[Editor's note: This is a guest blog post from Gennifer Delman, a junior at Hofstra University, who reports back from an event that She's the First was proud to attend, the first WIE Symposium in NYC last Monday.]
Energy darted around the room as women of all ages gathered at Skylight West in N.Y.C on Monday, September 20 to join forces at the first ever Women: Inspiration and Enterprise Symposium. Hosted by Sarah Brown, Donna Karan, and Arianna Huffington, the day was full of ideas, words of wisdom, and the celebration of girls and women.
As a 20-year-old junior journalism major at Long Island’s Hofstra University, it was an absolute honor and privilege to be selected as one of 50 Young Champions to attend this magnificent conference. During my time at school, I have immersed myself in organizations I care about, including magazine networking group Ed2010 and online women’s magazine hercampus.com. But it wasn’t until I interned for Tammy Tibbetts earlier this year that I learned of She’s the First. Ever since then I knew I had to be a part of it… but how?
When I found out that STF would be reaching a wider audience by establishing branches at colleges and universities across the nation, I knew I had found my place. I had already been a part of two campus chapters of a national organization, and starting something that has a global effect at Hofstra sounded like a dream come true. After applying and being selected to attend WIE, I also knew that I found the perfect source of inspiration before I embark on my STF journey and set up my own chapter.
Here’s a glimpse of what I observed: The beautiful actress Elizabeth Banks discussing women’s roles in Hollywood. One of my role models, Cathleen Black, revealing her rise to success in the magazine biz. Actress Ashley Judd sharing her experiences traveling the world and speaking to women who have endured terrible pain just to survive. The selfless Melinda Gates opening up her heart and telling her first-hand stories. The hercampus.com founders speaking about the power of youth innovation, something STF is a prime example of. An organization built by young innovators that aims to inspire and provide the means for youth innovators across the globe… that’s a powerful thing.
All of it was so eye-opening and made me feel connected to everyone in the room. The division between CEO, model, and celebrity was suddenly torn down. We were (and are) all women and we have power. If we harness our individual power, we can come together and help those with fewer privileges to do the same. I also realized that our youth is not a limitation — it’s an advantage. Don’t ever feel like you don’t have the ability to make a positive impact. Every woman has the capability if they have the desire.
But of everything I soaked in at WIE, it was the words of a 12-year-old South African schoolgirl named Nthabieseng Tshbalala that resonated with me the most. Tears formed in my eyes when Sarah Brown asked Nthabieseng what she would tell policymakers that girls need most. She eloquently replied, “You’re here because you have education. And you’re here because you have education. We need education.”
We don’t have to do this alone. If we have a dream, an idea to make this world a better place for our children and their children to inherit, let’s not sit around and just think about it. Let’s change the world together. Who’s with me? – Gennifer Delman