Happy International Womens’ Day! We celebrate the collective achievements and progress women create every day in the world. Thursday, March 5th, 2020 at Jazz@Lincoln Center, I had the awesome opportunity to attend this years’ #EmbraceAmbition summit. The Embrace Ambition initiative was started by the Tory Burch Foundation in 2017 and aims to address the double standard that exists around ambition, which is often seen as a compliment for men and a critique of women. It is a one-day event that’s focused on overcoming the negative attitudes about ambition in women and addressing other harmful stereotypes that impact gender, race, and sexuality. Visionary leaders in Hollywood, business, science, entrepreneurship, and youth movements take the stage along with performances meant to inspire and empower. You must apply for a chance to attend the summit with an online application and essay about your own experience with embracing ambition. I was excited to receive an email that my essay had been chosen and I was invited!
In one of the morning sessions, Michelle Norris, whose a contributing columnist for The Washington Post and Civil Rights Activist, Ms. Claudette Colvin had a discussion about her story and the changes she has seen in America in the last 65 years. In 1955, she was the first woman of color to refuse to move to the back of the bus for a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, and was promptly arrested. It wasn’t until nearly nine months later that Rosa Parks did the same thing and became the face of the movement.
In another session, Fashion Icon Diane Von Furstenberg talks with Celebrity stylist Jason Bolden about being “In Charge”: owning who we are, own imperfections and it will become your asset. Once you are comfortable with yourself, any relationship, business or personal, is a plus and not a must. There is an ambition guidebook for those who are interested in having a written plan for their goals/ dreams. http://www.toryburchfoundation.org/resources/growth/ambition-guidebook/
I’ve met some amazing women like Nicole Aandahl during lunch. http://www.healthynailproject.com. Nicole and I talked about the stigma associated with mental health and her personal battle with nail biting. She has created a blog and tools to help others with the same struggles she has faced. Audrey Washington is a personal finance coach, speaker and author at http://www.fiercelyfinancial.com. She offers one on one coaching programs, financial empowerment master class, and info on employee financial education programs. Ariane, a native of Jamaica, has an interest in Fashion design, we talked about inclusion in the fashion industry and she expressed some ideas for a line she wants to get started.
During breaks, attendees had time to snap photos, exchange business cards and grab refreshments. At the cocktail hour, after the event, many of us decided to recap the day and continue to share stories. At one point, some of the speakers joined us at various tables and I had a chance to talk with big wave surfer Bianca Valenti. Awesome vibe and I was impressed with all of her success in the surfing world. https://www.bigwavebianca.com/
Grammy nominated British Singer/Songwriter Yola Wade gave an amazing live performance of one of her hits ” It Ain’t Easier”. Before the song, she briefly talked about her struggles within the music industry and how colorism has played a major part in her journey. I have to admit, this was the highlight of the day for me. Beautiful voice and I, along with several others were captivated by her wonderful sound. Have to add, she’s dope on guitar as well!
Tory Burch, who is the CEO and founder, has often shied away from the word ambition. It was often a harmful stereotype along with being known as a “feminist”. She says ” Feminism has often been misinterpreted. It’s not about disliking men, it’s about equal rights for women.” I agree with her statement but I also feel like we have made some significant progress over the years. Always room for improvement but working together and having a genuine dialogue, it can be done. I encourage anyone whose interested in the summit to apply early and be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. Thought-provoking & inspiring, #Embrace Ambition is more than a mantra for women of today. It is a call to action and a commitment to being your best self and in turn empowering others to do the same.