Providence Lady Summit Brings Together Over 250 Women

pvdOne of the most common comments I get is that I have a lot of energy.  However, after watching Sierra Barter, Co-Founder of The Lady Project throw her third annual summit on Saturday, I can certainly state I am middle-aged.  Her energy astounds me.

The third annual Lady Project Summit was held in PVD on Sat, April 18 at The Vets Memorial Auditorium. The event technically started on Friday night with four pre-summit events showcasing the diversity of this city. They were Meet the City Managers at Bolt Coffee in the Dean Hotel followed by Summit Partner Drinks and Appetizers at three different locations in the city: Local 121, BathHaus, and The Boombox in the Dean Hotel. The last event of Friday night was the Summit Kick-Off Party at Madewell in the Providence Place Mall.

Sierra Barter loves Providence, her new home since coming here to college. She wants Providence to become known as the place for entrepreneurial women and expand The Lady Project — what one might call a counter culture to the “old boys network.”

I talked with her before the Summit to get a sense of The Lady Project and her hope for the Summit. The Lady Project’s mission is to “Inspire, Connect, & Showcase” women in Providence and seven other cities (currently) throughout the country. Her idea behind the summit is to bring women from other chapters to Providence to showcase amazing women as keynote speakers and to try to make it fun. More than 260 women were registered for this year’s summit, a sold-out event and the biggest yet.

I attended the summit as a PVD Lady Project member and as press, so I took in selected workshops like the other attendees, but also talked with attendees and vendors I ran into throughout the day about why they were there and what they were hoping to get out of it.

Overall, the production of the event was en pointe. The organizing committee should give themselves a toast for putting together a succinctly organized event. My only gripe, in that sense, was that the afternoon keynote speaker preceded lunch, which didn’t start until 2pm. I mean, girl’s gotta eat, right?

The vendors were a wide range of beauty-based companies, web marketing companies and activist organizations like Amenity Aid (amenityaid.org) who bring sanitary supplies to low-income women throughout Southern New England. She and I had what I would call a “perfect” Lady Project moment, passing business cards while I offered to get student groups at the university where I work to collect supplies for her organization as a fundraiser or philanthropy.

The summit’s opening keynote was Jennifer Romilini, Editor in Chief and Vice President of Content of Hello Giggles, a site for millennial women founded by Zooey Deschanel. I had never heard of the site, even though I work with college women, so I checked it out before the summit. I had no idea what I was looking at.  It seemed like a mix between Pinterest and Reddit. She told her story of how she got to where she is by giving the 25- to 30-year-old audience her “12 Steps to Success.” They include “dream big but be adaptable,” “ignore the jerks,” “a bad boss will teach you as much as a good boss,” and “build your life resume at the same time as your job resume.” I was disappointed there was no Q&A at the end.

I attended the blogger panel, which included five women bloggers talking about how they drive audiences to their blogs. All of the blogs were either about relationships, domesticity or weddings, except for one young college blogger, Lily Herman, who blogs for high school students interested in college. As someone who blogs about feminist issues, I was surprised there was no activist blogger on the panel, or a woman of color.

Before the next session, I spoke with Loren Intolubbe-Chmil, PVD Lady Project member and panelist on the Motherhood Panel. She appeared to be more in my age bracket (46), which was why I wanted to ask her why she was a Lady Project member. She told me she got involved after moving to Providence to meet other women. We talked about whether the Lady Project could be considered feminist and she said that it seemed to be getting more diverse and that it was supportive of harmonizing activism with equality work.

I popped into the end of a session by Maureen Petrosky called “How to Be Your Own Publicist,” who stated “No one is too busy for a phone call.” Petrosky is an author, television personality, professional chef, freelance writer/ editor and food stylist.

The afternoon keynote started with a video showcasing members of the PVD Lady Project followed by an inspirational greeting by Goldie Blox CEO and inventor Debbie Sterling, originally invited to be a keynote speaker, and a welcome by Senator Jack Reed.

Naama Bloom, founder of Hello Flo, was the afternoon keynote. Her You Tube Videos “Gyno Camp” and “First Moon Party” have been viewed by over 40 million people. She focused her talk on the inevitability of failure and that we have to accept failure as part of our life experience, particularly as we seek out our professional place. Another no-brainer piece of advice from this middle-aged woman’s perspective, but probably relevant to the age group dominating the room.

The event had almost 50 sponsors from Providence and beyond. Breakfast, lunch and a summit after-party were a hit. All the event was missing were more opportunities for women to network with each other and much more attention to diversity.

Of the sessions I attended, only one was facilitated by a woman of color. I looked up most of the workshop and panel participants and would guestimate that over three-quarters of the speakers were white women.

Was I inspired overall? Not so much. But I do think that the demographic age range this Summit was targeted to, young women like the bold, creative and energetic Sierra Barter and her equally entrepreneurial co-founder Julie Sygiel, (founder of Dear Kate) were enthralled, excited and inspired.

To learn more about The PVD Lady Project, or to become a member, go to pvdladyproject.com.

 

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