Michelle Obama speaks at Pennsylvania Conference for Women
Former first lady Michelle Obama provided words of encouragement as she spoke at the one-day Pennsylvania Conference for Women on Tuesday.
During an informal conversation with producer and television hit-maker Shonda Rhimes, Obama provided some insight about serving as the first lady when her husband, Barack, occupied the White House from 2009 to 2017. She said she was enjoying a slower pace of life after eight years of living a hectic lifestyle as the president’s wife.
“It’s good to have control over your day-to-day life,” said Obama, who spoke before thousands of conference attendees at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia.
“For eight years, our lives really weren’t our own. You’re moving from crisis to crisis,” Obama said, as she referred to the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 people dead and more than 500 injured.
“My heart goes out to the victims and the families. Being commander-in-chief is sadly overseeing that type of loss and really not having a solution to offer families when you comfort them, because we’re not at that point yet. That’s the kind of stuff that you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” Obama said.
During her husband’s administration, former President Barack Obama had to deal with the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino; Calif.; and Charlestson, S.C.
Before becoming first lady, Obama attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She eventually became an attorney in her hometown of Chicago and she met Barack Obama at the law firm where they both worked.
The Obamas, who celebrated their 25th anniversary Tuesday, plan to continue their work around education and girls’ leadership and training.
“Barack and I want to be involved in developing the next generation of leaders, ” Obama said.
“We don’t want to be the folks that don’t go away and don’t give up our seats and make sure that other young people are brought up and supported and have the research and the knowledge and the expertise to take our places,” she added.
The conversation with Rhimes addressed topics ranging from microaggressions women face in the workplace to investing in education to the importance of work and life balance to the impact of diversity.
“What makes me sad about what happens in this country around education is children know when people don’t believe in them – when they’re not being invested in,” said the 53-year-old mother of daughters Malia and Sasha.
During the conversation, she highlighted the importance of being able to have a flexible work schedule, particularly for those who juggling raising a family while working.
“At some point we’ve got to create a different definition of what it means to successful at work,” Obama added.
Obama noted that she is often approached by corporations and organizations that are seeking recommendations about how to address diversity.
“The first thing that I recommend is you make sure that the problem solving table is diverse,” she explained.
“There can’t be a room full of men who are going to come up with right answers for how to create a work environment that’s hospitable to women and it can’t be a room full of women,” Obama said. “At any table that we are at, we should be working actively to mix it up so that we can have a real, broad range of perspectives on every issue.”
During her tenure at the White House, Obama led several initiatives, including Let’s Move! to help battle childhood obesity.
The Pennsylvania Conference for Women is expected to draw 12,000 attendees in providing a day of networking and professional development. Participants get to hear from more than 100 speakers in sessions covering business, philanthropy, leadership, finance, media and professional development.