OWN IT summit promotes empowerment, gender inclusivity

Jessica Bigley | Contributing Reporter

The Washington University chapter of OWN IT, a women’s empowerment group that hosts an annual event featuring female leaders in various fields, hosted its third leadership summit Saturday in Bauer Hall.

The event included four panels, each showcasing four panelists who discussed their experiences as women in different spheres of the working world. In addition to the main presentations, the summit included office hours, wherein small groups of people were given the chance to have a discussion with a panelist.

Panelists speak at the OWN IT leadership summit Saturday, Nov. 11. The women’s empowerment event, now in its third year, brought in female leaders from a number of different fields.Courtesy of Student Union

Panelists speak at the OWN IT leadership summit Saturday, Nov. 11. The women’s empowerment event, now in its third year, brought in female leaders from a number of different fields.

According to co-director of OWN IT and senior Ariadne Bazigos, the 20-person exec team starts planning for the event far in advance, almost as soon as the previous summit wraps up.

“It’s crazy! We [asked] a group of representatives to come [starting] in March, and they were already busy [on] this day,” said Bazigos.

The panels consisted of discussion prompted by pre-written questions, followed by audience questions.

The panelists also gave the attendees advice on becoming successful and overcoming the disadvantages that come with being a woman in a male-dominated work space.

“I never say no to a conversation, which is a piece of advice I give everybody,” Nicole Hudson, deputy mayor for racial equality and priority initiatives for St. Louis, said.

Caitlyn Collins, assistant professor of sociology at Washington University, delivered a talk about the United States’ lack of policies supporting the working woman with a family. According to Collins, more people need to speak on behalf of women’s rights in the workplace.

“We need people who are fierce and energetic about who is in a room and who is…on a panel, and there’s nothing wrong with being a fairness monitor,” Collins said.

Even though the summit was open to all genders, the majority of the audience members were women. The organization is working on getting more men to attend the event, but Bazigos does not consider the majority women audience to be a completely negative aspect.

“It is a space for women’s communication and a safe place,” Ariadne said.

The female empowerment event also aimed to create an environment where attendees could be inspired by female role models in leadership positions.

“We are trying to have an overarching theme of how women need to build each other up to help us all succeed,” Bazigos said. “Because the only way that women are going to be consistently put up in leadership roles in male-dominated work spaces is if we help build each other up.”

According to the co-directors, the event was an overall success. Registration was open through the day of the event, which they believe increased turnout, especially amongst graduate students and community members.

“We hope that the audience gets a sense of what it really looks like to be a woman in the work force. We hope that they feel empowered by the successes of women, many of whom were Washington University alumni, and feel more inclined to take on leadership roles and own it in everything that they do,” co-director and junior Ariel Kravitz said after the summit.

Ultimately, Bazigos hopes the event served as an inspiration for attendees.

“We are trying to have this summit be a celebration of women, a celebration of women’s leadership—and specifically, for attendees, what we are hoping to get out of that is that women can do anything that they want,” she said.