La Femme hosts second annual EMPOWER Conference


Conference attendees pose for a picture with featured speaker and actress Lily Colins ’07. Credit: Tanisha Gunby/Chronicle

Tanisha Gunby

Students engaged in discussions with distinguished speakers who highlighted their professional and personal experiences relating to equity, feminism and gender equality during the second annual EMPOWER Conference on Sunday.

La Femme Club Co-President Becca Frischling ’19 said the speakers all were very passionate about the issues that were important to them.

“We really wanted to create a designated time for students to come together and talk about feminism and women’s empowerment,” Frischling said. “We wanted to make sure we had a space on campus to learn more about feminism as well as the experiences of women in many different careers.”

The speakers came from diverse backgrounds and represented a spectrum of professions including entrepreneur and civic volunteer Jaime Lee ’03, sixth district City of Los Angeles councilwoman Nury Martinez and casting director Cathy Gelfond (Lucas ’19).

Featured speaker and actress Lily Collins ’07 encouraged young women to find their passion, be driven and keep on trying to achieve one’s goal.

“Don’t take no for a no,” Collins said. “It means no for now and not no forever.”

Plastic surgeon Dr. Kay Durairaj (Uma ’19), Gelfond and Lee emphasized the importance of mentors and networking in achieving success; they encouraged students to volunteer and persevere in their hard work.

Biomedical scientist Dr. Knatokie Ford credited her parents and teachers for her achievements, and said one must not doubt oneself or be paralyzed by the fear of failure.

Martinez said students ages 16 and above should pre register so that they are ready to vote when they turn 18. She encouraged more women to get involved in voting and running campaigns for government positions so that women’s issues receive justice.

Attendees said they enjoyed the conference and that it highlighted the struggles women endure.

“All the speakers were so accomplished and inspirational and were very successful in their fields,” Maddie Morrison ’22 said. “I left feeling like I had a better understanding of some of the challenges faced by women and how to overcome them. I think in this age we can get so caught up in moving forward that we don’t get to step back and take a look at how far women have come in America. I think the conference was a great experience and it really opened my eyes to how resilient and brave women are.”