Hundreds of Utah women gathered for Provo City’s Women Empowerment Panel Monday night at the Provo Rec Center.
The panel featured five women: Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, Mormon author and public speaker Al Fox Carraway, Nena & Co. founder and owner Ali Hynek, Rags to Raches founder and owner Rachel Nilsson and Interwoven founder and owner Kera Thompson.
The night’s theme was “empowered women empower women.” The panel discussed their paths to career success and withstanding negativity from social media.
Hynek, who has travelled to over 50 countries, said, “Wherever I go, the women I meet no matter where they are, we have so much in common. On so many levels, we are the same.”
Thompson said she feels empowered when she surrounds herself with people who support her.
“Surrounding yourself with people, women especially, who are like minded and not like minded can catapult you,” Thompson said.
Kaufusi said she often feels intimated in her new political position, especially as the first female mayor, but she said she feels empowered by the other women in her life.
“I’m always standing on the shoulders of great women who have come before me,” Kaufusi said. “I use my mothers skills of settling fights – those have come into play.”
Kaufusi said she has a whole “toolbox” of skills she’s gained from other women that she utilizes every day while working as mayor.
“They though that a woman couldn’t run this town, but oh boy am I showing them,” Kaufusi said.
Withstanding social media negativity
Carraway, who has over 183 thousand Instagram followers, said she’s received disturbing and unkind messages over social media.
“I can’t count how many times people have told me in person and online that I should kill myself,” Carraway said. “And it’s coming from people in my community.”
Carraway said she’s received negative social media messages criticizing her looks as well.
“Don’t let some unspoken law say on social media you need to look a certain way and be a certain person,” Carraway said.
Despite Carraway’s frequent utilization of social media as a public figure, she said she wished she could do away with it altogether.
“I hate social media so much,” Carraway said. “I cannot tell you how done with it I am. But here’s what I’m comes down to: posting with a purpose.”
Nilsson said she started her business on social media.
“I have a love hate relationship with social media,” Nilsson said. “It’s insanely toxic, you’re incredibly vulnerable and people are quick to judge.”
Nilsson said her life mantra is to surround herself with fountains, not drains.
“Sometimes social media can be that drain where we need to take 10 steps back,” Nilsson said.
“It’s not easy to find balance,” Kaufusi said. “Mother’s guilt is real. It doesn’t go away no matter what you do. You just have to find a way to balance it.”
Kaufusi joked that she still gets calls at work from her 24-year-old son complaining there’s hasn’t been any food in the house since she was made mayor.
Carraway said she finds balance in her life by prioritizing the things she loves.
“If we aren’t doing the things we love, we’re missing the point,” Carraway said. “I think it’s important to do the scary and to do things that don’t make sense.”