Nine-time Olympic medalist headlines fourth annual ‘Women in Entrepreneurial and Leadership Forum’

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Johann Derek Oribello

The Women in Business organization invited nine-time Olympic medalist and the most decorated track and field athlete in history, Allyson Felix, to headline the fourth annual Women in Entrepreneurial and Leadership Forum.

by Johann Derek Oribello, Senior Staff Writer

With a growing need and recognition for gender equality in the workplace, San Diego State’s Women in Business organization invited nine-time Olympic medalist and the most decorated track and field athlete in history, Allyson Felix, to headline the fourth annual Women in Entrepreneurial and Leadership Forum.

The Feb. 27 event aimed to address gender inequality by providing women the skills and confidence necessary to navigate through the competitive workforce. Felix spoke at the engagement to share her journey and inspire future business leaders and entrepreneurs by sharing her experiences as a female athlete.

Some of the conversation centered on the intersection of work and motherhood.

At the event, Felix discussed her New York Times op-ed released last year regarding Nike’s lack of paid maternity leave for its athletes. Her story prompted significant public outcry that resulted in the company changing their policies, ensuring maternity protections for all its female athletes around pregnancy period, according to an update from the op-ed. 

Felix said her peers who shared similar experiences inspired her to write her op-ed, which was warmly received as many women in other industries also felt her story reflected theirs.

“Other friends of mine who were in the sport had their contracts paused and their likeness was still being used, they were still required to do appearances,” Felix said. “I’m glad that I decided to do that because I had a lot of other women reach out to me who’ve had similar experiences across different industries saying this is not okay. We really wanted to do something about it.

Those who attended the event hoped to gain insight and be inspired by Felix’s journey as a highly decorated Olympian. Undeclared freshman Maya Ratliff said she wanted to hear how Felix tackled and overcome her struggles in hopes of sparking inspiration.

“I’m undeclared, (so) I’m not really sure what I’m leaning towards yet,” Ratliff said. “I think coming here and hearing from Allyson Felix since I’m a fan of hers would help inspire me and be hopeful for the future.” 

Felix said embracing the journey and reflecting on mistakes is the most important step for young women to pursue their dreams. 

“Embrace the journey,” Felix said. “Go for your dreams, however big they might be and understand that there’s gonna be ups and downs, but embrace those. When you have moments of failure, look at it. What can you take away from it? How can you do things differently?”

Business junior Domenique Sciuto — a member of Women in Business — said the large turnout of the event tells them it was a success.

She also recognized the diversity of the audience who came to hear from Felix. 

“I think it’s great. It’s not just people who are into entrepreneurship,” Sciuto said. “There’s a lot of different majors who attended and a lot of men are here too.” 

Felix said speaking up in spite of the consequences is the best course of action for injustices in the workplace. 

“I don’t think there’s always a right time (to speak out),” Felix said. “For me, I knew that there were going to be consequences that could come from it. But I also knew I had a platform that I wanted to use.” 

Women in Business is an on campus organization focused on providing women with engaging leadership, career and networking opportunities. Meetings and events can be found on their website.

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