IU Alumna Co-Founds Local Women's Conference

By Ellen Glover

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Last weekend, Bloomington hosted its first Be Golden conference, an event dedicated to inspiring and empowering all women. Various speakers and experts, including New York Times best-selling author and tech blogger, Luvvie Ajayi, shared their wisdom over the course of this 3-day event the left participant with new skills and more confidence. IU alumna Sarah Perfetti, MPA, Nonprofit Management and Policy Analysis ’11 co-founded the conference.

About a year ago, right at the height of the 2016 presidential election, Perfetti and a couple of friends were hanging out a bar and chatting.

“At that time people were saying some pretty vile things, people were up in arms, and we were kind of down about all of it,” recalls Perfetti. “Women were not, and still aren’t, being held in the highest regard in the current administration.” Perfetti and her friends began talking with some of the other women at the bar about their points of view on what was going on and how they envisioned themselves changing the world. One of these conversations was with the bartender, who conceded that she didn’t want to be a bartender forever and hoped to eventually help girls who are tomboys feel like they belong.

The discussions throughout the evening set off a lightbulb in Perfetti’s head, as well as her two co-founders, Kate Keith and Chelsea Sanders. They wanted to develop a conference that would satisfy the needs of all different types of women. It could empower women of different races, sexual orientations, ages, and professions through a diversity of panels and resources.

“We wanted to create a space for women where they could all come together and help each other through the changes happening in their lives,” says Perfetti. And just like that, the Be Golden conference was born.

Perfetti and her fellow Be Golden team members were familiar with similar events on the East and West coasts, and were determined to bring such an event to the heartland so Hoosier women could connect with fellow Midwesterners and create their community here.

“Indiana had kind of a negative connotation, especially since the election, so we want to try and make the Midwest cool,” says Perfetti. “This is just a little piece we can contribute to push women’s rights forward in our state.”

The conference lasted three days and included specialized meet-ups, panels, fitness opportunities, and celebrations, and a 5k run/walk. Panels and meet-up topics included the autonomy among queer people, power of exercise, how to be a risk taker, women’s advocacy and representation, women in digital marketing, creative branding, and a service project for Girl’s Inc. of Monroe County.

Keynote speaker Luvvie Ajayi, a Nigerian-born tech blogger and political activist whose 2016 book “I’m Judging You” was a New York Times best-seller, was the main event.

“This wasn’t a tech-heavy conference but Luvvie is definitely the biggest speaker that was there,” says Perfetti. “We managed to get her right before she really blew up. Now she speaks at a different event almost every day. We got so lucky. If we had booked her today, there is no way we could have afforded her. Her coming here means Bloomington has arrived.”

In addition to her speech on Friday night, Ajayi hosted an intimate lunch. Our very own Assistant Director of Cross-Alliance Initiatives, Jennifer Turrentine moderated one of the panels on Saturday, discussing diversity in tech and attended the luncheon. “Jennifer was one of the first people to reach out to me when I announced Be Golden,” recalls Perfetti, who knows Turrentine from her days working at Bloomington Pride. “I thought she would be a good addition to the conversation.”

The panel included several women, including IU alumna Anna Eaglin, who graduated with a degree in religious studies in 2006 and then returned to earn her masters in human computer interaction design in 2011.

“As we create products for the future, it is important to have diverse viewpoints and different kinds of people being a part of the conversation,” says Eaglin, who is currently a senior design partner at Innovatemap, a design agency in Indianapolis. “We need to bring in all sorts of people because they will be able to see things that you don’t. You need a diversity of viewpoints.”

One audience member asked the panelists about their biggest concerns with the lack of diversity in tech. “Even if you or someone else doesn’t see themselves as working in tech, we utilize “tech” as we now know it every day,” said Turrentin. “And even if you’re not working in a tech-related industry, don’t you want developers to have you in mind when they’re creating software or other innovative items? We can’t have one group of people creating and innovating technology that does not incorporate the needs of all potential users. And we need to have these conversations again and again, to ensure all voices are heard.”