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The week of June 6 was an exciting time for Vital Voices. We were joined in Washington, D.C. by some of our most stellar women from all over the world, and, in partnership with ANN INC., the parent company of ANN Taylor and LOFT, we hosted the inaugural ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum.

At the Leadership Forum, we welcomed our 2012 ANNpower Fellows: 50 rising stars, young women from all over the country. Over the course of the week, these 50 ANNpower Fellows had the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by members of our Global Leadership Network and ANN INC. executives; celebrate the launch of the Vital Voices book and the 2012 Annual Global Leadership Awards; and enjoy styling tips and shopping from Ann Taylor and LOFT.

Early on, it was clear that we were working with a phenomenal group of young women. With interests ranging from women’s political participation in the developing world to teens’ financial literacy, each of the Fellows demonstrated a passion for changing the world around them.

At the core of the Leadership Forum was Vital Voices’ signature leadership training, facilitated by Laura Alonso, Panmela Castro, Inez McCormack, Maria Pacheco, Mu Sochua, and Kah Walla. As ANNpower Advisors, these women helped bring the principles of the Vital Voices Leadership Model to life, offering examples from their own experiences. During the Leadership Forum, the ANNpower Advisors provided support and mentorship as the ANNpower Fellows worked in groups to develop a platform for an issue they felt passionate about, and then designed individual projects that they plan to implement in their own communities. 

Fellows worked together to tackle case studies presented in the Vital Voices Leadership Model, with support from ANNpower Advisor Kah Walla and LOFT SVP Tara Ellef.

On Tuesday, Fellows headed to the Vital Voices’ offices, where they had the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of all the women being honored at the Global Leadership Awards, including a panel with Honorees from the Middle East centered on how to affect global change as a young person. Fellows commented that these sessions were some of the most inspirational during their time in Washington.

ANNpower Fellows also heard from outstanding women leaders here in the United States. ANN INC. executives provided insights into the challenges of a career in business, and offered their advice for the Fellows as they approach the next steps in their academic journeys. Kay Krill, President and CEO of ANN INC., Tara Ellef, SVP of Merchandising for LOFT, and Catherine Fisher, VP of Corporate Communications for ANN INC., were among the executives who helped mentor the Fellows. House M.D. TV star Jennifer Morrison even joined the Fellows as a surprise guest! Later, at a visit to Georgetown University, Fellows talked with Dr. Carol Lancaster (pictured below), Dean of the School of Foreign Service, and Vice-Chair of the Vital Voices Board, about the importance of having a global perspective. 

They got VIP treatment at a private shopping event at LOFT in Georgetown, including tips from a professional stylist and makeup artist (check out the photos here!). Fellows even got to pick out an outfit (or two!) from LOFT’s newest lines. Later, during an Ann Taylor Styling Workshop, Fellows received interview tips and learned how to put together the perfect interview outfit from Styling and PR Director, Andrew Taylor.

At the Global Leadership Awards, ANNpower Fellows were highlighted on stage as the next generation of women leaders, the “rising voices” of tomorrow. As Jennifer Morrison said on stage at the Kennedy Center, “Tonight, Vital Voices challenges all of us to step up, and, after spending the day with these young women, I can tell you – we are ready.”

The Leadership Forum culminated in the Fellows presenting their working group’s platform – the issue they feel passionate about – and their idea for a project they plan to implement in their communities. Later this year, ANNpower Fellows will be eligible for grants to help transform their ideas into action.

In closing, ANNpower Advisor Panmela Castro reminded the Fellows that, “You can’t change the world by yourself. Use this network to connect and collaborate, and together we can change the world.”

Maya Babla helps manage the ANNpower program as part of her work as program coordinator for the Global Leadership Network department.