What We Learned at the 2020 Altitude Summit

What We Learned at the 2020 Altitude Summit

Roughly 2,000 attendees from all over the continent travel to Palm Springs every March to spend five days immersed in a creative community of female entrepreneurs at the Altitude Summit. Most attendees come back for more in the following years; the conference’s testimonials are sprinkled with terms like “overwhelming support,” “pure sisterhood,” and “collaborative nature”—a telltale sign of what Alt Summit offers through its keynotes, workshops, and round-table sessions. After joining in the 2020 summit, here’s what we learned.

News and motherhood

The opening keynote was an in-depth interview with acclaimed and award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien. Alt Summit founder Gabrielle Blair sat down with the powerhouse reporter and opened the conversation with a question about the impact of social media on news. “Other than it creating bubbles, these platforms allow for empty slogans that offer no further context about the subject,” answered O’Brien. She stressed that the context of every news article is crucial and that headlines never tell the full story.

The interview ended on a more personal note when Blair and O’Brien discussed motherhood and marriage. The journalist has four children (two girls and twin boys) and shared with the audience that she went back to work shortly after giving birth. “My maternity leave ranged from three weeks with my first-born to two months with the twins, and while I faced scrutiny about those decisions—mostly from men—it was my decision and what worked best for me. I love my job and I am a much happier and whole person when I get to go to work every day.”

A purple pet rock

Virtual reality director Paisley Smith and graphic designer Caitlin Conlen pushed their audience way out of their comfort zones during their Feminist Futures workshop. The pair used tools of world-building to demonstrate an ideal feminist workplace of the future. “What if a contract looked like a purple pet rock that fits in your hand instead of a piece of paper with writing on it?” offered Conlen in an attempt to think completely outside of the box.

The workshop proved how difficult world-building is, because it requires you to become untethered from everything you know in order to unleash a creative mindset. But this group pushed through and came up with a futuristic contract that is designed with the method of blockchain: a growing list of records that are linked, have timestamps, and are built to be resistant to alteration. It would record every oral agreement as well as the written language, and it would be based on integrity and mutual trust between the involved parties. The pet rock idea didn’t stick, though; instead, this contract would look like a friendly robot.

Real inclusivity

Cyndie Spiegel of Dear Grown Ass Women hosted a panel and party exclusively for women over 35. Spiegel is a talented (and witty) speaker and doesn’t disappoint as a self-proclaimed truth teller. Her no-nonsense talk about elevating women to be bold and impactful leaders was sprinkled with salty language: “No more bullshit, alright?” Spiegel aims to unite women (and men) in a more diverse culture in the workspace, the gym, the neighbourhood coffee shop, and even the living room, which at Alt Summit is a little bit like preaching to the choir. Still, she shared her thoughts about the subject matter in a fresh way; her message of inclusivity and kindness went hand-in-hand with a healthy dose of cynicism and grit. “You don’t have to like every other female human to practice inclusivity,” she said. “You just have to keep it real.”