From July 15-17, 2019 over 400 passionate female advocates from around the world gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to be empowered, educated, and motivated as young change makers. The Girl Up Annual Leadership Summit is an enriching, cross-cultural experience that allows participants to uncover critical skills and be motivated to serve their communities as defenders of gender equality. Girl Up was founded by the United Nations Foundation in 2010, and works across a global community of partners to achieve gender equality worldwide. Over the course of three days, the attendees heard from powerful speakers, participated in skills-based workshops, and joined a day of action on Capitol Hill.
The Summit commenced with welcome remarks from Anna Blue, Co-Executive Director of Girl Up. Blue introduced “The F Word: Feminism” panel speakers who discussed the importance of intersectional feminism, a movement recognizing that barriers to gender equality vary according to other aspects of a woman’s identity, including age, race, ethnicity, class, and religion. One of the panel speakers Dr. Knatokie M. Ford, founder and CEO of Fly Sci Enterprise, recounted her experience in graduate school. “I want to be judged by the quality of work I am doing and not by my appearance,” Ford voiced. The panel’s overall message was the importance of young women shining their light and staying true to who they are.
Julie Carrier, CEO of Girls Lead Worldwide, brought guests to their feet with her presentation “The Action Plan.” Carrier specializes in neuroscience-based leadership education, which she uses as a framework to support some of the world’s leading girl-serving organizations and girls’ schools through innovative leadership keynotes, seminars, curricula and more.
Carrier recounted the best advice she ever received was to “remember your ABC’s- meaning Always Be Confident. If you don’t feel confident, act confident, and no one will know the difference.” Carrier reminded Girl Up participants that in order to feel more confident, constructive and self-assured actions need to be incorporated into daily actions.
Next to take the stage was Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer of WWE, who announced the launch of the Sports for a Purpose Program. A multi-year partnership between Girl Up and WWE, the program was created to develop a culture of sports participation for girls around the world while also equipping Girl Up’s leaders with tools to tackle the gender-based barriers that girls may face when playing sports. McMahon introduced Charlotte Flair, WWE Superstar, and Chris Mosier, Team USA Athlete and Founder of Transathlete.com for the “On Top of Your Game” panel. The inspiring speakers discussed their experience in sports and the future for women in sports. “It’s important to allow people to be themselves,” Mosier declared when commenting on his experience in the sports world. “We need to fully express all of who we are in order to achieve our greatness.”
Day Two of the event began with a keynote from Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Congresswoman for Massachusetts. Pressley gave an inspirational speech about her childhood and life experiences that ultimately led her into politics.
She also touched on the criticism she had received at the beginning of her political career; people disapproved of her and told her she would only get the “women vote or the black vote.” “You have got to keep telling yourself to get up and keep moving,” she said, offering advice to the young activists.
“Know your worth. See your beauty. Stand in your power. Never, ever apologize for being you.”
A panel of powerful ladies including Charlotte Hayes, Consultant at Deloitte; Emily Scarlett, Communications and Sustainability Manager at H&M; and Radha Muthiah, CEO of Capital Area Food Bank, took the stage to discuss lifting up and supporting other women in the workforce.
Hayes stressed the importance of building a strong circle of women when creating a life in the business world. Scarlett expressed a vast part of H&M work is “communication and networking.” She reminded the audience that any relationship could develop over the years, and connections with others always have the possibility of growing and flourishing into something greater.
Over the course of the conference, attendees participated in skills-based workshops on topics ranging from “The Global State of Gender Equality” and “Empowerment Through Self-Defense” to “Unspoken: Self-Advocacy and Developing Your Individual Voice.” These sessions allowed the participants to learn important life skills, develop their individual confidence, and collaborate with other future leaders.
On the final day of the Summit, participants visited Capitol Hill where they discussed federal policies and brainstormed ideas on programs that support education for adolescent girls and the reduction of barriers that keep girls out of school. Young girls receiving and keeping status at secondary schools was the most emphasized topic. The young female advocates who attended the Summit were able to leave with a newfound sense of confidence and knowledge that they can make a difference in the world. The Girl Up community is committed to ensuring equal rights for every girl, because when girls rise, we all rise.
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