Athletes, students, professionals and leaders from all walks of life gathered together at the Nike Headquarters to attend the first annual SheBelieves Summit. The event was designed by the U.S. National Soccer Federation and held on March 3 in New York City. The day included various speakers on women empowerment, panel questioning with established women in various fields of leadership and breakout group sessions.
The SheBelieves movement originated around the time of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and sought “to inspire and encourage girls and young women to achieve their dreams, on or off the field,” by creating female-positive media campaigns and hosting soccer-related events for girls. It has created a “special bond between the team and its fans, amplifying its powerful message of empowerment and self-belief across the nation.”
The keynote speaker was Julie Foudy, the former captain of the U.S. Women’s National soccer team and owner and founder of Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy, a transformational sports camp for girls. She is also the author of the book “Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU,” and works as an ESPN analyst. During her time on the Women’s National Team, she won two FIFA Women’s World Cup Championships and two Olympic gold medals. Foudy spoke on the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone and embracing their leadership potential.
Although established soccer players spoke, the seminar wasn’t limited to this sport. Various other professional fields took to the stage, including Director of States & Global Women’s March Breanna Butler, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York Lashann Dearcy Hall, WNBA player and Olympic Gold medalist Elena Delle Donne among others.
NYU athletics itself has ties to the Women’s National Team. Kim Wyant, head coach of the NYU Men’s Soccer team, played for the U.S. National Team as a goalkeeper back in the team’s inaugural years. Although the SheBelieves initiative is a new movement, the idea of women and leadership on and off the field has always existed.
“Any time you get individuals and corporations behind women in athletics it’s positive for all,” Wyant said to WSN. “[The] culture of helping others, and exposing the game, connecting individuals is very helpful in moving the needle forward in all aspect of women sports.”
During Wyant’s time on the national team, some of the players she interacted with throughout her soccer career are still making strides in leadership today. For example, Mary Harvey was once a goalkeeper as well as on the 1991 World Cup team, and is now in a position of leadership as she represents women’s interests in FIFA.
Another leader for Wyant was April Heinricks, who was a captain of the 1991 team, and later became the head coach; she continued to represent women’s interests at the United States Soccer Federation. Last but not least, another leader Wyant encountered was the keynote speaker of the seminar herself, Julie Foudy.
One focus of the SheBelieves movement is the importance of women inspiring other women. Wyant was moved by her teammate from the University of Central Florida, as well as the national team, Michelle Akers. Akers has dedicated years to her training and the advancement of the women’s game.
Overall, the SheBelieves summit was an opportunity for students and people alike to gather, network and inspire. The event was well organized and full of purpose. Breakout sessions allowed some of the distinguished speakers to interact more closely with attendees in smaller groups.
In general, the SheBelieves Summit and movement provides women with the idea that opportunity is out there, you just have to have the confidence to embrace this opportunity.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 26 print edition. Contact Tori Bianco at [email protected]