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24 Badass Women Talk About Times They Were Underestimated

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On June 14, the White House hosted the first ever United State of Women summit in Washington, D.C. to gather 5,000 activists, elected officials, businesswomen, and artists from around the country.

BuzzFeed spoke with some of the badass women in attendance about a time when their abilities or intelligence were underestimated, and this is what they said.

1. "I was underestimated by my high school college counselor because I was a 'project kid.'"

"She said to me, 'Let me ask you two questions: Has anyone in your family ever gone to college? Do you know any teachers [in your family]?' Long story short, I got accepted [into Penn State University], I became intern of the year, first inductee into the honor society. I was a teacher in Baltimore for 10 years, 3-time teacher of the year, and now I'm an aspiring principal. I sort of wonder where she is. I know I was completely underestimated because of my zip code, and I didn't realize that [then]." – Cheree Davis, Senior Facilitator of Professional Development, Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools
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"She said to me, 'Let me ask you two questions: Has anyone in your family ever gone to college? Do you know any teachers [in your family]?' Long story short, I got accepted [into Penn State University], I became intern of the year, first inductee into the honor society. I was a teacher in Baltimore for 10 years, 3-time teacher of the year, and now I'm an aspiring principal. I sort of wonder where she is. I know I was completely underestimated because of my zip code, and I didn't realize that [then]." – Cheree Davis, Senior Facilitator of Professional Development, Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools

2. "In 1986 I was working on the Amnesty bill to try to get people who were undocumented their legal residency...and I found out later that many male friends told Cesar Chavez, 'Oh, Dolores is crazy, she'll never make it happen.'"

"And we did. 1.4 million farmworkers got their legalization status, and about 3 million other people did. Si se puede!" – Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist who was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers
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"And we did. 1.4 million farmworkers got their legalization status, and about 3 million other people did. Si se puede!" – Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist who was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers

3. "In the workforce...as a woman with a slight but obvious disability, I think I was overlooked."

"I would get through the application process and they'd say 'Yes, you're in!,' but the moment they saw me walk in with two different legs and wearing a brace, it was kind of like, 'Hmm, well maybe we should consider someone else.' That really stung. I never wanted to be defined by my disability...but along with that, being a woman and being a woman not afraid to use her voice or share an opinion, sometimes, I've been made to feel like I shouldn't do that." – T. Jablanski, Leadership Chairman, General Federation of Women's Clubs (right)
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"I would get through the application process and they'd say 'Yes, you're in!,' but the moment they saw me walk in with two different legs and wearing a brace, it was kind of like, 'Hmm, well maybe we should consider someone else.' That really stung. I never wanted to be defined by my disability...but along with that, being a woman and being a woman not afraid to use her voice or share an opinion, sometimes, I've been made to feel like I shouldn't do that." – T. Jablanski, Leadership Chairman, General Federation of Women's Clubs (right)

4. "[I've been underestimated] all of my adult life. I was a pregnant teenage mother at the age of 14. I had to drop out of high school and I was always looked at as the underdog."

"My parents thought that I wouldn't make anything of myself, so I walked around with [terrible] self image for years, until I found out I could go do anything through God. So I went back to school, got my GED, took some community college classes. And now I am a domestic violence advocate." – Jeanette Davis, Founder/President of D.I.V.A.S. Ministry Group
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"My parents thought that I wouldn't make anything of myself, so I walked around with [terrible] self image for years, until I found out I could go do anything through God. So I went back to school, got my GED, took some community college classes. And now I am a domestic violence advocate." – Jeanette Davis, Founder/President of D.I.V.A.S. Ministry Group

5. "When I left school to start modeling, I faced some really hard barriers."

"I tackled them. It wasn't easy, but I didn't give up, and now I'm here today in DC talking about the non-profit I'm gonna start, what what!" – Grace Mahary, model, founder of non-profit called Project Tsehigh
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"I tackled them. It wasn't easy, but I didn't give up, and now I'm here today in DC talking about the non-profit I'm gonna start, what what!" – Grace Mahary, model, founder of non-profit called Project Tsehigh

6. "When I first came to where I work now at Goddard [Space Institute], I'd asked about the steps to become a project manager. Years later, I heard from someone else [the man I'd asked] had confided in that he'd thought I was 'unusually ambitious.'"

