I am an empowered woman. I like to surround myself with empowered women. Consequently, last weekend was serious business, and a serious party.
On Saturday, November 7, 2015 (a date for the record books), Wash U. hosted its first annual OWN IT conference, “OWN IT WashU: Summit for Women’s Empowerment.” Let me paint a picture for you: Last Saturday morning, well over 200 students, professors, community members, and visitors congregated in Bauer Hall for a high-energy, high-intensity, jam-packed day of speeches, panels, discussion sessions, forums, mentorship “office hours,” and a powerfully charged atmosphere of optimism, pride, momentum, and efficacy. Leading each of these conference components were scores of powerhouse women with impressive resumes and inspiring experiences. What was most striking about these women—even more than their resumes or experiences—were the words of wisdom and emboldening spirit they offered and instilled in conference attendees. Anyone who so much as stepped foot in the building that day experienced a palpable sense of invigoration and exhilaration—urgency, even. The buzz in the air, though cheerful, left an unmistakable impression: serious, momentous work was occurring here today.
Let me back up and give you a brief history lesson. “OWN IT” was dreamed up by two undergraduate women at Georgetown University. Last year, these women saw their vision through, holding the very first OWN IT summit in April 2014. Wash U. belongs to a cohort of universities working to propel the OWN IT movement nationwide. With an executive team consisting of 20 incredible undergraduate women, Wash U., too, made the OWN IT summit a reality.
During my time at the conference I sat in on a sports panel, with several women who discussed
their experiences as executives for NFL teams. I participated in a workshop on the power of positivity led by Wash U’s very own Dean Jill Stratton. I demoed the latest in virtual reality technology, guided by the developer herself. I met (and was tweeted about by) Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman. I attended a forum during which we actively discussed the meanings and implications of modern feminism. I could keep going. Suffice it to say, the conference lived up to its description: I was empowered.
I am grateful to have played witness to and to have been a part of this important day. The 2015 OWN IT WashU: Summit for Women’s Empowerment was the first of what is sure to be a long line of powerful summits whose impacts will be felt for many years to come.