The seventh annual OWN IT Summit doubled its turnout since last year and highlighted the challenges facing women in positions of power.
The summit, which aims to combat the stigma around women in the workforce through programming that emphasizes intersectional feminist values, brought 440 registered attendees, 28 board members and 65 volunteers together Feb. 29 to engage in conversations with women in leadership, according to Executive Director of OWN IT 2020 Emma Turner (COL ’21).
OWN IT featured three mainstage panels in Gaston Hall, a networking hour and breakout sessions on topics including women in health care and women in arts and entertainment. This year’s event brought high-ranking female leaders to campus, including Samantha Power, former ambassador to the United Nations, Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to former President Barack Obama for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, and Laura Jarrett, early-morning anchor at CNN.
In a mainstage conversation, Power discussed her memoir “The Education of an Idealist” and the obstacles of being a woman in her profession. Power encouraged students to combat unconscious gender biases at the summit. Women in positions of power have to balance work and personal life but are often looked down upon for discussing everyday activities, according to Power.
“Even women, when they reach a certain point, they make it from the outside look easy,” Power said. “These women were plagued by self-doubt, or that as they were saying to the Russian ambassador, ‘Have you no shame!’ and excoriating him for the shelling in Aleppo and for the interference in the U.S. election, part of that person’s brain, my brain is thinking, ‘Oh shit, I forgot to pack the snack!’”
The first panel of the event, “Changing Workplace Culture,” emphasized the need to make the workplace a safer environment for women to participate in.
Companies should invest in making the workplace a safe space for women and dedicate the necessary resources to provide women with the services they need, according to panelist Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality and senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. Companies must see sexual assault prevention as an important societal responsibility rather than a temporary concern.
“There are some that are approaching this as a PR issue, as a crisis management issue, which from my perspective is the wrong approach because it is very short term and it’s not going to lead to the deeper sort of cultural change that they need to prevent this from happening in the first place,” Raghu said.
The OWN IT 2020 Summit stands out from past summits because this year’s team was able to recruit powerful, high-profile women to participate, according to Turner.
“Our mainstage speakers were big names for OWN IT, and I think that set the tone for the rest of the day,” Turner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Starting the day listening to speakers like Amb. Power and Valerie Jarrett left attendees energized and ready to participate in more intimate breakout sessions.”
The mission of OWN IT is to provide a forum for college-aged women to interact with and learn from women in leadership without worrying about the financial burdens of unpaid internships and networking, according to its website. After the successes of this year’s event, organizers are looking ahead to adapt to the changing needs of Georgetown University students, according to Turner.
“The conversations that happen at OWN IT are unique and will shift depending on what students need at the time,” Turner wrote. “We want OWN IT’s team and summit to represent all of Georgetown’s campus, and I hope that OWN IT will shift its focus more towards networking and connecting students with the women that come to speak. Additionally, I hope that OWN IT will create more partnerships with on-campus groups and similar organizations like the Women’s Forum.”