Nastia Liukin, Robbie Myers, Cheryl Kaplan, and Fernanda Tapia headline Women who Empower conference at Northeastern - News @ Northeastern
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Meet the ‘Women who Empower’

An Olympic gold medalist. An editorial titan. An innovative entrepreneur. A Zagat-recognized chef. Each with a story to tell, advice to give. Each of them coming to Northeastern to share those stories.

Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin, editor Robbie Myers, business owner Cheryl Kaplan, and chef Fernanda Tapia will each address their approach to leadership at this week’s Women who Empower summit. The summit represents a sort of brain trust of women who lead in their respective fields. This will be the third event in as many years.

“Our Women Who Empower initiative is so much more than a series of events,” said Diane MacGillivray, one of the event organizers and Northeastern’s senior vice president for university advancement.  

“We have been met with incredible energy and momentum from students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and friends across the globe,” MacGillivray said. “Our collective commitment to foster opportunities and environments in which all people can thrive is fueling our vision and impact moving forward. When we are all in, together, the possibilities are infinite.”

The summit is sold out, but a conversation with Myers, the former editor-in-chief of Elle and current editor of Shondaland.com, will be streamed live on Facebook starting at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

“I’m really excited that the Women who Empower initiative has generated so much energy and engagement, particularly between our own Northeastern community and a growing number of new allies,” said Philomena Mantella, one of the event organizers and senior vice president and chief executive officer of Northeastern’s Lifelong Learning Network.

“We’ve seen women at the forefront of so much global activism the last several years demonstrating our ability to scale meaningful connections and networks of impact,” Mantella said.

Here’s more about each of the speakers.

Nastia Liukin

The five-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast is also a business owner. Grander, the company Liukin co-founded in 2016, is a social media-style mobile app that enables aspiring female gymnasts to connect with pros such as Liukin, Ashton Locklear, and Morgan Hurd for advice and encouragement.

Born in Russia to two former Soviet champion gymnasts, Liukin won a gold, a silver, and three bronze medals in the 2008 Olympic Games. Since then, she’s parlayed her athletic success and status as a role model for young gymnasts into a job as an NBC sports analyst, a lifestyle blog, and most recently, Grander.

“It’s time that we all support each other instead of competing against each other,” Liukin told Boston Common Magazine earlier this year. “I think that this has been so refreshing to see so many women come together, be a part of this, and inspire others.”

Robbie Myers

Myers, who was the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine for 17 years, is currently at the helm of Shondaland.com, the media company created by Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.

Myers got her start at big-name magazines in the early 1980s, when she worked at Rolling Stone. From there, she moved to Interview, where she worked with Andy Warhol. She worked at Seventeen magazine and InStyle and ran Mirabella magazine before getting to Elle, where she became editor-in-chief in 2000.

Putting women at the center of journalism is the through-line in her career. In 2013, Myers wrote a scathing response to an article in The New Republic headlined “Can Women’s Magazines Do Serious Journalism?”

She alluded to this duty in her farewell letter to Elle staff: “When I started in this role, it was with the best mission an editor can give herself: To open women’s appetites.”

Cheryl Kaplan

Kaplan is president and co-founder of M.Gemi, a shoe company that’s taken the methodical, high-quality craftsmanship of Italian cobblers and given it a 21st century twist. The company imports luxury shoes directly from small family-owned workshops in Italy and sells them online. By working directly with the craftspeople and selling online, the company can make “‘Made in Italy’ craftsmanship accessible to the hard-working professional,” according to Forbes.

Her experience in retail spans more than two decades, throughout which she has always pushed brands to stay ahead of the curve. In 1999, Kaplan joined the Nickelodeon online commerce startup, Red Rocket, moving the commercial brand into online commerce—something novel at the time. The next year, she moved to the online discount shopping company Smart Bargains, where she eventually became vice president of customer experience.

In 2007, Kaplan took over as executive vice president of the boutique online shopping company Rue La La and developed the brand’s overall strategy and customer experience.

Then, in 2015, she and co-founder Maria Gangemi launched M.Gemi.

In an interview with Forbes, Kaplan said, “It’s the power of art combined with the confidence of science that is making M.Gemi a success.”

Fernanda Tapia

Tapia is chef de cuisine and co-owner of Comedor, an American-Chilean restaurant in Newton, Massachusetts.

The Chilean-born chef drew on inspiration from her mother’s cooking to make the restaurant 51 Lincoln a success. In 2014, while she was chef there, she was included in Zagat’s “30 Under 30” list of young culinary talent in Boston. Tapia opened Comedor with her husband the next year.

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