Keynote Recap

Keynote Recap

Ava DuVernay: Women Need to be Each Other’s “Fan Girls”

Ava DuVernay

Men are often defended by other men, Ava DuVernay said to the 10,000 women attending the 2019 Pennsylvania Conference for Women.

Using the film industry as an example, she said: If criticism comes, so do “fan boys” who support the person being criticized by descending on the Internet to protect them. Read More


Elizabeth Gilbert: On the Three Most Powerful Words a Woman Can Say

Elizabeth Gilbert

When she was 25 and had moved to New York City to pursue a career as a writer, Elizabeth Gilbert saw a woman in her neighborhood who seemed to be living her dream life: one of creativity that was not taken up by other day jobs.

“She became my mentor. She didn’t know. We didn’t have the conversation. I just decided. And, what that meant in my world was that I would semi-talk to her,” Gilbert told 10,000 women at the 2019 Pennsylvania Conference for Women. “My plan for this mentorship relationship was to be in her presence and what would happen is all that [she had] would migrate to me.”

Then, one night, Gilbert saw her at a party, where the woman politely asked how her writing was going. Gilbert responded: not very well. The woman asked why. Gilbert said she had too much work, and was busy with a boyfriend, and her roommates were very distracting. In short, she didn’t have time, and she didn’t have privacy.

“At the end, she asked me the single most important question anybody has ever asked me in my entire life. I can honestly tell you my life hinged on that question,” Gilbert recalled. It was: “What are you willing to give up to have the life you keep pretending you want?”

Gilbert felt offended and immediately defended herself. But the woman challenged her, saying that from her perspective it looked like Gilbert put time into everything except the writing that she said was most important to her.

Then she asked where her free time was spent. Gilbert responded that she didn’t have any. “Really?” the woman asked. “What’s your favorite television show?” Gilbert answered Seinfeld. Then the woman similarly challenged her about her favorite magazines and restaurants and bars.

Finally, knowing Gilbert and her friends had plans to go the beach for a week, the woman said: “You are not going because if you do go, then I don’t ever want to have this conversation with you again about how your work isn’t going well because the thing you care about you don’t have time for.”

Gilbert acknowledged that she had to learn to say “no” to things she didn’t want to do. The woman said, “Oh, honey, it’s so much worse than that. You have to learn to say ‘no’ to the things that you do want to do with the understanding that you just have this one life stream, this one energy source, this one brief moment here.”

That, said Gilbert, became the turning point in her life as a writer. She stayed home and wrote what would become her first book.

The upshot: “Women are taught they are supposed to care about everything and everybody equally; and it is a lie, a great lie that is keeping you in bondage,” Gilbert said. “The reason I think you are so worried, tired, and stressed,” Gilbert said to the audience, “is because you believe this great lie that you are supposed to care about everything and everybody equally.”

“My prayer,” she added, “is that you take that worry off your neck that you have been struggling with and turn it into a golden circle you put around you and your projects, and your creativity, around who and what you love. Say everything in the circle is now sacred. I choose what is in it. And, if you’re not in the circle you can what outside because I don’t care.”

Those three words, “I don’t care,” are the three most powerful words a woman can have in her arsenal, Gilbert suggested, because they allow us to focus our energy on what we do most care about.


 

The Magic of Liz Gilbert

People know Elizabeth Gilbert best as the author of the wildly successful international bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love that was made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. It gave voice to women who longed for something more. More from relationships. More from love. More from life. She inspired us to pursue our dreams wherever they take us.

Since then, Gilbert has continued to dazzle us time and again. Her wondrous book, Big Magic, has led countless women to recognize that there are “extraordinary treasures” that long to be coaxed out of every one of us.

Then, just this past summer, Liz Gilbert returned to her roots as a fiction writer with the release of City of Girls, an instant New York Times bestseller. Set in the theater world of the 1940s, it’s a spellbinding novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering – you’ll like this: that you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person. But perhaps most importantly, she inspires joy and wonder wherever she goes.


