In the spirit of feminist activist Susan B. Anthony’s call to organize, agitate and educate, more than 100 invited speakers and 500 attendees convened for the fourth annual OWN IT summit Saturday in a daylong series of discussions on women’s rights and female empowerment.
The summit included panels, breakout sessions, performances and presentations, with three of the four main panels tasked with tackling these verbs as they relate to women. The fourth panel, Hoya Visionaries, featured female Georgetown faculty and alumnae.
University President John J. DeGioia kickstarted the summit, following a slam poem by Summer Durant (COL ’18) and a singing performance by former Georgetown University Student Association President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17). DeGioia said the summit embodied Georgetown’s commitment to inclusivity.
“Your presence and participation is a testament to the strength of our university’s commitment to fostering a sense of inclusiveness,” DeGioia said.
Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla., MSFS’ 04) received the 2017 OWN IT Trailblazer Award, which seeks to recognize an outstanding female leader. In her acceptance speech, Murphy said young girls should not be discouraged by those who doubt their abilities.
“I remember that any time I am discounted for my gender, my immigration status, my race or any other factor that’s out of my control, that I do what I’ve always done, and that’s to kill them with confidence,” Murphy said.
Murphy urged attendees to find their voice and forge their own unique path to success.
“I encourage you all to find your own voice, and to use it, and to blaze your own trail through the wild country that we find in our nation right now because this is not the time for silence. It’s the time for action,” Murphy said. “Together, we will blaze a trail, far and wide, so that every girl and every woman is empowered to choose her own future and seize her own destiny.”
OWN IT 2017 Executive Director Soraya Eid (MSB ’17) said in her opening address the summit is a call for further action to promote women’s rights.
“We must continue to listen and learn from those different than us,” Eid said. “Let’s do that here today, in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Wherever you lie on the gender spectrum, your contribution to advancing women’s rights is incredibly valuable.”
Twenty undergraduate women led the organization of the summit with the support of 70 male and female student volunteers. This year’s summit marked a roughly 38 percent decrease in attendance from last year’s 800 attendees.
Helen Brosnan (SFS ’16) and Kendall Ciesemier (COL ’15) started OWN IT at Georgetown in 2014, which has since expanded to 11 universities since its inaugural summit.
This year’s summit featured a number of changes from last year, including having four equally-sized panels and updated topics of discussion to reflect the current state of feminism.
According to Eid, the OWN IT board aimed to make the summit more relevant to the current state of feminism.
Eid said the structure of this year’s panels reflect the shift in dynamics within the women’s movement.
“You don’t really see any one woman leading the charge in any one cause or any one industry or one endeavor, very much you see communities of women coming together to support each other and lift each other up,” Eid said. “That’s why we went with four panels of equal sizes and equal lengths because we wanted to give everyone the same amount of time to share their incredibly valuable thoughts and experiences.”
According to Eid, Murphy was chosen for the award because of her status as a role model for Georgetown students.
“It was a remarkable, big achievement for us on the main stage,” Eid said. “But I think it’s beautiful because she’s a Hoya, so we can identify with her, and her life story is so moving and so beautiful.”
The two morning and afternoon panels were separated by breakout sessions, and within the breakout sessions attendees could choose from panels, workshops and office hours. Attendees had access to 90 breakout session speakers who spoke on topics ranging from “Storytelling in the Media” and “Arts & Activism” to “Deconstructing Masculinity” and “Inter-Religious Dialogue: Feminism & Faith.”
The office hours, capped at 10 participants each, were hosted by a diversity of speakers from the first female U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith to Muslim Girl Founder and Editor-in-Chief Amani Al-Khatabeh.
For Eid, the speakers at this year’s summit represented a variety of perspectives but all conveyed a distinct message of female empowerment.
“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that a lot of women were super impressed by the diversity of the women on stage,” Eid said. “Every woman brought such a unique perspective and such fascinating stories and such passion.”
Correction: This article previously stated Soraya Eid (MSB ’17) is in the College; she is in the MSB. The article also previously stated the summit did not feature a keynote address; the summit featured a keynote address by Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla., MSFS’ 04).
This post has been updated.
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