On Tuesday July 12, Austin Woman magazine, General Assembly, and Impact Hub – Austin teamed up together to celebrate fierce females at an inspiring event, Women Who Work It: Empowering Female Leaders in Austin.
Hosted here Vuka, the space was full of positive energy and quickly became a “standing-room only” event with over 100 women (and some men) excited to learn from and empower each other.
“These are my favorite kinds of events,” said Melinda Garvey, co-founder and publisher of Austin Womanmagazine. “I never get tired of events that empower women because… we need to encourage each other with camaraderie and sisterhood. These events foster us to get ahead in the world.”
The highlight of the evening was the panel of trailblazing women including Lizzie Velasquez, Katie Fang, and Courtney Santana.
Lizzie Velasquez has a rare congenital disease which prevents her from accumulating body fat. She is a motivational speaker and author who focuses on self-love and empowerment. Katie Fang is the founder and CEO of SchooLinks, an education technology start up. At the age of 25, she manages a team of eight and is venture backed. Courtney Santana, is the founder and executive director of Survive2Thrive Foundation, an organization that provides resources to survivors of domestic violence; Courtney is a survivor herself.
The panelists shared their stories, their struggles and their triumphs with the audience. If you missed the event and wish to be inspired for the first time, or if you attended the event and wish to be inspired again, you can read excerpts of the women’s answers below.
What’s your definition of success?
Courtney: My children are my biggest investment and my mission is to be there for them. My goal is to be their role model by being the best possible woman I can be.
Katie: I want to have an impact and leave a footprint so people who don’t have what I have can have it too.
Lizzie: I like helping other people and I am now in a unique position to use the platform that I’ve been blessed with to tell women that, “You are enough. Be who are you.”
How did you take negative events and make them uplifting?
Courtney: Setbacks are not failures; they are part of my journey. The lowest point of my life became my purpose. I want to show women that there is hope and to keep pushing even when you’re told you’re worthless.
Katie: I was told “no” a lot and told my ideas were bad. It made me reflect and I realized it’s okay to be told “no,” it’s part of life; if you’re not ready to hear it, you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.
Lizzie: [In reference to cyber bullying.] I was crushed. I wanted to take control and I didn’t know how. I didn’t want the name callers to define me. I wanted to create my own definition. So, I used social media to open a window to the world. I wanted to show people who I am and my purpose.
How do you know that you’re taking the right first step?
Courtney: You don’t know until you are there and moving in that direction.
Katie: I started a private online journal and anytime I doubt myself, I go back and read the words I had written in the past to overcome my setbacks.
What’s the biggest barrier for women?
Katie: Think less and do more. Every single one of us has a unique perspective. Maybe people underestimate us because we are women. Perfect! We can take that opportunity and show them who’s boss! Don’t waste time. Believe in yourself and go forward.
Lizzie: Accept that there are going to be setbacks. Prepare yourself for the good and the bad. I see my end goals in sight. I am grateful for the good times and the barriers because they push me towards my goals. Accept and embrace barriers and let them teach you. Have the willpower to learn from it and remember, everything happens for a reason.
Who is a woman who made you feel empowered?
Courtney: Ms. Ida, the intake woman at Safe Place. It was a really bad time for me. I was really pissed and I cried all the time. I was so disappointed in myself. One day Ms. Ida said, “Enough. Enough. Get up, get yourself together and move forward.” She helped me realize that there is life after this.
Katie: My mom. She is a strong woman. She founded a company and bootstrapped it…She’s totally my idol; my biggest inspiration.
What can we do to empower other women?
Courtney: I encourage my daughter. I am her biggest cheerleader, and I am there for her.
Katie: Living by example. Know what you want, set goals and go after it! Don’t be shy. Our biggest roadblocks are ourselves.
Lizzie: Instead of competing with each other, encourage each other. Instead of resenting other women, be happy for them. You can do it yourself and support the woman who’s doing it too.
What last piece of advice to you have for us?
Lizzie: We’re not going to change with world without having self-love first. Find your uniqueness and own it. Take it into the world: that is beauty. Let is shine. Trust me, then, you’ll change the world.
Katie: Understand what you want and be shameless. Ask for it.
Courtney: Be destructive. You got to ruffle feathers. Don’t be afraid to be a trendsetter. We are all leaders in our own right. If we kept our ideas to ourselves, the world will not be any different.