Read more keynote recaps from the 2019 Conference


Jesmyn Ward: Hold Fast to Your Oars

Jesmyn Ward

“I grew up in a poor, rural mostly black community in Mississippi,” Jesmyn Ward began her talk before the 10,000 women at the 2019 Pennsylvania Conference for Women. She was a child of cleaning women, bootleggers, factory workers and landscapers.

Growing up, she thought the people around her lived the lives they did because of one colossal mistake: They did not choose a life of education. She did not yet know, she said, how history and cultural legacies had narrowed their choices. She didn’t understand that writing a different life for herself would also involve luck. Read More


James Clear: If You Want to Make Big Changes, Think Small

James Clear

When he was a teenager, James Clear got hit in the face with a bat during a baseball game. It took surgery and nearly nine months for him to be able to work on regaining basic functions, like walking in a straight line. And even then, he could only focus on developing one tiny new habit a time. But together, these tiny habits made a big difference—big enough that, in college, he was named an Academic all-American.

They also led him to be an expert in how tiny habits can help us reach our potential—insights he compiled in 2018 The New York Times best-selling book, Atomic Habits, and shared with the 10,000 people at the 2019 Pennsylvania Conference for Women.  

“So often we think that change is about being ambitious. But setting a goal is the easy part,” he said. “Excellence is not really about making radical changes. It is about accruing small improvements over time.” Read More


theSkimm Co-founders: Progress Comes When Hearing “No” Starts to Lose its Meaning

Amanda Weisberg and Carly Zakin

Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg quit their jobs at the age of 25 to try to start a business together, despite having no business or fundraising experience.

What they had was a perception: that millennials like them were not reading or watching the news because they were too busy, and it was not being delivered in a way that effectively appealed to them. They also had a plan: that they would deliver the news in a newsletter format, written in a voice that sounded like millennials. Plus, they had the two qualities they say are most important in starting a business: confidence and networking skills.

But what they did not have—and were not able to attract, despite trying—were investors interested in supporting them. Read More


Williams Says Women Need to Push Against Boundaries Till They Budge

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Looking out at a crowd of more than 12,000 women who attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women last week, Serena Williams said, “I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

In a conversation with Ellen McGirt, senior editor of FortuneWilliams spoke about women supporting women, pushing boundaries, sexual harassment, and more. Widely recognized as the best tennis player in history, Williams is an increasingly outspoken advocate on women’s issues.

Here are some highlights: Read More


Comedian Maysoon Zayid Makes Disability Mainstream

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The first thing Maysoon Zayid said when she took to the stage at the 2018 Pennsylvania Conference for Women was: “I’m not drunk.” But, she quickly added, “the doctor who delivered me was.”

She went onto explain that she has cerebral palsy, which causes her to involuntarily shake all the time. But Zayid doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her. “I’ve got 99 problems, and palsy is just one,” she quips. Among her other problems, she explains: She is from New Jersey.

Zayid, who is developing a comedy series inspired by her life for ABC, is making disability mainstream. Currently, she told the audience of 12,000: People with disabilities are 20 percent of the population but only 2 percent of the images we see from Hollywood.

Speaking of the challenges of learning how to walk as a child, Zayid spoke about how her father helped her.

“My father had a mantra: ‘You can do it, yes you can can,’” she said. He had two methods to inspire her, she explained. “He placed my feet on his feet and walked; I walked miles on that man’s shoes. The second was to dangle a dollar bill and have me chase it. My inner stripper was so strong.”


Amal Clooney Speaks about Today’s Defining Moment in Women’s Rights


Editor-in-chief of Glamour Samantha Barry with international human rights attorney Amal Clooney at the 2018 Pennsylvania Conference for Women

Amal Clooney, who has been called the “consummate feminist superhero,” usually speaks about human rights issues that women face in other countries. But at the 2018 Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the international human rights lawyer spoke at length about issues women are facing in America.

“In the United States, a woman is assaulted every nine seconds,” Clooney said. “For too long, predators have felt safe, and women have felt unsafe.” But, “we are living through a moment of reckoning and a rebalancing of power,” Clooney added. “Survivors deserve justice…. Women deserve to be believed and deserve to be respected.” Read More