This week, women business leaders from a cross section of industries and a group of mostly high school girls gathered for a symposium – sponsored by the YWCA of the City of New York – to lay the foundation for policy recommendations leading to increased attention, public discourse and funding for girls in New York City.
According to Danielle Moss Lee, CEO of the YWCA, the day was all about business, community and political leaders coming out to give girls the opportunity to share their truths. “The YWCA’s “Potential to Power” symposium brought together a group of diverse girls from independent parochial schools, public schools, community-based organizations and after school programs to talk about the importance of an agenda for girls here in NYC in the 21st century. We did not have an adult keynote speaker so the focus was for us, as women, to step aside in support to show girls that we are interested in listening to what they have to say, in understanding their perspectives better and to really getting a better handle on the issues they face in terms of gender inequality while growing up in today’s world, “ Moss Lee told TNJ.com.
She continued, “There was a great deal of talk about body image; not feeling heard in classrooms; sometimes the adults in their lives don’t call boys out on misogynistic and rape culture comments that come up in the classroom and school; and trying to grapple with the issue of how race and culture also have an impact of how you experience your gender as a girl. So we had girls from diverse backgrounds talking about the impact of religion on their family’s beliefs of what a girl should do; the impact of culture, media and all those kinds of things in crowding out the ability for a girl to decide who she wants to be for herself.”
The day consisted of empowering and inspiring dialogue that included a networking session with a roster of influential women such as author, professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris Perry; author (Orange is the New Black) Piper Kermin; clothing designer and former Project Runway contestant Sammie Black; model Christy Turlington Burns; historian and arts activist Elizabeth Sackler; NYC Council Member Rosie Mendez; and Commissioner Rosemonde Pierre Louis.
Yamiela Guzman, a high school senior headed to SUNY Purchase in the fall, told TNJ.com that she learned a lot at the program and was even offered a possible internship to work with Melissa Harris Perry.
“I enjoyed the event and met so many incredibly passionate women of all ages who are in high positions in their field. I tried to come in without any expectations and it’s been overall a great learning experience. We talked about how to tackle racism and feminism and how racism and socioeconomic issues are intertwined in the realm of feminism. We also discussed the pressures that young women face daily and the role media plays in our daily lives. I love these topics. I can talk about them forever,” she gushed.
Guzman says the event is one she’d like to attend again next year.
“I came by myself, but I met countless people and it’s been wonderful. I networked and exchanged contact information with the girls and the women leaders so hopefully we’ll all keep in touch. The older women are people who can be helpful to me in the future. I plan on staying in touch. Melissa Harris Perry even gave me her email address!” she said.
The girls’ ages ranged from 12 to 18.