Everything You Need to Know About the 2019 MAKERS Conference

The MAKERS Conference is an annual event that takes place in Laguna Beach, CA and features talks and panels given by women and men from various industries. This year’s event took place from February 6-8, and the theme was “All of Us”. The main focus of the event is to talk about equality and highlight people that are “making” history, whether they are troublemakers, history makers or changemakers. Although I was not able to attend the event myself, it was live-streamed on the makers.com website and most of the talks are posted online after they are given.

Two University of Florida graduates, Abby Wambach and Diana Trujillo, were featured at the event. They spoke about their time at UF in the Get to Know series that MAKERS launched prior to the event. Their stories are much more than just the fact that they’re Gators, though. This event brought countless people from all over the country – whether they attended in person or watched online – with the common goal of advocating for equality and sharing stories of empowerment, hardship and everything in between. From the messiest parts of life to the most beautiful aspects of growing older, both men and women shared their most personal stories with the hopes that audience members would leave inspired to make the world a better, more equal place for all. 

The highlights

Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach attended UF and broke every single record for soccer while she was here. As a freshman, she became a national champion and then continued to excel during her time at UF. She has torn down barriers in sports over the course of her life and has become an activist for equality and inclusivity.

Although the world of sports is largely dominated by males, Wambach never let that hold her back from reaching her fullest potential. “There are not many people I like more than the people that step into a man’s world and show them who’s the real boss,” Wambach said during her talk at the conference. After she graduated from UF, she went on to play for the US women’s national soccer team and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. As a young girl, she was placed on boys’ soccer teams because she was so advanced. Wambach has become an icon for athletes all over the world and was inducted to the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

Diana Trujillo

After overcoming countless hardships and obstacles in her early life, Diana Trujillo saw attending the University of Florida as the opportunity of a lifetime. She majored in aerospace engineering and went on to become one of the first Latina women to work for NASA. Through the encouragement of her professors at UF and her resilience, she was able to make her dreams come true. A history maker and a changemaker, Trujillo is now a Mars 2020 Arm Science Surface Phase Lead. Her entire life, she wanted to work amongst the stars, and she stopped at nothing to realize that passion for space science.

Trujillo comes from a family ridden with domestic violence and a history of men who leave the women in their lives. Her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all raised her to be the woman she is today, and she chased her dream of working for NASA in their honor. She is now an advocate for equality in the workplace and talked about her future projects at NASA. “When we realize that there's something out there bigger than us, we all need to be in that room. Because when we do it, we're not going to do it as subdivisions, we're not going to do it as different teams. We're going to do it all of us together as planet Earth.”

Jameela Jamil

Best known for her role as Tahani in NBC’s The Good Place, Jameela Jamil is a changemaker, focused on helping people see that they are worth more than their weight or appearance. Also a bit of a troublemaker, she is not afraid to stand up to celebrities who are not using their platforms for the better. She is a firm believer in the notion that influencers should not be able to promote weight loss or be sponsored by companies that claim to help consumers achieve a state of “perfection”. Jamil struggled with eating disorders from a very young age and has become an advocate to help ensure that people do not fall victim to the same struggles that she did.

In her talk at the conference, Jamil focused on something quite different than most did. She talked about how boys are raised to push away their feelings and ignore pain. Focusing on the prevalence of toxic masculinity in our society, her take on it was a bit different yet still completely accurate. “We have a lot of work to undo,” she says, referring to the hefty tasking of raising boys differently than they have been in the past. “A strong woman is something to be celebrated and not feared, crushed, undermined, spoken over, stopped, humiliated, shamed, blamed, discouraged, controlled or told that to be worth anything in this world, she has to be thin, beautiful and look young forever.” Jameela Jamil’s talk was breathtaking, and I highly recommend that you watch it. It’s less than 10 minutes, but it delivers a powerful message that will stay with you for days on end.

Nadya Okamoto

At 16 years old, Nadya Okamoto founded a non-profit with one of her schoolmates, Vincent Forand, after experiencing home insecurity and meeting women who struggled with their periods every month. Through shared experiences, she discovered that period poverty is a pressing issue in our world, yet many people are unaware or unwilling to talk about it. While periods have always been considered taboo in a sense, Okamoto took it upon herself to change this and start a conversation around menstruation.

Her non-profit, Period., is now a national organization focused on advocating for the fact that periods are a basic human occurrence and that menstrual care products should be accessible to all. They are focused on serving those that need access to these products and are advocating for the repeal of the tampon tax and lobbying for access to menstrual products in public places. Period chapters have been started at various schools and universities across the country to help spread this message and help fuel the menstrual movement.

Terry Crews

Changemaker, history maker and troublemaker, Terry Crews has become an advocate for the Me Too movement after speaking up about his own experience with assault and abuse. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, it was almost unheard of for a man to speak up about his own experiences, and Crews felt that he needed to use his voice to show other victims – both men and women - that they are not alone.

Previously an NFL football player, Crews took to acting and has appeared in numerous roles over the years. He is best known for his roles on Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and has used his platform to help educate others about important social issues. Crews is one of the few men to speak at the MAKERS Conference, and he gave a powerful talk about everything from toxic masculinity to learning how to be more vulnerable and fearless in a world that tries to inhibit those actions. “Men need to be vulnerable, but on the other side, women need to be fearless,” Crews said. It’s long overdue that society allows men to show their true feelings without fear of being judged and start letting women follow their dreams without making them think twice about whether or not they’ll be able to see them through.

The takeaway

The 2019 MAKERS Conference is an event that I will never forget. It was my first time watching the conference live (thank you, modern technology!), and I shed tears of joy and sorrow and I listened to the stories of the strong women and men that poured their hearts out on that stage. In the future, I hope to be able to attend the event in person, and I encourage everyone to watch past videos online at makers.com. Each time I tuned in, I couldn’t help but smile thanks to the inspiring stories of resilience and hope told by strong changemakers, troublemakers and history makers.