3 Leadership Lessons Learned at the United State of Women Summit

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Michelle Obama

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Emily Aries via BossedUp
Emily Aries via BossedUp
April 14, 2024 at 10:26AM UTC
I just wrapped up an incredible weekend in Los Angeles at the second United State of Women Summit, a gathering of over 5,000 women from across the country who are standing up to make their voices heard and take action in their communities.
On Day 2, Bossed Up joined She Should Run and Platform Women to provide a day-long training on how to clarify and communicate your vision like a boss. Our practical, tactical training came on the heels of a day full of inspiring speakers and rallying calls to action.
Here are some of my favorite moments and key lessons I took away from day one:
  • Check yourself

Standing arm-in-arm with Patrisse Cullors-Brignac (the co-founder of Black Lives Matter), actress and activist Jane Fonda took the mic and was the first to admit that her understanding of race and intersectionality had been lacking, “so I’m studying,” she said, to a round of deafening applause. 
It was wonderfully refreshing to hear this kind of admission from a white woman with so much power to lend to the feminist cause. She demonstrated that no one expects perfection from our leaders, and in fact, admitting to a shortcoming was a vulnerable, authentic, and humanizing moment. By telling us what she was doing to improve herself, she set a model for anyone who feels like they don’t have a good practice of intersectionality in their feminist arsenal.
  • Your existence can be you resistance

Tarana Burke, creator of the #MeToo Movement, gave a stirring call to action centered on self-care for all the activists, organizers, and leaders in the crowd.  Putting away her prepared remarks, Burke went off-script and got real about the need for sustainability in the movement.
“There’s a lot of work that we have to do,” she said, “There’s always going to be a lot of work for us to do. But you have to take care of yourself. And so I charge you to not let your life be consumed by the work, ’cause taking care of yourself is part of the work.”
She challenged the crowd to find joy on the long road to justice, and pointed out that simply living our lives can sometimes be rebellion enough. “Let your existence be your resistance,” she said.
  • You’ve got to walk the walk

In a wonderful dialogue with Tracee Ellis Ross, Former First Lady Michelle Obama stirred up the crowd in talking about the dichotomy too many leaders – men leaders, in particular – live with. On the one hand, they whisper into their daughters ears that “you can be anything you set your mind to,” and then on the other, they walk into the office not realizing that the status quo perpetuates a very different reality. 
If we want our daughters to be able to achieve their full potential, we need to examine our own practices at work and our society’s continued, underlying discomfort with women weilding power.
Otherwise, she said, “We’ve sold them a bill of goods!”
And it’s not just on the shoulders of men to examine this hypocrisy, Obama contended, it’s on us as women, too. “If we as women are still suspicious of one another,” she said, “if we still have this crazy high bar for one another than we have for men…we have to have that conversation with ourselves as women.”

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