Looking for inspiration or a nice dose of girl power? Look no further than the third annual summit, kicking off Saturday, Feb. 16th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Huntsman Hall G06. OWN IT Penn is a women’s empowerment organization that aims to bridge the gap between female leaders of today and the students who admire them, as well as provide a forum for discussing the barriers women face in the workforce. Featuring 24 speakers from all walks of life, ranging from activism to fashion to healthcare to finance, attendees can expect a day full of inspiration and feminist discussion.
“Diversity is one of our core values,” explains Nadine Maglia (W '20) the co-president of OWN IT Penn. This year’s speaker roster reflects that mission.
Speakers come from as close as Philly, including Penn alum and GenHERation CEO Kaitlyn Grasso, to as far as LA: Amanda Southworth, teenage app builder and mental health advocate. Dawn Robertson, the keynote speaker, will share her 30 years of experience in business leadership from being the president of Old Navy to starting Macys.com and Bloomingdales.com. This year’s speakers in politics include Val Arkoosh, the highest elected female official in Pennsylvania government, and Rachel Dean Wilson, former communications director for John McCain. There is also Dawn Goldworm, an internationally renowned scent expert and the nose behind fragrances for Lady Gaga, Adidas, Mercedes Benz, and many more. The arts are also highlighted with Monika Estrella Negra, a filmmaker who produces horror films and runs Audre’s Revenge, an arts collective for queer people of color.
“Success has a broad and inclusive definition at OWN IT,” explains Nadine, noting that although the speakers come from diverse professional fields, each is “successful because she lives an authentic and purposeful life.” Growing up in Zurich, Switzerland, Nadine says her family was formative in shaping her understanding of female empowerment. “I’m very lucky my parents encouraged me to explore all my interests and reach for the stars. They always treated me as an equal to my older brother. However, I noticed early on that the world was not as receptive to my big ideas as to his.”
After her first internship in finance, the gender gap was even more apparent to Nadine, “I noticed right away that there were very few if any women in the upper ranks.” Disappointed by the lack of female representation in power positions, Nadine resolved to advocate for equality, joining OWN IT Penn her sophomore year. “Even if I believe I have the dedication, willpower, and skills to work myself up the ladder, it’s hard seeing no one like me at the top.”
An aspiring entrepreneur herself, Nadine finds the conference refreshing, especially “coming from Wharton where sometimes it seems finance is the only option.”
Now in its third year, OWN IT Penn is shifting its focus from solely women’s leadership to a more inclusive discussion of female empowerment.
“We wanted to create space to discuss barriers women face and how both men and women work to decrease these barriers,” explains Aiden Brossfield (C ’20), co–president of OWN IT Penn. She stresses that although the speakers are all female, the goal of OWN IT Penn is to advance gender equality and create a space for discussion among attendees of all gender identities.
For Aiden, the topic hits close to home. “Gender equality is important on both sides. I grew up with a stay–at–home dad and a mother working 60–hour weeks as a doctor,” she explains, noting the double standards both parents faced in non–traditional roles. Aiden says her mother’s success is her strongest motivator to pursue medicine after college. "Since I was young I saw my mom both as a working mother and a successful doctor and wanted to emulate that," she says. At the conference Aiden’s mother, Jeralyn Brossfield, will share her experiences breaking down gender barriers in healthcare, from being told not to apply for residency programs “unsuitable” for pregnant women to balancing life as a working mother.
“If cost is a barrier to anyone they can reach out to us and we can help,” stresses Aiden. “We’re trying to be as accessible as possible.”