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At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I introduced myself to what would become a long-term “love affair.” I started competing in DECA, an international business and case competition that requires contestants to address and develop strategies for local and global business problems. My team consisted of two men and two women, and thus I quickly learned that my voice and creativity were undermined by my assertive-male counterparts. Soon enough, through numerous trial and error, I learned to navigate around the “male way of thinking.” This allowed my ideas to indirectly develop the vision for the project that would later take us to nationals. Competitions were challenging; they required intricate and intense preparation that would somehow allow for the “unexpected” to occur. Strategizing for businesses meant knowing the “ins and outs” of a foreign industry, and oftentimes, prioritizing logic and long-term sustainability over creativity. By my senior year, after over 8 annual national and state competitions, I could confidently attest to the value of participating in opportunities that test your creative intellect and innovative thinking — for not nearly enough are those elements tested in academic settings, especially for women. Multiple choice questions and fill in the blanks do not allow space for us to be at the forefront of creative decision-making. Simultaneously, group projects dominated by men do not allow for women to assume the position of a leader. Nevertheless, participating in opportunities that imitate real-life circumstances are imperative to developing our confidence, in professional settings and beyond, to be able to tackle problems through “the female way of thinking”. 

Julia is a freshman at the University of Michigan, currently pursuing business and law. Her passions include fitness, style, mental health awareness.
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