Inspiration and motivation for change –- those were the resounding themes at this year’s United State of Women summit in Los Angeles.
Thousands of women descended upon the Shrine Auditorium to listen to powerhouse women speak on all manner of topics ranging from the gender pay gap to sexual violence against women to women in politics.
Michelle Obama, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jane Fonda, Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen and many other women spoke at the summit to crowds of viewers hanging on their every word. The atmosphere was one of hope –- hope for change and for a better future for young women everywhere.
“Good Morning America” spoke to some of the inspiring women at the summit and asked: “What’s your message to young women everywhere?”
Olympian Jordyn Wieber, who has been outspoken about sexual abuse since confronting disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar in court earlier this year, told “GMA” that women should feel empowered to “have a voice.”
“If you feel you were sexually abused or you were sexually abused you can speak out, tell people, tell people until they listen, hold your abusers accountable. And it’s okay. We believe you,” Wieber said.
Her words came after a powerful moment when Wieber joined Aly Raisman, Tiffany Lopez and Jeanette Antolin on stage as “sister survivors” of Larry Nassar, each speaking out against sexual abuse.
Sophia Bush spoke to “GMA” after introducing the brave athletes to the stage, saying it was “an honor to bear witness to their experience.” She called the summit “invaluable” and said she wanted young women everywhere to know that “they have communities at large of other women — some who know them, some who don’t — who are standing by to listen and support them.”
Model Iskra Lawrence was at the summit representing Aerie and their #AerieReal modeling campaign, which promotes photos — not retouched at all — of Lawrence, Yara Shahidi, Aly Raisman and others to inspire body positivity.
She said her message to young women is to “believe in themselves.”
“Their power is by being themselves and I feel like when we are free from the confines of insecurity, we show our true power and we’re enabled to be exactly who we are meant to be and we shine our brightest … then we can work to give, to be better people, to work together to move forward and I think after the year that we’ve had we just want women to feel empowered and to feel like they are not alone and they have a sisterhood,” Lawrence told “GMA.”
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, spoke to “GMA” after taking the stage at the USOW alongside Jane Fonda. They spoke about disproportionally high incarceration rates in African American communities and racism in America. Fonda told a cheering crowd that she’s “studying” racism in America after having realized “the lens through which I have been looking at race is too shallow.” She advocated ending the war on drugs and the construction of new prisons.
Cullors, who praised Fonda on stage and told the crowd “every white woman in the audience please take heed,” told “GMA” she wants young women to “show up for your truth. Be courageous, be effective and strategic and get the job done.”
She said she wants women across America “to see our strength, to show up for our lives and to remember that the work that women do saves the rest of the world.”
Valerie Jarrett, one of the co-chairs of USOW, said she wanted women to leave the summit “better informed.” She told “GMA” she wanted her message to young women to be to “get involved in your community.”
“Your voices matter. We hear them loud and clearly and you need to go back home and change your community,” she said. “Take what you learn here today and make the world better.”
Tarana Burke echoed that same sentiment when speaking to “GMA.” She said she wanted women to leave the summit not just with inspiration but with motivation.
“You have power now. You don’t have to wait until you’re an adult, you don’t have to wait for someone to give it to you,” she said. “Your voice, your strength means something regardless of your age.”
Tina Tchen, fellow USOW co-chair, brought her daughter, a rising college senior, to the summit along with her. She said it’s important to empower women that age and said, “They are not just the future leaders of our country. They are the leaders of our country right now.”
She told “GMA” it’s important to make sure that young women “are empowered and that they have the tools they need to succeed.”
“Use your voice,” she added. “Get registered and vote.”
Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was at the summit representing her company Foodstirs, said that as a female business owner she wants young women to believe in themselves.
“Believe in yourself and you can make a difference. I think that we’re all striving for the same thing at the end of the day. We want to have inclusion we want to be credited for the work that we do,” she said.