With over 100 speakers and 800 attendees, the third annual OWN IT Summit hailed women’s leadership through a day of lectures, interviews and breakout sessions in Gaston Hall on Saturday.
OWN IT was founded in 2014 by Helen Brosnan (SFS ’16) and Kendall Ciesemier (COL ’15), and has expanded to seven campuses since its inaugural summit. This year’s summit, sponsored by Bloomberg LP, was organized by a team of 29 undergraduate Georgetown women.
University President John J. DeGioia, in his introduction of the event, praised OWN IT as a forum for discussion and learning from women of all backgrounds.
“OWN IT is meeting a need and providing a setting for our community to come together alongside leaders who are meeting the challenges of our world with courage and determination,” DeGioia said. “It’s a testament to the strength of the university’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus culture in which women are able to learn, grow and thrive.”
This year’s summit co-chairs, Allyn Rosenberger (NHS ’17) and Soraya Eid (MSB ’17), said in their welcome that OWN IT provides a space for young women to talk about the issues they face. The co-chairs also issued a challenge to summit attendees.
“As you engage with the speakers and each other today, I challenge you to listen to each other’s stories,” Eid said. “Learn from them and walk away with a renewed understanding of how you own it.”
Co-Anchor of “CBS This Morning” Norah O’Donnell (COL ’95, GRD ’03), a member of the OWN IT Advisory Board, interviewed Olympian and World Cup soccer champion Abby Wambach for the keynote presentation.
Wambach, who has scored more international goals than any man or woman in the history of soccer, was charged with driving under the influence in Portland, Ore., a week prior to the summit. Wambach said it is important to own her mistake.
“Life is tricky and it’s not easy. No matter what you do or where you get to, everyone has to put their pants on the same way each day. I made a mistake, but I’m owning it,” Wambach said. “As a human being, we make mistakes. It’s never about what you do in terms of that mistake, it’s about how you handle it and what you do in the moments afterwards.”
Since her retirement, Wambach has tried to focus on broader women’s issues for which she did not advocate while playing as a USWNT soccer player. Wambach said she hopes other women can use their positions of authority to influence the world for good in ways she could not because of her focus on playing soccer.
“When I became a retired person, I started to get angry at myself a little bit. I didn’t push the envelope in certain ways, like the gender pay gap,” Wambach said. “That’s why I’m speaking to students, because it’s not me that’s actually going to change the world. What actually impacts and change the world is the next generation. It’s you guys.”
Five of Wambach’s former USWNT teammates recently filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S Soccer Federation. While the women’s team won 2 million dollars for winning the World Cup, the men’s team made 9 million dollars without advancing past the early rounds.
“This is a conversation that’s been evolving for so long. Now women who are coming out of college feel like they deserve to be treated equally,” Wambach said. “I think it’s amazing that these women are taking these steps.”
The breakout sessions, where attendees could choose from panels, workshops and office hours, followed the morning panels and keynote. Workshops included resume-building, public relations and communications, such as “Success Under Stress” and “Women in the Political Arena.”
Office hours for speakers constituted the smallest breakout offering and were capped at 10 people. These interactions were intended to foster personal discussion between attendees and speakers, who reflected a wide variety of industries, including fashion; diplomacy, and science, technology, engineering and math.
Deputy Administrator of NASA Dava Newman said in “The Future of Science and Technology” panel that young women interested in following her path into a STEM field should be comfortable with failure. According to Newman, learning how to fail correctly is an important part in learning to succeed later.
“When you’re designing and building, just try, try, try,” Newman said. “Just try a whole bunch of crazy concepts, the crazier the better, and then somehow be comfortable with failure. Because if we fail here, then next time we’re going to do it better.”
Pandora Chief Operating Officer Tracey Griffin said in the “Entrepreneurial Leaders in Fashion, Style, and Design” breakout session that having strong role models to mentor women entering a certain industry — which Griffin did not have — is an important part of allowing them to succeed.
Griffin cited passion for their professions and a drive to change as the most important traits women can have in any industry.
“The one thing that’s fun about fashion is there’s lots of women in the industry. If I reflect on my career in the early days of investment banking, I was the like the only woman in the high-yield group,” Griffin said. “And then I look at where I am now at Pandora, and our executive team is more than 50 percent women.”
Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, the co-founders of the “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast, which discusses pop culture and politics, hosted the final panel moderated by professor Marcia Chatelain, the host of “Office Hours: A Podcast.”
Friedman stressed the importance of women connecting with each other.
“The secret’s out: Women make great friends,” Friedman said. “When you think about someone, just get in touch with them in that moment.”
OWN IT volunteer Ida Adibi (COL ’19) said the most rewarding aspect for those involved in planning the summit was not the presentations themselves but rather being able to spread the summit’s message.
“As a volunteer, you don’t get to actually watch the show,” Adibi said. “But the best part of being a volunteer is watching it all come together, and seeing how your role really helps put everything into place.”
Aiden Johnson (COL ’19), who attended OWN IT, said he was impressed by the scale and reach of the summit.
“I didn’t really understand or appreciate the grand scale of how big this was or how powerful it was until I was sitting down watching all these people speak and watching Gaston fill up,” Johnson said. “It’s amazing that Georgetown has something like this, and I hope it keeps going in the future.”