Generations of Strong Women: Reflections on the Women’s Funding Network Summit from a Young Intern

Ann Smithson
Ann Smithson, Intern at the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi

As an intern with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, I was given the opportunity to attend the Women’s Funding Network Summit in New York City with my boss and mentor Carol Penick. Initially, I was unsure of what to expect and slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of meeting so many incredible women. My fears, however, quickly disappeared once I arrived. The women attending the Summit, though coming from extremely varied backgrounds, came together under the goal of bettering the lives of women everywhere. What impressed me most was how these women were so eager to share their experiences and insight with everyone present. The Summit challenged me to think about my world and helped me to identify the different women who work to make it a better place.

Months after the Summit, I met a woman who told me she wanted to form a non-profit to connect women in the St. Louis area, but was unsure of where to begin. When I told her about the Women’s Funding Network and its member organizations, she was ecstatic and couldn’t believe there was a network dedicated to the type of work she was interested in. I believe this interaction reveals so much about today’s women: we want to make a change, but we aren’t sure where to begin. While I was fortunate enough to attend the conference and grow under Carol’s guidance, there are many women who could achieve these goals but don’t necessarily have the opportunity or tools to do so. I now understand that it’s our job to reach out to those in our communities and provide them with a network to learn and grow from.

Being able to attend the conference allowed me to foster connections I would have never created beforehand. While the issues discussed at the conference apply to so many women, it is hard and a bit frightening to enter this professional world without these personal connections. The incredible women at the event helped to alleviate these worries and their commitment to helping other women and organizations grow was truly inspiring. The values I saw being put into practice at the conference gave me the courage and skill to pass on what little knowledge I had in order to continue to build this network of women helping women—not only for one weekend, but for a lifetime.

Now, more than ever, we need strong women to invest in our future. Only through the guidance of strong women are we able to become strong women. It is when young women like myself are given the chance to learn from those who came before us that we are able to continue the cycle of empowerment. I believe that by not only addressing the needs of women from all backgrounds, but incorporating their viewpoints into this network, we are able to truly better each other and our society.

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