2017 has been heralded as a “year of the woman.” The year was kicked off by the first annual Women’s March on the day of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and finished with the momentous #MeToo movement.
Brentwood School’s It’s Our Turn: Young Women’s Conference, held on Jan. 27, just a week after the second annual Women’s March in Downtown Los Angeles, showed that 2018 promises to build on the momentum of the previous year.
As a female and high school junior who helped plan the conference, I am acutely aware of what appears to be a wave of change surrounding women in the workplace and around the world. More men in positions of power are being held accountable for deplorable actions inside and outside of the office. Women are less likely to be shamed or silenced when relaying their stories of marginalization.
The Young Women’s Conference’s website proudly proclaims: “Young women today can be significant forces of change—in their own lives and in society. This conference is designed to empower them to take charge of the future in positive ways that influence and inspire others.”
Over 1,000 participants from more than 90 schools and organizations were represented at the event. I was excited by the day’s inclusivity; several speakers remarked that the event’s attendees reflected Los Angeles’ diversity.
The conference featured a series of keynote speakers, including Amy Wakeland, the First Lady of Los Angeles; NBC news anchor Katy Tur; journalist, activist, and former First Lady of California Maria Shriver; director, producer and entertainer Debbie Allen; and former California Senator Barbara Boxer.
The day celebrated what women are capable of accomplishing. Panels and break-out sessions covered a wide variety of topics, including politics, journalism, athletics, arts, entrepreneurship, social media, beauty and body image, Hollywood, and comedy.
My peers and I were energized by the event’s atmosphere of positivity and empowerment. Several speakers encouraged young women to lose their commitment to perfectionism, be bold, and make mistakes. That advice felt particularly applicable to the conference attendees; I am aware that my female friends are less likely to take chances or fly on instinct. We tend to over-prepare in comparison to our male peers.
Katy Tur, a Brentwood School alumna, urged, “If it scares you, it’s worth doing.” As she reflected on her critics (including President Donald Trump), she said that she had a revelation: “They’re going after you because you’re making an impact…they’re scared of what you have to say.”
Originally conceived after Brentwood students were inspired by Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference in 2008, the first conference planners branded their event “It’s Our Turn,” conveying the young women’s desire to take on the mantle of responsibility and change.
Eight years later, many of those student leaders have graduated from college and entered the workforce, experiencing first-hand the shift happening across the country and across the globe. Will the movement continue? Or will this change be viewed by history as a short-lived moment of self-reflection and correction?
Let us hope that the momentum continues to build. We need to cultivate the next generation of trend-setters, rule-breakers, record-smashers and activists.
The next conference will be held in Jan. 2020. Time will measure our progress.