2023 Female Empowerment Summit
On May 13th, the Launch Project Female Empowerment Summit took place at The Clara Barton Auditorium at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters. The event brought together young women from diverse backgrounds
and age groups, from middle school through adults, who were inspired to hear from successful women leaders in various sectors. The day started off with Kathi Vidal, the Under Secretary of Commerce & Director of the USPTO, and Sahana Ahuja, the founder and president of the Launch Project and the organizer and director of the summit. In addition, other speakers included Julie Sweet – Chief Executive Officer of Accenture, Deb Johns – Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Scout, Alycen Mcauley Senior Vice President of the WNBA Washington Mystics, Shelly Collins – Partner at Sway Ventures and Founder of The Shatter Foundation, Jamie Wynne – CEO & Founder of Marigold & Grey, Monisha Kapila – Co-CEO of ProInspire, and more. Through a series of fireside chats, workshops, interviews, and panel discussions, the speakers shared their personal experiences, imparted their valuable lessons, and offered meaningful advice to around 200 in-person attendees and 150 virtual attendees.
Reflecting on the event’s significance, Fatima Hassan, a summit attendee, poignantly remarked, “this summit was a transformative experience which amplified the importance of female leadership and showcased the vast impact we can have when we empower each other.” In addition to empowering enterprising girls through sharing experiences with successful female leaders, the event provided a platform for networking and opportunities to build a strong and supportive mentorship community. Xiomara Rodriguez added, “We had an opportunity to engage with a host of successful female leaders, each with their unique stories and insights.
The mentorship and networking opportunities were invaluable, fostering connections I believe I will
endure long after the event.”
Sahana Ahuja, the organizer of the event, and a high school junior at the Madeira School, elaborated on the driving force that led her to devote the past year to planning this event. “When I was 13 years old, I attended my first summit in Boston, and it was then I realized the profound effect of bringing together successful female leaders and role models for teenage girls”. Since the Launch Project’s establishment in 2019, it has grown to 2,500 members and 45 chapters worldwide and on four continents. In its mission to
empower, educate, and develop girls to become tomorrow’s female leaders, changemakers, and entrepreneurs, the organization focuses explicitly on building critical skills and opportunities in business, politics, and STEM for all girls– irrespective of socioeconomic differences. Sahana’s motto, “You can’t be what you can’t see”, embodies the belief that she’s built as a central tenet to her nonprofit organization– for all girls of all backgrounds to have strong female mentors to understand their limitless potential for the future. In equalizing opportunities for all girls and
creating a positive impact for sponsoring mentorship, Sahana believes girls’ disparity to such opportunities can be eliminated. At the event, the Launch Project and Shatter Fund announced a partnership formed to offer an ongoing six-week online entrepreneurial certificate program at no cost to middle or high school girls. This initiative is being undertaken in cooperation with the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. Ariana Ahuja, the Vice President of the Launch Project and the Assistant Summit Director
who is a sophomore at the Bullis School, stated, “Working in conjunction with a powerful partner such as the Shatter Fund enables us to extend our reach to communities that lack sufficient resources for entrepreneurial education, thereby furthering our mission of equalizing and democratizing educational opportunities for all girls.”
The Launch Project’s annual summit was the epitome of showcasing the ingenuity and brilliance of women, and Sahana hopes the organization will continue to grow rapidly and asserts it is only the beginning. Sahana added, “Through our programs, I hope to inspire young girls to see the limitless possibilities available to them, build critical skills to unleash their potential, level the playing field for future career paths, and build positive networking and mentorship opportunities to empower the successful female leaders of tomorrow.” With numerous girls leaving the summit confident, well-connected, and inspired, Sahana is fulfilled knowing she helped perpetuate that same hope and drive that led her to found her organization which strives for other girls her age and younger to be the change they want to see in the world and to build a better and more equitable future for all women.