By Elaina Koros
Seven hundred and fifty attendees and 78 speakers came to Georgetown’s campus on March 28 for the second annual OWN IT summit, which was organized entirely by undergraduate students and sponsored by Bloomberg. The summit featured keynote panelists including Chief Technology Officer of the United States Megan Smith, co-anchor of CBS This Morning Norah O’Donnell, co-executive editor of Re/code Kara Swisher and actress Danielle Brooks.
“OWN IT is bridging the gap between the female leaders that we have here today speaking and the young women who admire them,” said Kendall Ciesemier (COL '15), who co-founded OWN IT with Helen Brosnan (SFS ’16) in 2013. “Today we’re going to operate under the belief that every single person in this room will hold a leadership position in their future if they have not already.”
Georgetown president John J. DeGioia opened the event by stating its importance in connecting attendees at the deepest possible levels and helping them create their own game-changing moments.
“The OWN IT movement is a platform for your generation to wrestle with the questions defining this moment, questions that animate the conversations that are happening on our campuses and boardrooms around the world,” he said.
An imagination interview between Swisher and Brooks started the summit with a discussion about Brooks’ personal rise to success and the significance of her role in Orange is the New Black.
“You have to have drive, you have to want it. You have to just go for your dream,” Brooks said. “If you don’t believe it, you can’t trust anyone else to. It has to come from you.”
With reference to her path to the top of the technology reporting industry, Swisher gave her own take on the summit’s mission.
“I frankly think we all paid for it and so we should own it,” she said.
O’Donnell, pulitzer-prize winning journalist Mary Jordan and New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly reflected on self-doubt challenges facing women in the media in a panel focused on image.
“Preparation builds confidence and then confidence equals success. I think one of the keys for women and succeeding is developing an expertise,” O’Donnell said. “People are won over by good information and knowledge.”
Between keynote events, OWN IT attendees could go to panel discussions, “office hours” with speakers, skill-based workshops, a marketplace to meet on and off campus vendors and the Ipsos Girls’ Lounge to network and take professional headshots.
The day closed with mainstage panel discussions on innovation, identity and impact, featuring speakers including Smith, who received the OWN IT award.
“Megan Smith is the type of person who tells you to go and change the world and you actually feel like you can do just that,” Brosnan said when naming Smith as the honoree. “It’s safe to say that Megan has an entire generation of young women looking up to her.”
“The thing that I love about the OWN IT summit and you guys and your whole team is that you’re exactly what I had hoped for,” Smith said after receiving the award. “What you’re doing everyday is awesome.”
Attendees left the summit with new advice, connections and mentors, already looking forward to next year’s event.
“I thought the OWN IT summit was an incredible and inspiring experience,” Gigi Grimes (MSB ‘18) said. “The energy throughout the day was electric, and each of the speakers had amazing advice, stories and insights for how to own it as a modern woman.”