Summary: Yale Law School hosted the annual Women Empowering Women conference put on by Yale University’s Women’s Leadership Initiative.
Yale Law School’s auditorium is filled with students to capacity every day. These students are dying to learn and strengthen their intellectual abilities. Generally these groups are filled with men and women, but Saturday morning was different.
The Women Empowering Women conference filled the auditorium at Yale Law School with almost entirely women, according to the Yale Daily News. The conference featured female leaders from various professions such as academia, medicine, performing arts, and education.
An undergraduate organization, Yale Women’s Leadership Initiative, served as the committee for the conference. Their website states that they “empower young women to become successful leaders both on campus and in their careers.” The annual conference aims to empower women by having successful women leaders talk and share their stories. This year they had about 300 women from Yale and New Haven community attend with tickets to the event selling out immediately.
WLI president Chelsea Guo ‘18 opened the conference by highlighting the importance of female leaders. “All of our invited speakers today understand the truth in women’s empowerment: that the rise of female leaders in American brings with it a bold change in how we define leadership itself,” Guo said. She expressed a desire for a greater development of the community in women so that fighting the devaluation of women by society can be easier and so that women do not devalue themselves as much.
Speaking after Guo was conference co-directors Tasnim Mollah ’19 and Valerie Chen ’20. They introduced the first keynote speaker, Krishanti Vignarajah, a policy director for former First Lady Michelle Obama and senior advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State John Kerry.
Vignarajah discussed current events like the women’s marches after President Donald Trump’s election and how women need positive female role models. She urged the attendees to move from “having a seat at the table to being at the head of it.” This included her own intention to run for governor of Maryland in November.
Vignarajah then turned her attention to ensuring that everyone has a voice, especially minority groups like women of color, female immigrants and LGBTQ women when discussing female empowerment. She also noted that men need to be included too since “they constitute half of the solution.” Mollah said after the conference to the Yale Daily News that she hopes the men in attendance “reach out to their friends and help create a shared vision for empowering women.”
Guo added, “The WLI prioritizes intersectional leadership and has included various minority groups who are facing different kinds of oppression.”
After Vignarajah concluded speaking, the conference split into panels on women in law, performance arts, Yale alumni, and entrepreneurs. Susan Chen ’20 coordinated the Women in Law panel. She said of the conference, “It’s so empowering to have all these women together in one place, in one panel, working passionately.” She is hopeful that the conference “expands to include other sectors, beyond the ones covered in this conference.”
After the first session of panels, there was another set on women in media, education, government, and medicine. At the end of the second session of panels, there was a break for lunch before the second keynote speaker. Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, spoke on the role women have to protect institutions and rights. The last session of panels was on women in tech, Yale alumni, academia, and activism. At the end, there was a networking session in the dining hall of the law school.
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