On Friday October 12, 2018, fifteen thousand women (and a few men) gathered at the PA Convention Center in Center City Philadelphia for the 15thannual PA Conference for Women.
Through the generosity of WICT of Greater Philadelphia, many of us were able to attend the conference on scholarships – yet another growth opportunity offered by this wonderful organization whose declared mission statement is to develop strong women leaders in the cable and telecom industry.
Throughout the day, a broad range of focused career development workshops led by many talented, generous women from around the world, made it difficult to choose which to attend during three breakout sessions. It was also a challenge managing time to visit the variety of information booths hosted by schools and universities, health care organizations, community service organizations, finance and other businesses, and even vendors selling women’s clothing and accessories, all who came out in support of the women of PA.
The day was filled with insights, feedback and advice from some of the most stellar leaders in our society – who just happen to be women. But it was Dr. Amal Clooney who inspired me the most. Clooney is the mother of one-year old twins, teaches at Columbia University, is writing a book, is married to actor, George Clooney – and she is a renowned international law expert representing high profile clients fighting for human rights around the world.
“We are living through a defining moment in women’s rights,” said Clooney, as she transitioned into the story of one of her clients, Nadia, a young women survivor of war and sex crimes perpetrated against her and the people of her village in Northern Iraq by ISIS fighters. To date, not a single ISIS terrorist has been brought to justice, but Nadia, with the help of Dr. Clooney, is working to change this.
Clooney described the horrifying, graphic details of assaults Nadia survived, assaults that drove many other women villagers – who were also captured, sold and tortured – to suicide. Despite all of this, Nadia has dedicated herself to bringing ISIS criminals to justice, is trying to restore her village in Iraq, and bring her people home. Almost as an aside, Clooney revealed that her client is one of the winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize: Nadia Murad, who “Refused to be silenced and used her voice to help others.”
It is due to the courage of Nadia (and Dr. Amal Clooney, too, if I might suggest she take some credit for herself), that great progress has been made within the United Nations Security Council to gain support for investigators now on the ground in Iraq, in efforts to track down these vile criminals, hold them accountable for their crimes, and bring them to justice in a court of law.
Dr. Clooney also talked about issues for women in our own country. “Women have suffered without being believed in the U.S. as well,” and the #MeToo movement that surfaced in the past year has “Taught us how pervasive (abuse of women) is.” She suggested that two things need to happen in order to effect change. First, we need accountability so it is understood that “Abuse of women will not be tolerated,” and offenders will be “Brought to justice in a court of law where women deserve to be heard and can look their accusers in the eye.” And second, “No country can reach its social and economic potential until women have equal rights.”
During wrap-up Q&A, one of the conference attendees asked, “What can we do to make a difference in the world?” Clooney cited that participation in the “Women’s March” has made a difference. She challenged that some of us might go for the “Highest level of participation and run for (political) office.” Finally, she said – and it sounds so much simpler than it is: “In your daily lives, stand up for injustice wherever you see it.” As for the story of Nadia, we learned that changing the world started with individuals – two men who helped her escape her captors, and a Justice in Germany.
Samantha Barry, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour Magazine was moderator for Dr. Clooney’s keynote address and described Clooney by saying she is, “What the world wants from a female superhero.” If there were such a thing, I would have to agree.
Some of us came to the PA Conference for Women for career development workshops, some came looking for job leads or new ideas, some came to be inspired and motivated by the keynote speakers. But everyone who came can attest to that epicenter of palpable energy and power in Philly that day, fueled by connecting and celebrating with all those amazing women.