Second annual Own It summit strives to empower women

Photo by Kaitlyn Chu | Daily Trojan

The Own It student-run female empowerment organization held its second annual summit this Saturday at Bovard Auditorium, featuring over 100 speakers, including “Friends” actress Lisa Kudrow and six-time Olympian medalist and Trojan alumna Rebecca Soni.

The summit featured three main panels throughout the day, as well as breakout sessions with smaller workshops for the over 500 attendees.

Through the summit, Own It hopes to connect female students to the successful women they look up to, according to their website.

The event  began with a welcome address by President C. L. Max Nikias, and a speech by  U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents California’s 27th District. Chu talked about her experience as the first Chinese American woman elected to the United States Congress, and the importance of strong mentors to her success.

One of the panels at the event was  “Entertaining Change,” which featured Kudrow, CBS Executive Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i and stand up comedian and actress Yvonne Orji. The panel touched upon the #MeToo movement and its implications for future generations of women. . Kudrow spoke about changing the world’s mindset on sexual harassment  to one of positive growth rather than punishment.

“The only thing that makes me nervous is if there’s too much hatred and recrimination,” Kudrow said. “ Because there are, I think, mostly decent men. They just need the cultural support to behave decently … It’s about encouragement instead of criminalization.”

Another panel featured five female Olympians who graduated from USC, including volleyball players April Ross and Nicole Davis and swimmer Rebecca Soni. The panel was moderated by ESPN reporter and Annenberg adjunct professor Shelley Smith.

“It’s really exciting to be part of this movement with female empowerment,” Soni said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “And obviously to be able to be on a panel with a group of Olympians, and Trojan Olympians, is really great.”

In another panel, titled “Startup Superwomen,” Brooklyn Decker, who founded the clothing brand the Finery, said that more female-run businesses must be supported.

“It’s really hard to find women in tech who can mentor because there’s so few of them,” Decker said. “But if you’re supporting women in these companies, eventually we can be those mentors.”

The Own It summit is put together by 12 female USC students. The summit co-chair, Erica Wenger, is a junior studying business administration.

“I decided to be part of Own It because I’m really passionate about women’s empowerment,” Wenger said. “We need to be supporting each other and having these powerful conversations. Especially because there has been a lot of stuff at USC where women aren’t being treated so fairly, so it’s really nice to have this day where we just appreciate women.”

Noelle Thomas, a junior studying psychology, attended the Own It summit.  

“The supportive nature about it is what’s so necessary and monumental,” Thomas said.  “It’s such a good environment and very motivating.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated for clarity.