In an effort to empower and support young women, the Boston College Women’s Summit: Own It brought together nearly 400 attendees on Saturday to spark discussion about what it means to “own it.” Riham Osman, the director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s (MPAC) national digital media and communications strategy, gave the keynote address, which was held in St. Ignatius Church.
The third annual Own It Summit began with an opening ceremony, in which members of the Own It board and Vice President of Student Affairs Barbara Jones, the guest speaker, explained the importance and goals of the Own It Summit. Though this is the third year of the event, this was the first year that Own It was held in the fall semester.
The Own It Summit strives to encourage, inspire, and educate the female leaders of the future and demonstrate that they can make a change. The summit works to equip women with the courage to own their voices, their opinions, and their differences. Alexis Teixeira, Own It co-chair and CSOM ’17, urged women to band together to fight against domestic abuse and business inequality and to fight for a better tomorrow.
“I think for women especially, achieving more success lies in how we inspire, share, and support the success of others,” she said.
At the opening ceremony, Osman gave her keynote address.
Through the use of social media and activism, Osman combats Muslim American stereotypes and fights for their civil rights in her job as a digital media and communications strategist at the MPAC. Her speech centered around her own struggles as a young Muslim American and explained that for years she was ashamed of her religion, until she decided to embrace it in college.
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your identity could stand in the way of following your dreams, and, most importantly, surround yourself with other ambitious women who want success for you as much as you want it for yourself.”
— Riham Osman, the director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s (MPAC) national digital media and communications strategy
She shared the story of her long and arduous fight with AirFrance, which employed here while she was in college. She was fired her for wearing her hijab, so she worked with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against religious discrimination. Eventually, AirFrance changed its national dress code.
Last year, Osman was given the opportunity to interview President Barack Obama via a Google Hangout. Though the prospect terrified her, she said yes to the opportunity and turned it into an opportunity to raise issues impacting Muslim Americans.
Osman noted how long it took her to own her voice and beliefs.
“‘Owning it’ is a process,” she said.
She challenged the members of the audience to say “yes” to the opportunities that scared them the most, not to be paralyzed by the fear of failure.
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your identity could stand in the way of following your dreams, and, most importantly, surround yourself with other ambitious women who want success for you as much as you want it for yourself,” Osman said.
After the keynote address, students divided up to go to individual conversations, panels, and workshops.
Osman and mentors were there to facilitate discussion and encourage the attendees to think about their passions, motives, and purposes. Attendees were free to choose from 15 different workshops. Topics ranged from gender inequality, female sexuality, and body image to entrepreneurship.
In the future, the Own It team is looking to recruit more alumni speakers. It has partnered with the Council of Women for BC to grow the alumni base at the event.
“My favorite aspect of the day is seeing the community of women really come together,” said Rachel Simon, an Own It board member and CSOM ’18. “I think that’s a really strong community to begin with, but when you bring everybody in, and then bring allies like men that want to come as well, I think it creates this unity and solidarity that people can really connect to and feel empowered by.”
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor
Correction: Rachel Simon was previously identified as the director of alumni for Own It. She currently serves as an Own It board member.