ATLANTIC CITY — Getting involved, finding a voice and facilitating change is not easy, but well worth the effort.
For the nearly 35 women in attendance at Saturday’s Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative conference at Stockton University’s new campus, the message of self-empowerment was loud and clear.
Iasia Gee, of Union, an employee of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said she came away from the event with a better understanding of how self-advocacy influences the things she can do for others.
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“If you can’t help yourself or if you’re not empowered yourself, you can’t really empower other women,” Gee said.
The event featured a panel of women community leaders, including Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Susan Maven, Atlantic County Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Maureen Kern, Avanzar Director of Social Justice Programming Tamu Lane and New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault Capacity Building Manager Jyoti Venketraman. The panel was moderated by Pamela Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Attorney Martin Hyman addressed the group about the legal perspectives of the #MeToo movement, in which Carlson is a prominent figure.
The panelists discussed ways for women to take a more active approach to addressing issues in the workplace, at home or in their communities.
Carlson, chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, spoke briefly at the event before leaving. She said she learned a lot about women’s empowerment in going public with sexual harassment claims against her former boss at Fox News, Roger Ailes. She also described other instances in her career where she was sexually assaulted or harassed.
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Carlson — who has been criticized by Miss America 2018 Cara Mund for allegedly contributing to a hostile work environment — said workplace harassment is an “epidemic” for women in this country but found solace in the fact that the public’s attitude toward the issue is evolving.
Lauren Leader-Chivee, co-founder and CEO of All in Together, which supports women in political and civic life, said she wanted the event’s attendees to leave inspired.
“Get involved,” she told the group. “It’s OK if you’re not doing everything because you’re doing something.”
Maven, who is currently a judge in family court, told the women the road to empowerment is not always easy.
“To make change, we have to be bold enough to step up and do things that are uncomfortable,” she said.