Today I was honored to be invited to The White House in Washington DC to be a part of the Empowering Women Symposium where issues such as the economy, healthcare, and national security were discussed. A group of 30 women leaders from across the country were invited to meet 90 minutes before the Symposium started (this first meeting was not televised) to discuss what questions our group would like to ask of the esteemed panelists. I was honored to have been chosen to be included in this group of 30 women as all were distinguished women in various leadership positions throughout the country.
Following this meeting we broke into three groups of around 10 each and each group sat on the stage as their different panels spoke to ask the questions the group had come up with.
Speakers on the panels today included:
Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the President
Linda McMahon, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Association
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President
Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Rachel Brand, Associate Attorney General
Susan Gordon, Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence
Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force
All of the topics covered today were of great importance and we even had a surprise visit from President Trump. One of the topics I was the most excited about was the topic of education and the importance of connecting real world training and experience with education. Studies have shown that young people who are exposed to real work opportunities during their education are more likely to enter a career in their field. So if we want more women to enter into Business and STEM positions we need to do a better job of exposing our young women to real-life training and work experience during their High School and College years. This is an area I passionately believe in and it is a huge part of the reason I take the time to serve on the Boards of four different Universities in the State of Utah, and it’s why I agreed to Chair one of those Boards (the National Advisory Board for Utah Valley University’s Woodbury School of Business – UVU is the largest University in Utah with 36,000 students and they do an amazing job of providing experiential learning to their students!). I believe it is so important to allow students to earn while they learn as this not only sets them up to have a more meaningful career path, but it also reduces the amount of student debt they incur to complete their education. I was thrilled to see this topic discussed in today’s meeting.
Another topic covered was the Opioid addiction in the country and the growing number of overdoses happening due to Opioids laced with synthetic Fentanyl. It’s so important for parents to become educated on this matter in order to protect their children and frankly themselves, as the addiction problem is not just affecting our young people, but many mature women as well.
Also discussed were the efforts being made to stop Human Trafficking in the country. It makes me proud to know that Utah’s Attorney General, Sean Reyes, along with the group Operation Underground Railroad, have been heavily involved in these efforts to protect these young women being abused.
We closed out the day on the topic of National Security. I didn’t realize until today that 20% of the U.S. Air Force is women – and given that zero women have ever been drafted into the Air Force, that means the 63,000 women serving all voluntarily do so. That’s pretty incredible! And one of my favorite quotes of the entire day was a quote from Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, when she said:
“Think about the most protective person you know in your life. The person who, no matter what, keeps you safe. I’d bet a lot of people in this room are thinking about their Moms. I don’t know of anyone more protective than a Mother whose offspring is threatened. You want to talk about the protectors…they are not all guys.” #truth
Being included in today’s meetings was an experience I will not soon forget. It is fabulous to see women coming together around causes we all care about as women, regardless of political affiliation, to work together to make the world a better place for both women and men. It is only by working together, rather than tearing one another apart, that we will solve problems and create the brightest future for our children and grandchildren.
Here are a few fun photos from my trip. Hope you enjoy! (you may have to turn your cell phone sideways to see the full pics):
~Amy Rees Anderson