virtual has not stopped this group and has seemed to provide greater flexibility for some of the events it hosts.
This year, Leading Women of Tomorrow UTK has announced their new Yellow Rose Series, a virtual program which honors 100 years of women’s suffrage. According to Hall and Sheppard, the series will focus on “the broad topic of women in leadership and the political sphere.”
It will be spearheaded by their hosting of Knoxville Mayor, Indya Kincannon, sometime in September.
Additionally, Hall and Russell have stated LWT UTK plans to work with other student organizations at the University to encourage voter participation, with this disclaimer: “LWT in no way endorses candidates. We are a bipartisan organization that values every member, regardless of political party association/views.”
Because social distancing has been encouraged by local governments, LWT UTK has been working in a virtual space and now relies heavily on social media and word-of-mouth for recruiting members and increasing overall awareness of the organization.
The organization currently has 29 members, which includes the executive team members. They are hoping to add a minimum of 60 members this year. A virtual interest meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 7 PM via Zoom.
Hall and Russell stated, “We all, as a part of the Volunteer family, have the responsibility to support women and empower them to follow their dreams regardless of what societal pressures are being placed on them.”
More information for the meeting and about the organization may be found on Facebook and Instagram, using the handle @lwtutk.