Penn's third annual OWN IT summit shifted focus this year from women's leadership to women's empowerment and inclusion of all genders. This year, Penn's chapter also modified its group's mission statement, broadening it to cover all genders rather than solely women. The event took place Saturday and featured 25 women leaders from different industries and backgrounds who discussed navigating the male-dominated world.
"We seek to showcase voices of all races, genders, sexual identities, ethnicities, abilities, ages, political orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds," OWN IT Penn's mission statement reads.
The co-presidents of Penn's chapter of OWN IT, a national organization focused on women's leadership, said they wanted to focus on equality.
“We’ve kind of rebranded from a women’s leadership conference to a women’s empowerment conference to try to focus more on gender equality,” OWN IT Penn co-President and College junior Aiden Brossfield said.
Brossfield added that OWN IT Penn tried to invite male speakers "who had done work to increase gender equality” to the summit, but none were able to attend.
The keynote discussion was led by Dawn Robertson, a businesswoman who has a long history of leading retail and wholesale corporations. Robertson is the current CEO of On Campus Marketing and was previously president of Old Navy and CEO of Stein Mart.
Robertson discussed her journey to high-level leadership positions and her struggle to balance her career with family life. Audience members also had the chance to ask Robertson questions, ranging from how to deal with burnout to the importance of networking.
Following the keynote, OWN IT Penn hosted a panel on “The Power of Leadership: Women in Business." Panelists brought up their diverse and often unconventional paths to success in various fields, ranging from law to telecommunications.
“When you have your next job opportunity, or when you’re kind of done with where you’re at, don’t limit yourself to the first thing that comes along the way," said panelist Jill Lampert, CFO of Natural Gas Partners Midstream. "Really test yourself and make sure that the fork in the road is the fork you want to go down."
Smaller breakout sessions explored women's leadership in specific industries including fashion, politics, healthcare, and the media. Attendees said these allowed more intimate engagement with speakers and topics.
“We’re actually having the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with these women,” Wharton sophomore Hana Charnley said. “They all have had amazing careers and are doing amazing things.”
The event concluded with a panel focused on activism. Speakers, including leaders of advocacy groups such as Women and Hollywood, Women Against Abuse, and Conservation International, encouraged listeners to find their own passions and change the world as they see fit.
“Everyone has been personally touched or passionate about the issue they support, and that’s different for everyone,” 2015 Wharton graduate and genHERation founder Katlyn Grasso said. “It will sort of hit you in the face.”
"I think that there are multiple causes that are a great fit for me," panelist Neha Butala, a researcher at Center for High Impact Philanthropy, added. "So I continue to strive and reach and have as much impact as I possibly can.”
Students at the event said they enjoyed hearing from speakers in many different industries.
“It was nice to see all of the different opinions from the diverse panels," College senior Keneally Phelan said. "They really tried to get strong female leaders from all of the different spheres we have in society.”
“[The speakers are] also really eager to help all of us and give us opportunities that maybe they didn’t have,” Wharton sophomore Reese Vogel added.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.