More than 800 people gathered for the USC Women’s Conference from Thursday to Saturday, participating in programs for female empowerment. This year’s theme was “Passion, Power and Wisdom.”
To celebrate the conference’s 10th anniversary, Danielle Harvey Stinson, one of the event’s organizers, and the assistant vice president for alumni relations, added new components to the conference, including a program for children and the USC Women’s Business Expo.
“If this conference is meant to be for all women, there are women with daughters who can’t take off and who can’t leave them or may not have childcare so let’s make this program accessible for them as well,” Stinson said.
Friday’s morning conference featured members of SCout, a science outreach organization, which taught girls how to extract strawberry DNA to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM. The afternoon workshop was hosted by Lemonade Day, another USC student organization, which teaches girls how to start and operate their own businesses.
Crystal Jones, a USC alumna, said that she was glad to bring her 7-year-old daughter Asa to the conference.
The USC Women’s Business Expo featured 11 businesses run by female USC students.
At the expo, graduate student Charity Prado, founder of SheCatalyst, said that USC lacked leadership programs geared toward women.
“I noticed that entrepreneurial and business training programs tended to be designed around men,” Prado said. “Women start businesses at half the rate as men and it’s because there’s a feeling of not knowing where to start or what to do.”
Her business aims to close that gap by empowering women and giving them a community, enabling them to make the change they want in society, Prado said.
Another panelist, Nikita Dhesikan, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, founded IDENTITI, a company that creates custom gemstone bracelets. Dhesikan said she has encountered challenges as a woman in both the engineering and business worlds.
“A lot of the events are primarily male, whether it’s engineering or business and it’s definitely a little intimidating,” Dhesikan said. “Whether you go in big corporate buildings or even in conversations that I’ve had on this campus, there still is that culture where men run the room.”
However, Dhesikan said attending events like the USC Women’s Business Expo gives her hope that this culture will change in the near future.
Viviana Harvey, Stinson’s mother and a small business owner herself, has attended the conference for eight of the 10 years it has been running. She said she noticed a difference in the attendees this year following the #MeToo movement.
“This year so far, I have noticed the women are even happier,” Harvey said. “They seem stronger, and they seem even more determined to take the information and use it in their respective communities and their job settings.”
While the event was geared toward women, men were welcome to attend. Sean Kerns, a graduate student studying global supply chain management, attended the event with his girlfriend, who was originally supposed to speak on a panel.
“I think there are a lot of good topics discussed and it’s important for men to be there as well so they can get that first-hand,” Kerns said. “I think they might miss out on a lot of the information here otherwise.”