"It's not enough to have a seat at the table; you have to bring your voice, too."
That's what Kimberly Summers, who works at Spotify, would tell her middle-school self, and that's exactly what she shared with a diverse group of seventh grade girls during the Washington Football Charitable Foundation's Virtual Spring ASPIRE Summit on March 16.
The ASPIRE initiative, created for seventh graders, focuses on inspiring, educating and building confidence in young women from local area schools. This year's summit allowed female students to hear from a panel of influential and diverse women who come from a variety of career paths that have broken barriers in their industry.
Kicking off the event was GeNienne Samuels, who is the president and CEO of her own company, Sideline Prep, and also serves as a Washington Football Team in-game host. After an icebreaker exercise, Samuels introduced the 7th grade students to the all-star panelists:
- Ilana Avergun – Global Event Marketing Manager, Twitter
- Tyra Lockhart – Technical Operations Manager, The Walt Disney Company
- Melissa Schiller – Director of Community Relations, National Football League
- Kimberly Summers – Hip Hop and R&B, Artist & Label Partnerships, Spotify
Each panelist brought unique and insightful thoughts to the discussion. Lockhart talked about being in the entertainment industry and how often she was the only woman or person of color in the room; Summers discussed when she knew what she wanted to do and how she made those dreams a reality; Schiller emphasized the importance of loving what you do and growing through uncomfortable times; and Avergun shared the keys to accomplishing her goals and advice she would give others looking to do the same.
"Learn from the best people and say yes to opportunities," Avergun said.
Following the panel discussion, the girls were asked to discuss what they accomplished in 2020 and what they look to accomplish in 2021. The exercise was a fitting conclusion to a day of empowerment among female students who are already striving to make a difference in the world.