By JENN WILCOX, Spark Board Member and Chair of SparkNYC
On Monday, May 14, members of the Spark community attended The Gloria Awards, The Ms. Foundation for Women’s annual gala. Unlike many of the black tie galas held across New York City, The Gloria Awards focused on creating a friendly, warm and inclusive atmosphere. The women were sassy, empowered, and, as our host Cathy Raphael noted, awesome.
As a 25 year old woman, it was amazing and inspiring to meet Gloria Steinem, hear about all the work done to advance the cause of women’s rights, and gain a deeper appreciation for the history and promise of the women’s movement. As one of my friends and fellow Spark member Carlo DaVia put it, the experience really brought home just how large the shoes we have to fill are as we grow older and take on more leadership roles within the movement.
In listening to the speeches, I learned more about just how inspirational Gloria has been to women across the world, and how important her leadership has been in helping bring women to the movement at different phases of their lives. One of the greatest moments of the night was when Gloria said to us, “Spark… I know your work, what you’re doing is fantastic. I think we are sisters.” Yes, Gloria. We sure are.
Of course, the evening was filled with amazing talks from honorees who are working around the world on tangible issues and large visions to help make the world a safer and better place for women. We had the privilege of hearing from Felicia Brown-Williams on the importance of comprehensive healthcare for women in the South. (We learned that Mississippi’s child mortality rate is worse than that of Sri Lanka, and on par with Botswana.) Klarissa Oh shared sobering details about her work as an advocate for survivors of childhood abuse. Gert Boyle shared in her no-nonsense way her personal story of taking over Columbia Sportswear once her husband died, only to grow the company to a $1.7 billion valuation. In Gert’s words, the key to success is “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.” Throughout the evening, we were struck by the balance between the humility of the speakers and their willingness to acknowledging their value to society.
The evening ended with Jacki Zehner and Helen LaKelly Hunt welcoming all the Women Moving Millions donors on stage and leading them in a version of the song “we’re all in this together.” As I looked across the Spark table and across the room, it was impossible not to feel inspired and hopeful about the future.
Spark would like to thank Cathy Raphael for her sponsorship to attend The Gloria Awards.