On Sunday, Feb 24., hundreds of women gathered in Corwin Pavilion for UC Santa Barbara’s first annual Women’s Empowerment Conference. The conference was sponsored by UCSB Panhellenic, the council that oversees UCSB’s sororities, with the mission of providing a valuable resource to the campus community.
“Our goal for the event was to create a space for UCSB women to meet other women and feel inspired,” Ariana Marmolejo, vice president of programming for UCSB’s Collegiate Panhellenic Council, told The Bottom Line. “We want everyone to know about the resources they actually have.”
The idea of holding this conference dates back to last fall quarter. Once the Panhellenic Council determined that they would undertake this task, they reached out to the United Sorority and Fraternity Council to find others willing to help out. This process resulted in a subcommittee of approximately 50 women working to make the conference come to life, according to Marmolejo.
“If we’re going to do this, it’s really important to have a diverse group of women giving their input to see what people think they can benefit from the most,” said Marmolejo.
The conference featured an hour-long talk by keynote speakers Gina Fisher and Gloria Soto. The talk was titled “Just Keep Swimming” and promoted a message of women’s empowerment by demonstrating “how women are best served supporting each other and propping each other up.”
Following the speech, students had the opportunity to participate in five breakout sessions, in which they could talk with specialists on topics such as women in politics and dismantling normative beauty ideals. This discussion-based segment of the conference allowed students to seek out answers to any questions that interested them.
The conference also dedicated the opening hour to a resource fair, in which students walked around freely, obtaining useful information from a wide variety of female-centered sources — including tables for organizations such as Planned Parenthood and Domestic Violence Solutions of Santa Barbara.
“These are organizations made by women and for women. It’s our responsibility to support and empower all women of our community,” Marmolejo said.
Marmolejo recognizes value in all of the resources that are provided to students, and specifically women, on campus, and emphasized that it was the responsibility of UCSB Panhellenic to inform the student body of those resources in order to contribute to a more positive school community.
“It’s not something you can do on your own, so I think being able to meet other women with similar interests is important,” she said, referring to the aforementioned effort to improve a campus environment. “It’s critical that we had a public event dedicated to this idea.”
Marmolejo expressed her belief that it was a beautiful thing that so many women could gather to inform and encourage each other at this dedicated event, each fostering a more empowered mindset as a result. “This is something that should always happen at every school. UCSB has amazing resources, and it’s our responsibility to contribute to that.”