Women’s summit aims to empower women of color

Carly Rose

Around 150 women gathered on campus Saturday to learn from the speakers at the first annual Werk.Glo.Slay summit.

The women’s summit aimed to empower women in their personal and professional lives and give them the tools to pursue their passions, according to UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement website. 

The event was hosted in Robert B. Rowling Hall by Women Who Werk, a community organization focused on supporting women in business, and the division’s Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Ashton Haywood, founder of Women Who Werk, said hosting the summit has been a dream of hers since 2012. 

“We’re actually giving all attendees actionable and practical advice that they can immediately implement into their life,” UT alumna Haywood said. “We’re super excited to be able to provide that and really be a resource for the women attending.”

The summit included a panel featuring board members of Women’s Initiative for Entrepreneurship and Leadership Development, a career incubator program for women of color undergraduates that will launch in spring 2020. The panelists shared their experiences of workplace discrimination and emphasized the importance of finding an advocate.

“This program is specifically helping women of color feel empowered to own their businesses and to launch their own ideas, to help them believe their ideas have worth and can really transform the working world,” said Yeo Ju Choi, the senior student program coordinator for the division.

Rubén Cantú, executive director of the Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship, introduced the panel and said few Fortune 500 CEOs are women of color. Business graduate student Choi said this is exactly what the program hopes to solve.

“The goal of this program is that within 10 years of graduation, each woman who has moved through the program will be in an executive role,” Choi said. “We’re really trying to increase the proportion of women of color in leadership roles across corporate America.”

Attendee Andrea Wilson said hearing from the speakers at the summit inspired her to follow her own dreams.

“(The panels and workshops) really honed in on connecting, getting out of your comfort zone and still chasing your passions, no matter what background, race, color or creed you come from,” Wilson said. “Just women being empowered in the climate that we’re in today can make us feel like our voices aren’t heard or we’re stifled.”