On May 18th I received an email indicating that I had been nominated to attend the White House Summit on the United State of Women. I was in shock; I hadn’t even heard of such a summit, and had to read it three times before it clicked. The email also included a disclaimer advising that although I’d been nominated, those chosen would be notified the following week. I didn’t care about the disclaimer, I was just excited to be nominated!
And then this happened…On May 25th around 10:40am an email popped up that read, “You're Invited: The White House Summit on the United State of Women - June 14th!” I screamed! I couldn’t believe it and read the email like fifty times this go around before it clicked.
On Tuesday, June 14th I had the pleasure of attending the White House Summit on the United State of Women. The summit convened 5,000 female change-makers from across the country. 5,000 boss women who are making a difference. 5,000 mothers, wives, sisters, friends, all of whom have decided to do something, to stand up for the forgotten, to make their voices heard, and to be a change agent! Needless to say I was inspired.
The day was broken up into three sessions, together covering six issue areas (pillars): Economic Empowerment, Health & Wellness, Educational Opportunity, Violence Against Women, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and Leadership & Civic Engagement. In between the sessions, we attended the two Solution Seminars we chose when notified of our invitation to attend the summit. I chose the Cross-Cutting Solution Seminar - “From Surviving to Thriving: Tools to Empowering All Girls,” because I have a mentoring program for 7th and 8th grade girls and the Entrepreneurship Solution Seminar - “How to One up the Start Up: Successes in Growing Women-Owned Businesses,” because I wanted to learn more about enhancing my business.
The Solutions Seminars were led powerful women including-
Sana Amanat, Director of Content & Character Development, Marvel Entertainment
Beverly Bond, CEO, Black Girls Rock!
Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board, Kiva
Lisa Price, Founder, Carol’s Daughter
Shonda Rhimes, Content Creator, ShondaLand
Gloria Steinem, Feminist Activist
Debbie Sterling, Founder & CEO, GoldieBlox
Melanie Whelan, CEO, SoulCycle
and many more.
Violence Against Women
Meghan Yap, White House Champion of Change for the It’s On Us Campaign to end sexual assaults, who introduced Vice President Joe Biden, shared her story of being raped on campus and the post-traumatic stress disorder that followed. She reminded us of our super powers and urged us to join the fight against sexual assault and to support the survivors. Vice President Joe Biden, who has made it his mission to end violence against women, encouraged us to share our stories, hold our institutions accountable, and keep the effort alive by reminding young girls, college students, friends, etc. that it is not normal to be abused mentally or physically by a man and that it is not the woman’s fault.
Patricia Arquette, actress and activist for equal pay, reminded us that while we observed Equal Pay Day on April 12 of this year, which is the day that represents the number of days a typical woman had to work in to 2016 to earn what a typical man made in 2015, the work is far from being done. Equal Pay Day for Black Women, Native American Women, and Latina Women isn’t until August 23rd, September 13, and November 1, respectively because they make 64 cents, 59 cents, and 54 cents respectively for every dollar paid to a typical man. “That is economic suppression.”
Laurie Fabiano, President, Tory Burch Foundation, encouraged us to go after the boards, apply for the business loans, beat down the doors, never take no for an answer, and to never accept “good enough.”
To lead the conversation on investing in women, Warren Buffett graced the stage and was joined by graduates of his Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program. Mr. Buffet and the graduates encouraged us to network, collaborate, and mentor others. He left us with this: "Find your passion. Find the job you would hold even if you didn't need a job."
As if I weren’t already full…
President Obama was introduced by 11-year-old entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer, who founded Me And The Bees Lemonade. She reminded us to “Be fearless, believe in the impossible, and dream like a kid.” As President Obama walked out (with THAT walk) the crowd erupted in cheers. He opened by saying “I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like.” On a more serious note, he reminded us that there are a lot of women still stuck in the toughest of economic circumstances and that we have to change the way we see ourselves and the way we raise our daughters. A few of my favorite quotes from President Obama are below:
“We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure, that criticizes our girls for speaking out.”
“We need to keep changing the attitude that prioritizes being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace, unless you’re a woman.”
"Our country is not just all about the Benjamins—it’s about the Tubmans, too. We need all our young people to know that Clara Barton and Lucretia Mott and Sojourner Truth and Eleanor Roosevelt and Dorothy Height, those aren’t just for Women’s History Month. They’re the authors of our history, women who shaped their destiny."
To send me over…
We were all invited to a chat with First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, where they spoke candidly about walking in your purpose, self-value, haters, life after the White House, and getting paid.
Of course, Mother Oprah came out yelling “We are here for the United State of Women!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Oprah’s first question to our First Lady was regarding the pressure of other people’s expectations. She responded by saying that “our first job in life as women is to get to know ourselves but instead we spend time pleasing, satisfying, looking out into the world to define who we are…” She went on to say that we have to take the time to get to know ourselves in order to ignore the “smack talking” from outsiders.
The second question Oprah asked our First Lady was about her own expectations on life as FLOTUS. She shared that her focus was on her girls and recognized that if she was going to protect them, she first had to protect herself and her time. “I knew going into this role that I didn’t want to waste any time spent away from my kids…If you do not take control over your time and life, other people will gobble it up. If you don’t prioritize yourself, you constantly start falling lower on your list.”
Oprah asked FLOTUS a question about value to which she responded, “If you’re going out into the world as a professional and don’t know who you are or what you want and don’t know what you’re worth, then you have to count on the kindness and goodness of others when you should be working to get it on your own, because you know your value.”
FLOTUS on the haters - “People won’t remember what other people say about you but they will remember what you do, so my strategy is to prove them wrong. That shuts up the haters and I’m defined by what I did and not what you called me. You don’t have to say anything to haters or acknowledge them at all.”
“You have to surround yourself with people who uplift you.”
One of my favorite comments from Oprah - “The best success comes when you can shift your paradigm to service.”
As it relates to balance, FLOTUS shared the story of how she took her daughter Sasha to an interview because she didn’t have a sitter. She knew she wanted the job, knew she could do the job, and wasn’t going to sell herself short by not interviewing. She got the job as the VP of Community Outreach for the University of Chicago hospital.
FLOTUS on balance - Oprah asked FLOTUS “Is balance a false notion for women?” to which she responded,
We also heard from Marley Dias, Founder, #1000BlackGirlBooks, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Lilly Ledbetter, Equal Pay Champion, Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women, and Kerry Washington.
It was a powerful day, one that I will never forget and I am so grateful to my dear friend S. Amelia for the surprise nomination.