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The Tory Burch Foundation hosted its first Embrace Ambition Summit yesterday in New York City. Presented by Bank of America, the daylong forum included presentations from prominent figures in business, entertainment, sports, and politics. Among the A-list ensemble was decorated author Margaret Atwood, who shared her experience as a woman writer:

“How long did it take you to write The Handmaid’s Tale, I am sometimes asked? It may look like only a year, but the real answer is four thousand years, because that’s how much of women’s history I was drawing on– and that’s how many generations of storytellers stood behind me.” Margaret Atwood, Author, Handmaiden’s Tale 

This recognition of women past and present was the theme of the summit. Each speaker addressed harmful discourses around race, gender, and sexuality within their respective industries. “We want to use today to shine a light on the sometimes-hidden biases and barriers that all women face,” said CEO Tory Burch in her opening remarks.

Burch has long skirted the line between fashion titan and philanthropist. Even when the Tory Burch label was an early start-up (humbly conceived at her kitchen table), she placed women’s empowerment at the bottom line. “I was warned not to use ‘business’ and ‘social responsibility’ in the same sentence repeatedly, but I kept doing it anyway,” Burch said. Thirteen years on, this activist lean is at the heart of the label’s marketing strategy. The Tory Burch story is one about tenaciously fighting the status quo, about confronting boardrooms of businessmen (stress on ‘men’) with an unwavering mission: to place women and men on equal footing.

This narrative shone through at yesterday’s summit. Speakers like actress Yara Shahidi, journalist Katie Couric, and Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn shared stories about owning womanhood in social and professional spaces. Each woman had tales about the barriers they’ve faced and the achievements they made despite them.

With performances by Nona Hendryx, Jessie Reyez, Michael Fabiano, St. Vincent, and Poet Regie Gibson, the Summit was a star-studded yet intimate occasion. Beneath the fanfare, women’s empowerment was the punctuation of an uplifting dialogue on equity, awareness, responsibility, and ambition.

 

Photos | Courtesy of Tory Burch