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Women's Empowerment Starts With "Owning It"

Campus conversations have long been buzzing with topics of authenticity, acceptance, leadership, and feminism—but when strong women come together for the sake of support and empowerment and finding the cross-section of these crucially relevant topics, an immense wave of impact can be made. Case in point: Boston College’s 2nd annual OWN IT Women’s Summit, an upcoming on-campus event to be held on April 9, designed to illuminate the real-world need for more women in positions of leadership.

Hosted by the Women’s Center and the Office of Student Involvement, Own It is a day-long summit with a lasting impact, preceded by a series of smaller events and followed by ongoing, meaningful discussion between members of the campus community on what it means for women to hold roles of leadership and to be, unapologetically, themselves.

“We hope our role is as much more than just a one-day event,” says summit Co-chair Alexis Teixeira, CSOM ’17. “We hope to create a dialogue that extends throughout the year, encouraging students to be authentically and unapologetically themselves by owning their successes, their opinions, and their differences.”

Kicking off with their “Leading Women: Breaking Barriers in Athletics” event on March 15, the Own It team partnered with the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics to feature BC graduates Laura Gentile, the founder of ESPNW, and Jen Welter, the first female coach in the NFL. These two powerful women spoke volumes on what it means to be a woman with a male-dominated, sports-centric career, providing insight on their experiences of holding vital leadership roles in the field—and on the field.

But the wise words from fierce women don’t end here; the summit itself is comprised of inspirational keynote speakers and panels, with breakout sessions, round table discussions, performances, and workshops to follow. Own It isn’t just about soaking in these words from the wise—the summit aims to facilitate powerful conversation between women of different backgrounds and generations for the purpose of putting these words into action.

“We found this event to be an incredible success last year due to the buzz it created, the positive feedback we received, and the niche we hit with students by shaking up the leadership arena and producing an accessible event for a diverse group of 21st century leaders and the millennials who admire them,” adds Teixeira. “It gives us the opportunity to promote the ideas of owning our successes, owning our opinions, and owning our differences.”

Photo courtesy of Boston College Women's Summit: OWN IT / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Boston College Women's Summit: OWN IT / Facebook

That’s what the Own It Summit is really all about.  Started by students at Georgetown University in 2014, the event was founded upon the premise that both personal and professional successes can be amplified with the creation of a community of like-minded students that celebrate the importance of these “owning it” moments.

Teixeira herself, with the help of fellow students Caela McCann, MCAS ’17, and Lily Peng, MCAS ’17, brought the Own It Summit to campus last year, making BC the second university to participate in the event. Since gaining national traction, the summit now takes place at 10 universities nationwide.

The idea to bring something like this to the Heights was brought about through Teixeira’s previous experiences in a similar type of environment. “I wanted to get involved because I had attended a professional women’s summit in New York the summer going into my sophomore year and came away feeling inspired, with so much information and so many connections,” she says. “I wished more of my friends had been able to attend because I realized powerful female leaders were speaking to a room of powerful female leaders.”

This recognition of the importance of women’s empowerment is not simply an added bonus to summits like these, but is rather their integral focus. Plus, when the targeted audience is comprised of female millennials, Teixeira notes that fostering supportive environments like these are not just beneficial but absolutely necessary. “We, as college students, are the ones in more need of advice, empowerment, and celebrating the notion of being authentic, enough, and fulfilled,” she says, adding that she and her co-founders unanimously “knew that Boston College needed something just like this.”

The summit’s celebration of womanhood and authenticity and owning one’s entire self does more than just provide a takeaway of inspiration to do great things and pursue dreams—it cultivates the building of incredibly strong relationships. Students, faculty, volunteers, guests, alumni, and speakers alike come away from the Own It summit with cross-generational connections that are a game-changer in the modern working world.

“This summit means something different to every person who is involved and for everyone who attends,” adds Teixeira. “Even for myself it has developed from a one-time event to an institutionalized day of celebration, inspiration, and education.”

Attendees of the summit can expect to “take away the inspiration to accomplish something they have been dreaming of or the extra motivation to do something that they once thought was impossible,” in the words of Teixeira. As one of this year’s co-chairs, she reiterates that her hope for Own It is that attendees of the summit leave with the drive to follow through with their goals on a path to self-fulfillment. Though the summit’s audience is a group diverse in passions, backgrounds, interests, and experiences, the day is meant to create a unified community of fearless and powerful women that promote one another to be the most genuine versions of themselves that they can be.

It’s no secret that we need more women in roles of leadership in our modern society. The question, then, is where to go from there. BC’s Own It Summit hopes to kickstart the process and answer the question by building from the ground up, taking natural student leaders and giving them a community of like-minded men and women where they can both inspire and be inspired.

With powerful, meaningful dialogue that extends from summit to summit, this event has proven to be so much more than a one-day affair. Teixeira, adding that students “can expect to be in for a truly exceptional day, hearing from over 30 extraordinary speakers from various industries, experiences, and walks of life,” exudes her own air of drive and motivation. Her sunny outlook on the tangibility of the summit’s long-term goals are a clear example of the success of the summit’s short-term goals of empowerment, action, and owning who you are, unapologetically. She says it herself: “In order for this to become a reality, it starts with our generation.”

My parents live in Mississippi, but I live in the moment. Texting in all lowercase letters is my aesthetic. I probably eat too many mozz sticks and listen to too much Drake.