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News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator McGuire
Share this on TwitterShare on FacebookFor Immediate Release: October 17, 2014

Second Annual Alaska Women’s Summit Sparks New Solutions

Hundreds of Alaskan Women Join Forces to Address Issues from Sexual Assault to Succeeding in the Workplace

ANCHORAGE-The Second Annual Alaska Women’s Summit has just wrapped up in Anchorage. More than 300 of Alaska’s brightest and most successful women joined together for the two day summit addressing topics ranging from curbing high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault to shattering the glass ceiling.

“Do you want to meet the love of your life? The theme starts early in life with all of the Cinderella movies. Well, look in the mirror. It’s you,” said Senator Lesil McGuire, Co-Host of the Summit. “Alaska Women rock and this summit provided further proof that together, we can change the dialogue and help each other succeed beyond our wildest dreams.”

“As Alaskan women, we face many challenges. But we also have some of the smartest women I’ve ever met,” said Representative Charisse Millett, Co-Host of the Summit. “During our discussions, we laughed and we cried, but most importantly we created a path forward to improving the future for ourselves, our daughters and our granddaughters. I am honored to be able to work alongside these women and spend this time creating solutions to our most difficult problems.”

Hosts of the summit included U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, First Lady Sandy Parnell, Former Lieutenant Governor and former UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer, BP Alaska President Janet Weiss, ExxonMobil Production Manager Karen Hagedorn, Brigadier General Cathy Jorgenson, Senator McGuire and Representative Millett. The moderator for the event was Mary Sattler, a Yu’pik Eskimo from Bethel and served in the Alaska State House of Representatives for 10 years.

Presenters at the summit included nationally acclaimed speaker Gail Evans on the topic “She Wins, You Win” as well as Alaskan dynamos Olympian Holly Brooks, Iditarod superstar DeeDee Jonrowe, President/CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation Diane Kaplan, as well as Alaskan authors Dana Stabenow and Leigh Newman.

Senator Anna Fairclough participated on two panels, “Why Women Must Ask-Tips for Effective Negotiation” and “Women in Transition: Creating Pathways for Healing from Domestic Violence through Housing Opportunities and Strong Communities.” Senator Cathy Giessel participated on a panel titled, “Filling the Female LeadershipPipeline: Why We Need Women at the Table.”

Other discussions included closing the gender pay gap, the impact of the rising cost of childcare on the workforce and economy, affirmations of strong women, Alaska’s developing workforce and women leaders of industry, redefining ‘Like a Girl’, and risk takers, entrepreneurs and innovators.

The summit literally ended on a high note with a closing speech from Vanessa O’Brien, who despite having no mountaineering experience at all, and after only two years of training, went on to set the women's speed record for completing the "Explorer's Grand Slam" - reaching the geographic North and South poles, as well as reaching the top of the highest peak on each continent - in eleven months. In March 2013, she became the fastest woman to climb the seven summits, doing so in only ten months and being one of only 54 women in the world to accomplish such a feat.

“Using the metaphor of climbing, Vanessa took us on a tour of some of the most challenging and remote places on the planet,” said Senator McGuire. “In her presentation, she explored the importance of overcoming adversity by having a purpose through short-term goals. She illustrated how preparation, teamwork, staying focused to avoid risks, and applying a success-oriented mindset differentiate the winners from the losers - not just on the mountain but in business and in life. I think this was the perfect way to end an incredibly inspiring two days of discussions with a direction of where we need to head next.”

The Summit was brought to fruition after a report Senator McGuire had commissioned in 2013 on the status of women in Alaska in regards to housing and homelessness, domestic violence, the gender-wage gap, mental health and drug addiction, and health care. The report revealed that Alaska may be one of the most challenging places in the United States for women. On average, Alaskan women are paid less than women in the rest of the US, imprisoned at a higher rate, and have a suicide rate that is twice the national average. The statistics also show our rates of domestic violence and sexual assault are two and a half times the national average.

For more information, please contact Amy Saltzman or Genevieve Wojtusik in Senator McGuire’s office at (907) 269-0250.