Why FLOTUS And Oprah Say You Should Be Authentic

Highlights and predictions from attendees of the White House’s United State Of Women Summit

Katie S. Sanders
Jun 21, 2016 · 9 min read

Nely Galán, Entrepreneur and Author of SELF MADE: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way

Best moment: I open my book with a quote from Gloria Steinem where she says that the women’s movement was really an entrepreneurial movement. So the moment when Barack Obama gave her — along with fabulous kidpreneur Mikaila Ulmer — a shoutout in his speech was beautiful and poignant. We stand on the shoulders of amazing women like Gloria, and at the same time the great potential for our youth is limitless.

Gloria Steinem with Mikaila Ulmer (left), the 11-year-old founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade. Courtesy of Nely Galán.

Gloria Kimbwala, Campus Program Specialist at Square

Best moment: Watching Oprah interview The First Lady, I loved that they focused on succeeding in spite of all that is around you. I was also so inspired by the people at my table. They became my soul sisters, and I spent the rest of the week with them discussing different ways we could collaborate.

Rhonesha Byng, Founder and CEO of Her Agenda

Best moment: Watching The First Lady and Oprah interact. It was historic and wonderful to see two women on stage embracing their power. They are so authentic, comfortable with themselves, and present. It was my third time seeing Oprah in person, and each time I’ve walked away learning something new. More than what she says, it’s how she says it, and her presence as a woman, a journalist and a mogul.

Ola Ojewumi, Founder and Director of Project Ascend; US Government Contract Specialist

Best moment: I was brought to tears when married couple Dr. Sonia Vallabh and Dr. Eric Minikel took the stage and discussed their research to find a cure or treatment for a rare disease Dr. Vallabh has been diagnosed with, and that her mother died from. As a person who has survived two major organ transplants, I identified with Dr. Vallabh’s ambition and her will to not allow medical barriers stop her from pursuing her dreams.

Jerelyn Rodriguez, Cofounder and CEO of The Knowledge House

Best moment: Networking with so many inspiring women. People often say that women don’t support each other, but events like this prove otherwise. There is an appetite for women all over the country to partner to make our efforts more efficient and to share each other’s stories. That really motivates me.

Jerelyn Rodriguez gives a lightning talk about “Engaging Women and Girls in STEM through Data Science” at NASA.

Christen Brandt, Cofounder and Chief Programs Officer of She’s the First

Best moment: I loved that the summit kicked off with Vice President Biden discussing the progress we’ve made — and how far we need to go — in combating violence against women. It was such a powerful moment of reflection and a call to action on a topic that touches all of us. It reminded everyone why it’s so important to come together as we did. And, of course, any time Kerry Washington (aka Olivia Pope) takes the stage becomes a top ten moment in my book!

Brittany Packnett, Executive Director of Teach For America, St. Louis

Best moment: When Mikaila Ulmer — the 11-year-old founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade — introduced Barack Obama, my good friend Jovian Irvin began to cry. She remembered being that same little Black girl, with her hair in braids and addressing large crowds, and having her peers never really understand her. Jovian just founded the International Day of Purpose on June 20. Both she and Mikaila are inspirations to me.

Monique Carswell, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at NBCUniversal

Best moment: The conversation between The First Lady and Oprah was one of the most inspiring and transparent interviews I’ve ever witnessed. I felt as though I was eavesdropping on a chitchat between two girlfriends (albeit two super-human girlfriends). They were so candid and genuine. They reminded me that anything is possible and that, while our struggles are numerous, being a woman is powerful.

Monique Carswell at USOW last Tuesday.

Vivian Nunez, Founder of Too Damn Young and co-host of the Forbes podcast Creating Espacios

Best moment: My grandma and mom immigrated to New York from Ecuador and raised my brother and me. As a first-generation American, it moved me to have the opportunity to be in the presence of all those women while Barack Obama spoke to the feminist ideals that I’d internalized, thanks to the strong matriarchs in my own family. When the President spoke, it was clear that he and his Administration had not just heard women’s wants, but truly listened.

President Barack Obama addresses USOW attendees. Image by Carrie Hammer.

Maggie Dunne, Founder and President of Lakota Children’s Enrichment

Best moment: I spoke on a panel during a “Creating Pathways towards Equity: Advancing Opportunity for Women and Girls of Color” solution seminar, and the discussion built on the work that the The White House Council on Women has done to identify key obstacles that create barriers for women and girls of color. I really appreciated the emphasis on sharing best practices and solutions to problems we’ve faced in our work, rather than inundating everyone with statistics.

Jana Landon, Diversity Intern Recruiter at Google

Best moment: Hearing from The First Lady and Oprah, I witnessed an intimate conversation about self love, self care, evolution, and success between two of the most powerful women in the world — who are also Black women. It felt like we were in their living room. It was powerful to hear them talk about walking in your purpose, being yourself unapologetically, and enjoying the journey along the way. I left with a stronger network and a stronger sense of purpose.

Jada Ashley, Strategic Analyst at Goldman Sachs

Best moment: Listening to The First Lady and Oprah, I found myself rethinking my definition of “#squadgoals.” In mainstream media, we often admire people for their beauty and celebrity more than their accomplishments. As a Black Millennial, it was nice to see this different representation of impeccably intelligent, authentically honest women. They not only spoke about their jobs and celebrity status but explained how they are applying their clout to make the world better. That’s the sort of squad I admire and want to surround myself with.

Carrie Hammer, CEO of Carrie Hammer

Best moment: I loved Barack Obama exclaiming, “This is what a feminist looks like!” in reference to himself. Feminism is social, political, and economic equality for men and women. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights. And it’s fantastic to see prominent men joining the movement.

Tammy Tibbetts, Cofounder and President of She’s The First

Best moment: I’m down to the speeches from our President, The First Lady, Oprah, and the 11-year-olds! Mikaila Ulmer, founder and CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade, introduced Barack Obama. And Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, was interviewed by Sophia Bush. There was something incredibly hopeful about linking up how much more work lies ahead to achieve women’s equality with the girls’ incredible optimism and ambition. They are our future!

The Well (jopwell.com/thewell)

The Well is the digital magazine of Jopwell, the career advancement platform for Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals and students. Join us to unlock opportunity.

Katie S. Sanders

Written by

Journalist into innovation, WWII, & human stories. Have reported from prisons & JDate (never at the same time). Past gigs: Jopwell, Google, Glamour, Vanity Fair

The Well (jopwell.com/thewell)

The Well is the digital magazine of Jopwell, the career advancement platform for Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals and students. Join us to unlock opportunity.