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Well-Known Female Leaders Gather at Student-Run Summit

April 12, 2014 – NBC’s Maria Shriver (C’77), CBS’ Norah O’Donnell (C’95) and former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers were only a few of the high-profile women who came to the first Georgetown Women in Leadership summit today.

Kendall Ciesemier, a junior in Georgetown College studying sociology, journalism and theology, and Helen Brosnan, a sophomore at the School of Foreign Service studying culture and politics, served as co-chairs for the sold-out event, sponsored by Bloomberg.  

“We hope female undergraduates [came] away with an air of confidence they didn't have before attending the summit,” says Brosnan. “Through all of the speakers’ personal anecdotes and stories about their career trajectories, we want female undergraduates to realize that the world literally needs them to step up as leaders, and that leadership can take many different forms in many different industries.”

Generation Next

We want female undergraduates to realize that the world literally needs them to step up as leaders, and that leadership can take many different forms in many different industries."

Helen Brosnan (F'16)

The summit, called "Own It,"  included 400 participants and four panels – on business, media, policy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The entirely student-run event highlighted the importance of female leadership and the need to educate the next generation of women leaders. 

Kara Swisher (F’84), co-executive editor and co-founder of Re/Code, interviewed the morning keynote speakers, Steve and Jean Case from the Case Foundation.  

“This interview [focused] on social innovation, philanthropy, online giving, technology and women and girls,” Ciesemier explains.

Honoring Dee Dee Myers

Myers, the nation’s first female White House press secretary, received the inaugural Own It Award at the summit.

“The award goes to a woman who exemplifies a successful 21st-century female leader willing to ‘own’ all of the responsibilities that come with her position, and who is the first woman to serve in the post,” Ciesemier says.

Other Georgetown alumnae who spoke at the summit include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mary Jordan (C’83) and Melanne Verveer, executive director for the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS).

Speakers also included Alex Wagner, host of MSNBC’s “NOW with Alex Wagner;” Neera Tanden, Center for American Progress president; Richelle Parham, chief marketing officer for eBay; and Carolyn Ryan, Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the New York Times.

Reaching Out

“We really just reached out to people we thought would interested and would be interesting to hear from,” Ciesemier explains of how she and her co-chair coordinated the event. “Helen and I split up and conquered different industries. I’m really into media so I used my contacts to reach out to Norah O’Donnell and Alex Wagner. She’s really into politics so she reached out to [White House Legislative Affairs Director] Katie Fallon and Neera Tanden.” 

Co-presidents Alana Snyder (C’16) and Ava Arroyo (SFS’16) started the Georgetown University Women in Leadership group in the spring of 2013. Ciesemier and Brosnan joined the group and agreed to serve as co-chairs for the summit.

Already leaders in their own right, the co-chairs first garnered the support of Shriver and a number of Georgetown leaders – Verveer; Lisa Davis, vice president and CIO, Lisa Krim, senior advisor to the president for faculty relations, Rev. Kevin O’Brien, vice president for mission and ministry and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

A Georgetown Priority

Georgetown is at the forefront of women's leadership."

Lisa Davis, Vice President and CIO

“We are uniting all of our women's leadership efforts across Georgetown to advance women’s leadership both on and off campus,” Davis explains. “The goal of this partnership is to collectively provide members, corporations, faculty, staff, students and the community at large an umbrella for all things having to deal with women’s leadership at the local, national and international level.”

Davis says this will allow all members of the Georgetown community to participate in on-campus lectures, conferences and workshops dedicated to enhancing professional development while networking with top industry leaders that can help women increase their social capital.  

“Georgetown is at the forefront of women's leadership,” she says. 

Student Leaders

Brosnan, a Bloomberg LP intern this past summer, pitched the summit idea to the company and got it to agree to sponsor the event.

She also has worked for the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and is now a Bloomberg government communications aide.

Her summit co-chair is founder and executive director of Kids Caring 4 Kids, a nonprofit she started nine years ago that works to empower young people to help provide basic human needs to children living in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Investing in Women

The undergraduates said coordinating the summit was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

“We sold out in less than 24-hours which was quite a thrill,” says Ciesemier. “For many of our speakers it was surprisingly easy to get them agree to come. Turns out people really care about investing in future women leaders.”