Courtesy of Katherine Harris
Who runs the world? Women.
On Oct. 22 the Women in the World conference made its Texas debut in San Antonio. The event featured speeches and interviews by household names like Gloria Steinem, Eva Longoria, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Jill Biden, Joaquin Castro and Diane von Furstenberg, but the event was especially meant to highlight lesser-known women who have made a big impact.
Women in the World is a live journalism-style program designed to empower and equip women with the confidence and tools needed to make a difference in the world.
After Mayor Ivy Taylor gave short opening remarks, founder and CEO of Women in the World, Tina Brown, welcomed everyone to the Majestic Empire Theatre. From there, Eva Longoria began the day by interviewing Gloria Steinem, who revolutionized feminism at a time when women didn’t have an active voice. The two discussed feminism, activism and how great Steinem looks considering she is 80 years old.
Following an uplifting opening, Deeyah Khan and Xoel Pamos talked about the reality of Honor Killings, which are murderous acts that happen when family members deem one of their own, usually girls, disrespectful for refusing to comply with some very outdated tratitions.
Khan and Pamos’ mission is to bring awareness to the issue that hits close to home. An Honor Killing took place in Irving, Texas, in 2008 when Yaser Said murdered his two daughters. He remains at large to this day.
Jill Biden, dressed in green from head to toe, expressed her appreciation for military families. As a mother who has experienced the sleepless nights and stress that come with deployment, she was more than qualified to be the segway into a panel of women who also deal with the hardships of being military mothers and wives.
Betty Easley and Janet Sanchez spoke with Alicia Mendez, of “Alicia Mendez Tonight,” about the realities of supporting family members before, during and after deployment. These women stayed strong in various ways; some became the bread winners of the household and put on a brave face, while others became full-time caregivers when their loved ones returned home.
After a short break, the severe Ebola outbreak in West Africa was addressed. Sarah Crowe, chief of crisis communications for UNICEF New York, went beyond the hysteria and brought attention to the aid flowing in internationally.
The goal is to start at the source, to cure and to contain the virus, Crowe said.
Bringing the discussion closer to home, a panel spoke on Latino prominence in the United States. Rosie Castro, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Delores Huerta and Eva Longoria talked about how more Latinos are taking on positions of power.
Moderator Jan Jarboe Russel, Texas Monthly contributing editor, asked Longoria if she thought we would see a Latino female president in our lifetime. Longoria said she hopes we see a female president in our lifetime period.
Next, Robi Damelin, spokesperson for Parents Circle – Families Forum, shared her battle to find peace in Israel after her son was murdered by a Palestinian sniper in 2002. Her message encouraged forgiveness and reconciliation even in the wake of life’s biggest tragedies.
Damelin was one of the lesser-known females in the speaker lineup but is making strides standing for peace. Peace starts with individuals in their communities bringing a change in perspective to fruition.
Diane von Furstenberg was the next guest, and she discussed various topics from her iconic wrap dress turning 40, to her new book “The Woman I Wanted to Be.” She shared her thoughts on women having identities outside of the home but also being mothers – noting how busy it is to be a woman.
Furstenberg continues to give women confidence through fashion and now with her new book. Her biggest encouragement to the women in the audience was sharing her realization that “I had to be my best friend.”
Possibly the most moving story was that of Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, director of St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring Center in Uganda. Her efforts went beyond bringing awareness to the ruthless ways of the Ugandan rebels; she is providing opportunities for thousands of women to recover after surviving the attacks.
At the tailoring center, these women are reminded that they still have a purpose. Sister Rosemary welcomes them all and shared that “they’re living in dignity.”
Maile Molin had a tough act to follow but managed to measure up. As deputy director of the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas and founder of English @ Work, Molin works to bring cohesion to workplaces. As a former ESL teacher and waitress, she witnessed how impractical traditional teachings could be at times.
She noted that, living in Texas, one wouldn’t really need to know the English word for snow or winter – especially since the temperature was in the mid-80s during the conference. She recognized that immigrants need practical language skills to communicate a job injury or an emergency.
This program has been crushing the language barrier and bringing workers together so well that Molin was awarded the Toyota Driving Solutions award after her on-stage interview with KENS 5 anchor Sarah Lucero.
The program ended with a panel of four female politicians: Kay Bailey Hutchison, Liz Chadderon, Karen Hughes and Jehmu Greene. With two democrats and two republicans, the viewpoints shared represented both sides of the aisle.
Hutchison liked where women are today. “When I started my career, there was discrimination, but I don’t think there is now,” Hutchison said. “I think women have equal chances at the jobs that we want, at leadership positions that we want. If it’s elective office, I think we have an equal shot now, and I think it should be that way.”
Chadderon brought light to the fact that women make up 52 percent of the population but only 20-30 percent of people in power. She wanted to see more women running and winning, sharing that “winning takes guts.” She encouraged women who wish to run for any position of power to remember that it’s about the voters, not about the candidate.
Hughes discussed how no candidate will be perfect, but we will have to live with one of them, which makes voting so important. She believed that starting in smaller communities is the best way to make change. “Women are practical and women are problem solvers,” Hughes said.
Greene followed, saying “women are compromisers and have a lot of common sense;” however, young men are often approached to be in political positions while young women aren’t. Greene stressed the importance of using the media and technology as campaign tools, but that being trained to do these jobs and hold these positions is the most important part.
For the modern college woman, Hutchison said to “learn everything you can while you’re in college. Don’t fluff off the schoolwork because the more you know, the more effective you will be.”
She also shared that it’s important to recognize that “sometimes our young people try to move too far too fast and they’re not prepared. They don’t have the background and the experience and the education that they should have before taking on certain levels of leadership or job opportunities.”
More information about Women in the World summits can be found at tinabrownmedia.com/stayintouch. The next conference will be held in New York from Aril 22-24, 2015 at Lincoln Center.