Powerful women can be intimidating. Especially a room full of them... But the extraordinary thing about the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) symposium (which I announced here) was the camaraderie.
Dee Poku, cofounder of the WIE Symposium, felt that that was the most successful element, and that's saying a lot, considering they pulled the whole extravaganza together in a matter of months — and attendance rolled in at roughly 400.
"With so many high-profile women, the potential for egos was high as well," she laughed, "but there was a really warm atmosphere in the room."
Indeed. It was as though, because everyone knew why we were there, we could relax a little. Given permission to be supportive of each other, we took it.
Egos aside, there was no dearth of fashion in the room. Christian Louboutin heels, Alexander McQueen sheaths, clingy jersey dresses, satin blouses, bracelets, bangles, beads, and brooches, bib necklaces, chain necklaces, false eyelashes, Latisse in evidence, and kind of surprisingly, lots of rhinestones (I guess they're back).
And then the men, in their plain clothes and gray suits (the few that were there), melding into the background like fuse boxes at an exotic light show.
It's something my friend Matt brings up frequently, how lucky women are with the kaleidoscope of fashion options they have, and what a paltry few men are relegated to.
But for me, it sparked another observation: Women are not afraid to strut their stuff fashion-wise, preen their feathers if you will — but when it comes to giving themselves a voice, speaking up and speaking out… it's all gray suit and fuse box — providing the energy for others. Except here.
An audience question that speaks to this point was directed to the Women in Film panel: "What do you think about separating women out [not including men]? Nora Ephron capped other salient responses with the quip: "With all the men at a hockey game, no one thinks 'Where Are the Women?'!"
She also noted her off-Broadway show, Love, Loss & What I Wore. "I don't care if men come. Some do, but that's not who it's for."
Throughout the day, there was so much expressed, both succinctly and expansively, that it would be impossible to cover it all here, so I'll just pop in some teasers with more sprinkled and sauced throughout ensuing articles.
Diane von Furstenberg said she has never met a woman who isn't strong."
But, in the fashion panel, moderated by Donna Karan, von Furstenberg added that women are often to "afraid to show their strength" and offered this sage advice: "It starts with ourselves first. You can be strong and be humble — but just be in charge."
Diane von Furstenberg also shared her "trick" for starting each day with a focus for good in mind:
When I wake up in the morning, I make sure the first thing [I do] is something that doesn't benefit me — even just an email that introduces two people to each other. Most amazing — it always comes back, like a boomerang."
Sheila Johnson, whose admittedly "eclectic life" includes being owner of three sports teams, spoke about growing up in a world of "No," and learning that
When anyone tells me 'No', that means "Yes'."
She also cautioned women over 50 who are back in the dating pool to "watch yourselves!" because AIDS is climbing in the 50-and-over age range.
I want women to feel good about themselves, and [know] how to use that for the greater good."
Nora Ephron discussed technology with her usual insouciant humor: "I'm on Facebook but I have no friends." Regarding Twitter, she mused, "Is this going to be tech thing that throws me into Geezerdom?" She emphasized that she was an early and enthusiastic adopter of email and other innovations, but she basically uses Twitter to keep up with her children.
She also marveled at Jennifer Egan's "brilliant" novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad (book group, anyone?), in its ability to turn PowerPoint in Art.
If you feel you missed out, don't (well a little, but there are myriad was to participate) and Poku assures us there will be an even bigger and better WIE Symposium next year. In the meantime, you can join the conversation (I was "friended" as soon as I signed up) and watch videos of the sessions online.
You can even bid on the dresses in the fashion show here at CharityBuzz.com. OK, I can't afford them, but oooooh I want the Donna Karan one, I really do.
You can also look into Karan's foundation for well-being and other causes, Urban Zen (formed after her husband died of cancer), or the White Ribbon Alliance for safe motherhood and other initiatives. Because, here's the crux, at this stage in our lives, there's a bundle of wisdom and caring and experience wrapped up in whatever we choose to wear. Third-Age Women calls it the age of fulfillment — and helping transform the world into a better place is about as fulfilling as it gets.