Women in the World Summit

04-08-2013 4:35 PM

I have been fortunate to have some pretty amazing experiences during my tenure at Mary Kay, and I have to say two days last week really made a profound impact on me.  I can honestly tell you I’ve never been so energized, so moved and so incredibly inspired.  In fact, I’m still feeling the glow from this event! I had the privilege of attending the 4th annual Women in the World Summit where Mary Kay was a Supporting Sponsor.  The Summit is dedicated to advancing women and girls through stories and solutions. 

Leading the story telling were celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, and Eva Longoria.  Panelists and interviews were moderated by renowned journalists like Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey and Christiane Amanpour. Hilary Clinton gave a rousing speech and noted that when women are empowered, they change the lives of their families, their communities and even their nations.  

And I definitely saw this first-hand in the amazing stories told by grassroots activists, entrepreneurs, educators, courageous women making policy in embattled nations, and even a 17-year old national chess champion from Uganda.  Many of these women overcame poverty and extreme conditions, turned personal tragedy into triumphs for others, or simply stood up for those who had no voice.  They risked their lives to follow their dreams, often challenging traditional beliefs and barriers to become shining agents of change.

Imagine…an orphaned four-year old girl from Sierra Leone who saw a picture of a dancer and wondered what it would be like to be that free.   Today she is a ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company and has performed on Dancing with the Stars.

Imagine…a girl from Zimbabwe who did her brother’s homework just so she could be exposed to the education not available to girls in her village. Today she has earned her PhD and is now opening schools for girls and boys in her country.

Imagine…a young woman from New Jersey who lived poverty and never used a computer.  Today, she is an accomplished computer coder and programmer,  and is working to help young girls envision futures in math, medicine and technology.

The energy, determination and passion at Lincoln Center last week was overwhelming, and I admit to a few (ok, more than a few) tears because I was touched by the powerful impact women are making despite seemingly insurmountable odds. 

What struck me so poignantly was that these were ordinary women who achieved extraordinary things.  Here were some of the things I learned:

Follow your dreams  - stay true to what you believe and you can achieve great things

Be powerful – you have the power to touch lives in ways you might not be able to imagine today

Everyone has talent – we all have unlimited potential and it’s up to all of us to set the conditions for that talent to be realized

Believe in yourself – don’t let the ordinary, every day obstacles get in your way and your confidence will grow

Be persistent – the path to success is often made of small, seemingly insignificant and consistent steps rather than giant leaps

Keep it simple – sometimes the simple ideas are the best ones because they have the ability to be understood and shared

Find a good mentor – someone who’s always in your corner, helping you learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes

For many of you familiar with Mary Kay, these thoughts might not be new to you. After all, our founder has long celebrated and empowered women to follow their dreams, and her advice holds true 50 years after she founded the company.  It was fitting that in this, our 50th anniversary year, we sponsored this incredible Summit.  Our theme this year is One Woman Can, and the stories I heard last week from the Lincoln Center stage epitomized how women are making difference all over the world.  Our desire to do that and the language of empowerment is universal. I love our 50th anniversary story that says

One Woman Can™ be
An inspiration
An original
Ahead of her time
Flawlessly unique
A role model
More than she imagined
A true beauty
Anything she wants.

One Woman Can™ be YOU

Attending the Women in the World Summit gave me new perspective about the obstacles and barriers that I face, and I spent a lot of time reflecting on how blessed I am for all that I have and the abundant riches that surround me at home, in my community and in my work.   I feel energized and inspired to set new goals for myself and to think about what I can do to make an impact—perhaps not on the scale of some of the women I heard on that Lincoln Center stage, but in my own, unique way. In this spirit, I’d like to ask you, what’s your dream?  What do you want to achieve?  How will you unlock your potential?  I know you are powerful and that you can do it!

If you’d like to learn more about the Women in the World Summit hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, or the Women in the World Foundation, please visit www.womenintheworld.org

Today's blog post is from Shannon Summers. Shannon has worked at Mary Kay for 13 years and is the director of consumer marketing, advertising and PR. You can follow Shannon on Twitter  @ShanDSummers.

Women in the World Summit sponsor Mary Kay