• Cicely Blain

She Summits Founder Dr. Carla Cupido on Women's Empowerment and Agency


Dr. Carla Cupido, Founder of She Summits

A woman with agency is a powerful force. Providing women with the resources and environment to nurture this is at the core of Dr. Carla Cupido’s She Summits. Cupido’s initiative was inspired by the work she does as a health professional. “As a health professional who is deeply focused on the study of human movement, I became increasingly aware of the power of the physical body to shift mindset,” she goes on. “I believe that the physical body is a tool we as women can use to feel a sense of agency within ourselves. This agency can then be called upon to create conscious change in the world.” Education, Cupido believes, is integral to facilitating change – to encouraging a shift in mindset. “Education to me is everything, so when we can awaken the mind to what’s going on within ourselves and across the globe and pair that with passion and agency, I believe that wonderful change will emerge.”

Female empowerment is what Cupido’s She Summits strives for. “Research tells us that the empowerment of women will shift our social and environmental landscape around the world,” she explains. “I want to see more women walking taller, feeling more capable and taking action here their hearts say they must.”

A particular medium Cupido hopes to inspire? Adventure sports films. “Within my first few months of this work, I came to see how incredibly non-diverse and privileged the outdoor sport industry is. I wanted to diversify the conversations we were having and the stories we were sharing on screen and in our workshops. I came to see how environmental conversations are common in the outdoor industry, but not as common are the conversations about access to nature, the traditional territories on which many of us play, movement as a form of survival rather than a means to achieve fitness goals, and countless social factors that limit people around the globe to move for the joy of movement, with agency, with gratitude safely and without fear.”

Helping women recognize their worth is integral to Cupido’s vision. “I heard Gloria Steinem once say that ‘women’s bodies are instruments, not ornaments.’ I believe that what’s behind the need for this statement is one of the main challenges. Society’s conditioning of females with respect to their bodies and their agency within is big.”

This initiative has seen its setbacks though. “One of my challenges is in trying to find the right messaging to let you all know they are welcome to attend, while also understanding that the group we’re trying to lift up is multigenerational women,” she says. “I believe the way we lift any group of people is by working together as a community.” Organizing a summit of this kind requires an open-mind and a constant willingness to learn. “I also feel like I have mountains worth of learning to do on the topic of inclusion and diversity. I’m passionate about learning more, but know it will be a life-long quest to learn more about more people. I only know how it feels to be me, but the slivers of insight I can gain into how it feels to be someone else will make my life richer and hopefully enable me to make mindful decisions during my lifetime.”

She Summits is strengthening Cupido’s own understanding of these issues, too. “I’m constantly trying to learn more about so many things, but the more I learn, the more I realize how little I actually know,” she goes on. “There are numerous people sharing their stories and research to educate us at what’s going on in the world; at She Summits, we are sharing these stories. I heard Sandi Toksvig speak of people’s ‘activation buttons’ in her TED talk. This resonated with me. She said that when someone comes across something that doesn’t sit right with them, their activation button is pushed and they simply have to do something about it. I want to awaken people with these stories and offer tools to develop a sense of agency within that allows all whose activation buttons who were pressed at She Summits to leave knowing they can take the action they want to in their life for themselves or for the issues that resonated with them.” Cupido’s initiative is one that strives for increased representation. “She Summits is sharing the stories of those whose stories aren’t often visible to awaken and activate those who identify as female to make conscious change in the world.”

As for how the public can become involved, Cupido suggests communities simply ask more questions. “I think others can be more inclusive by just asking the question, how would what we do be accessed or used by ‘blank’ people? Working with an inclusion and diversity consultant is also helpful. I have a long way to go myself, but I am trying and we all have to start somewhere.”

Cupido hopes her initiative encourages a broader conversation be had about female agency. “She Summits has been designed to touch the head, the heart and the hands of all who attend. Our films, workshops and special events are centered around the female contributions to social and environmental conversations, but these conversations are for all of us to have together,” she says. “As a community, it’s time to work together to ensure females of all generations feel a deep sense of agency and take action with it.”

She Summits will take place October 17-20 in North Vancouver.

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