Women’s Empowerment Conference sparks discussion, inspires women


Kent State Women’s Empowerment Conference participants “squirrel squat” for a group photo on Saturday, March 18, 2017.

Lyric Aquino

The Women’s Empowerment Conference, sponsored by the Panhellenic Council, rocked Kent State on Saturday in Bowman Hall.

The event focused on empowering and inspiring women while engaging them in discussions about diversity, sexual violence, feminism and career building.

Bonny Shade, associate director for fraternity and sorority life at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said in her speech to “challenge the norms.”

During the conference, Shade used her three sessions to encourage the audience to work hard and bring attention to sexual assault.

“Hustle until you don’t have to introduce yourself,” Shade said.

Throughout the conference, there were 10 sessions available, which ranged from feminism to self-help.

Kent State’s Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, assistant director for the Women’s Center, encouraged the audience to take care of themselves, touching on the importance of mental health and making time for yourself.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the little things add up,” said Kayla Blackerby, a junior middle childhood education major. “Self care is important and we forget about these things on a daily basis.”

Speaker Tina VanSteenbergen hosted a session about feminism and its place in society today.

“Don’t be afraid to use the ‘F’ word: feminism,” VanSteenbergen said.

She used her time to encourage audience members to end what she calls “the stigma against feminism.”

“Often times, the word ‘feminism’ is used in a negative way,” VanSteenbergen said. “But guess what? Feminism is about equality — equal power.” 

Deanna Gifford, a senior speech pathology and audiology major and Panhellenic board member, said the conversations were hard-hitting and interesting.

“People were engaged and were inspired to make a difference,” Gifford said.

Shade was the speaker for the most recent group session, which focused on sexual assault. She discussed statistics about Kent State’s sexual assault rates.

“In the (year of) 2015, nine sexual assault cases were reported,” Shade said. “However, 90 percent of cases aren’t reported. This makes the (approximate) total 3,550 women and 651 men who have been affected by sexual assault on your campus.”

Shade encouraged audience members to help victims of sexual assault.

“We can make a change on Kent’s campus,” Shade said.

Lyric Aquino is the humanities reporter, contact her at [email protected]