I am so excited to share my experience at the Tory Burch Embrace Ambition Summit in NYC this past April! So recently THE Tory Burch was in Chicago and made an appearance on Windy City Live. In true Dinai fashion, I searched for her page on Instagram and came across her foundation's page. I saw that they were hosting an invite only summit in NYC the following month and in order to go you had to fill out an application. The deadline was literally a week away, and because I can be totally random, I applied maybe 3 days before the applications deadline. The application required me to write a 500 word or less essay on how I embrace ambition and/or how I have overcame a stereotype. Well this is easy! LOL I spoke on becoming a young mother straight out of grad school; walking into a predominately white male industry as the unwed 22 year old pregnant black female and how I was one of 4 Black females that started that year in a new hire class of about 90. I touched on how I hid my pregnancy for months and wore a fake engagement ring to work, before I was even engaged, just so I didn't fit that "stereotype". I also spoke on how now my children help me to embrace ambition as I want to be the example of what hard work and sacrifice really looks like. Well I guess they enjoyed my candidness because I was extended an invitation to attend! :)
I didn't really know what to expect but went in with an open mind! The event took place at the Alice Tully Hall Center, blocks from Times Square. As I approached the center, large outside signs covered the building and entrance way. The event planner in me was in total awe. Everything was branded beautifully and creatively. Ladies dressed in their best strutted to the security check point, tipping in their cutest pair of pumps. (Thank God for an uncle in fashion because Lord knows I can't afford those blue Manolo pumps and that Vivian Westwood dress I had on, but no one needed to know that lol) I entered with a huge smile, grabbed me a few pieces of fruit, a muffin and some hot tea and proceeded to find a good seat in the front (after-all I was told the most astute students sit near the front of the class right? lol)
The summit opened up with Tory Burch having a "couch chat" with Yara Shahidi from Black-ish (and most recently, Grown-ish). This 18 year old beauty BLEW ME AWAY! She is such an intelligent and well spoken African American-Iranian young lady. She spoke on her struggles, the stereotypes she's overcome and the importance of knowing your history so that you can move through life confidently. The day was also FILLED with combating tons of implicit biases*; accompanied by stories of women and men who have experienced gender, sex, race, and age inequalities first hand. From lighthearted stories of Debbie Sterling and her creation of Goldie Box (a line of engineering toys for girls...because, heck, all girls don't want to be princesses) to heavier conversations of escaping darkness by Yeonmi Park who spoke on her escape from North Korean when she was only 13 in search of a better life. She touched on how the stereotypes she previously had were rooted in the environment in which she was accustomed too. How, prior to her arrival in NYC, she had never seen African Americans and how her idea of American Men were that of which she had been exposed to and seen on WWF. It was some pretty deep stuff!
*unintended, subtle, and completely unconscious attitudes and decisions made by everyone, all the time".
This 8-hour long summit was well worth the trip! From the heartfelt story from the foundation's president as she told us her true feelings of her daughter becoming her son; to Theo Wilson depicting his views of African American Male privilege and its effects on African American women though poetry; to the sounds of performers like Jessie Reyes and St. Vincent, this summit exceeded my expectations! And while I believe we all left out of their with tiny tidbits on how we as women and entrepreneurs can do a much better job of being inclusive and disrupting implicit biases, there is still a ton of work to do. As Tony Tjan so eloquently put it, we need to have this conversation with "Silicon Valley's 50 shades of beige" (I nearly died lol). The fact that women make up more than half of the labor force, yet earns 24% less than our Caucasian breathren, shows just how much work still needs to be done. (And the wage gap increases by race with African American women earning 60 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women earning 55 cents for every white dollar.) ALL of this was discussed and I'm sure it wasn't the easiest or most comfortable conversation to sit through for most in the audience, but it was definitely a "need-to-hear".
All-in-all, the summit was amazing and I met some really cool and interesting women from around the world doing some really cool stuff! I am honored to have been apart of this inaugural, powerful game changing event and only hope that this truly sparks some change and will continue to enact thought provoking conversations! Tory Burch, you really surprised me girl! :)