At nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, many students are still fast asleep in their beds, catching up on the sleep they lost over the past week. This past Saturday, April 9, however, powerful men and women from both in and beyond the Boston College community came together in Robsham Theater for a day of women’s empowerment and celebration.
The long-awaited Own It Summit, put on by the Women’s Center and the Office of Student Involvement, kicked off with a bang bright and early on Saturday morning. As the aim of the summit is empowering women to pursue roles of leadership, be unapologetically authentic, and own their successes and differences, there was certainly a contagious energy filling the room. Volunteers and coordinators rushed around to assure everything was ready to go before the attendees flooded in, and the entirety of Robsham was filled with a buzz of near-tangible vibrancy as all those present eagerly awaited the day to come.
Opening with a powerful and energetic performance by FISTS, Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step, the stage for the day was aptly set and the crowd was fired up and ready to engage in a day of empowerment and discussion.
“This summit will challenge and motivate you,” said summit Co-Chair Samina Gan, MCAS ’17, in an opening statement to the Own It audience. In creating a day filled with assorted panels, speakers, and breakout discussions, the ladies of the Own It board brought immeasurable promise to the table and quite certainly delivered. “I have been consistently inspired by these women,” said Gan, thanking all the event's many contributors.
Her fellow Co-Chair, Alexis Teixeira, CSOM ’17, followed with some profound words of her own. “Your participation validates the need and importance for an event like this,” she said to the crowd of eager students, alumnae, faculty, and community members before her. “Today is a day to empower, inspire, and motivate one another. Take this day to find your spark, no matter how big or small.”
The day kicked off with a speech from Keynote speaker Sophia Amoruso, founder of NastyGal, a popular women’s vintage clothing company. Her straight-up authenticity and started-from-the-bottom success story were touching in a very personal and relatable way. “We all do a lot of non-interesting things every day,” she said, “so go into everything as a bit of an experiment.”
And experimental living was certainly an underlying theme throughout Amoruso’s speech; as a completely self-made entrepreneur and creative visionary, her path to success required more than a little bit of risk-taking. “It’s really important to think of every day as one success after the next,” she added. “If you’re being your best self every day, you’re successful.”
Amoruso’s sincere humility was no match for her running list of accomplishments, which were unveiled one by one through the Q&A session following her speech. Audience members learned about her best-selling book, #GIRLBOSS (which just so happens to be an upcoming Netflix show), her podcast featuring the stories of other inspiring women, and even her foundation that has given over $90,000 in grants to women starting businesses of their own.
“When I wrote a book called #GIRLBOSS, I didn’t think it would be anything more than just a book,” said Amoruso, who now admittedly has “a lot to live up to” as the face of #GIRLBOSS worldwide. With the whole world watching, she emphasized the importance of gaining and maintaining self-confidence.
“I’m always competing with myself and trying to do all I can with what I have while I can,” she laughed. Though her words were laced with humor, they brought a needed perspective of realness to the day’s discussions. “Just don’t accept less than what you think you deserve in the world,” Amoruso said.
Moving out of Robsham and on to the other events of the day, Own It attendees gathered for the Advocacy and Innovation Panels, as well as a Main Stage Conversation with Andrea Lisher, an executive at JP Morgan and a BC alum, and Mia Hall (whose resume includes positions at ESPN, the WNBA and the Knicks basketball team) and even an exclusive breakout session with Amoruso herself.
Following lunch in Conte Forum, filled with opportunities to network and featuring a fantastic performance by Juice, Summit attendees filed out to more of the day’s events, including a discussion titled: “Intersectional Feminism: What It Is, Why We Need It, and How We Can Incorporate It in Leadership.”
Led by the Women Center’s own Rachel DiBella, the discussion focused on the mainstream brand of ‘white feminism,’ and how its presence sparks a need for a greater discussion of what feminism is and whom it’s for.
“Feminism is how we relate with each other and how we relate to the world,” said DiBella, opening a greater conversation on intersectionality and how to understand it. She defined intersectional feminism as one that “calls out tensions within feminisms, acknowledges multiple identities, moves beyond race and gender, and celebrates feminists that history has overshadowed.”
In recognizing that feminism isn’t just about the equal rights for women, but also the equal rights among women, we have a responsibility to check our assumptions and our privilege to make sure that the feminism we’re claiming is inclusive to all women. As women in roles of leadership, there’s an even higher responsibility to prioritize these conversations of inclusivity and intersectionality.
The day wrapped up with a final round of panels and discussions, including the Imagination and Strength Panels and a Main Stage Conversation featuring Susan Bissell, UNICEF’s Director of Global Partnership, and Sandra M. Moore, President of Urban Strategies, whose powerful stories and heartening interchanges inspired all in attendance.
“I know what makes me happy, and I think that’s what’s at the root of this whole passion deal,” said Moore when asked about how she finds passion in her career. “You find it from the inside out. You have to make time to renew yourself, to stop and stay attuned to who you are.”
As these two amazing, influential women bounced words and ideas off of one another, the conversation became increasingly more vibrant and motivating. “We’re having a really good vibe here,” laughed Moore, the crowd watching on in awe and admiration as the two influenced one another with reflections from their respective experiences.
When asked to give a 30-second advice pitch to the young women in the audience, the women emphasized the importance of putting yourself first. “We want young people to be engaged and get involved,” said Bissell. “Of course, enjoy life, too, and have some fun along the way.”
Above all, however, the importance of the powerful bonds of womanhood resonated from every aspect of the conversation. “Women have been my strongest allies, my strongest leaders,” said Moore, reflecting on her own stories and experiences with the women in her life. “I just really love the way we look out for each other.”
Bringing the Summit in to a close, the Own It team gathered for one last farewell in Robsham to cap off an amazing day of motivation and empowerment.
“I thought that the whole day was really organized and well-structured,” said Summit attendee Maddy Karsten, MCAS ’19. “I really feel like it bridged the gap between being an undergraduate and being in the professional world.”
And Karsten certainly is not alone—all attendees walked away with a newfound sense of confidence in their womanhood, a deeper understanding of feminism and women’s empowerment, or a fresh perspective on what it means to be a woman in a leadership position. Each experience was unique, and all of them are certain to spark a greater conversation on campus going on from this day, with a reinvigorated inspiration to truly own our successes and our differences.
“It’s so inspiring to see these amazing women giving back to us,” says summit attendee Katie Gold, CSOM ’19. “It definitely gives me a lot of confidence for the future.”