"The comment he made was, 'Yeah, Jaya, she wants to get to the top as fast as possible.'" – Jaya Bajpayee, Special Assistant to Associate Administrator for Mission Support Directorate at NASA
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"The comment he made was, 'Yeah, Jaya, she wants to get to the top as fast as possible.'" – Jaya Bajpayee, Special Assistant to Associate Administrator for Mission Support Directorate at NASA

7. "When I decided to finish undergrad but actually open my own business and not go into the direct workforce, my family didn't necessarily believe I should be doing that."

"I proved them wrong. I started working, I saved my own money to work towards putting myself through nail school. I was able to start doing editorial work and fashion week all over the world – London, Milan, and Paris – and my goal was opening up the salon. I graduated college in 2011, and I opened the salon in 2013." – Candice Idehen, owner of Bed of Nails, luxury nail bar in Harlem
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"I proved them wrong. I started working, I saved my own money to work towards putting myself through nail school. I was able to start doing editorial work and fashion week all over the world – London, Milan, and Paris – and my goal was opening up the salon. I graduated college in 2011, and I opened the salon in 2013." – Candice Idehen, owner of Bed of Nails, luxury nail bar in Harlem

8. "Anytime I need to cover politics, I usually get asked if I've just moved to where I'm living – and I was born in [Canada], so it's really bothersome."

"It's very much a 'You shouldn't be here, but we don't want to tell you you shouldn't be here' type thing. I've been called sweetheart, honey, peaches, girl, babygirl, really strange things. In the workplace, professionalism isn't extended to women, especially not women of color." – Eman Bare, journalist
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"It's very much a 'You shouldn't be here, but we don't want to tell you you shouldn't be here' type thing. I've been called sweetheart, honey, peaches, girl, babygirl, really strange things. In the workplace, professionalism isn't extended to women, especially not women of color." – Eman Bare, journalist

9. "When I tell people I'm a trans woman of color, people underestimate me because of stereotypes that are specific to multiple intersecting identities I have that are oppressed."

People underestimate me because I'm 19 years old, because I'm a trans woman of color, because I got kicked out of high school — all these things." – Hazel Edwards, Youth Facilitator at the Attic Youth Center
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

People underestimate me because I'm 19 years old, because I'm a trans woman of color, because I got kicked out of high school — all these things." – Hazel Edwards, Youth Facilitator at the Attic Youth Center

10. "I get underestimated a lot being a trainer. People either think you're too young, you're a person of color, you're queer, surely you're too under-educated...so many different things."

"They think I wouldn't be able to hold the attention of a group or room, to actually be an educator. I'm so capable of all those things." – Phantazia Washington, Trainer at the Attic Youth Center
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"They think I wouldn't be able to hold the attention of a group or room, to actually be an educator. I'm so capable of all those things." – Phantazia Washington, Trainer at the Attic Youth Center

11. "Very early in my career, I was a young computer programmer working for IBM. IBM brought me in to a large client to help them revamp their system..."

"...They had let me look at their prior system and I knew it needed work. The guy looked at me and said, 'What is she doing here?' And I said, 'I'm here because that system design that you have sucks, and I'm gonna tell you how to fix it.'" – Julie Lenzer, Director of Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for U.S. Department of Commerce
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"...They had let me look at their prior system and I knew it needed work. The guy looked at me and said, 'What is she doing here?' And I said, 'I'm here because that system design that you have sucks, and I'm gonna tell you how to fix it.'" – Julie Lenzer, Director of Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for U.S. Department of Commerce

12. "In many instances, I've underestimated myself and created my own limitations, often from comparing myself to other people who may be further along on their journey, or just in a different place."

– Monique Coleman, actress (High School Musical) and global youth advocate with It's On Us, She's The First, Girl Rising, and Girl Up
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

– Monique Coleman, actress (High School Musical) and global youth advocate with It's On Us, She's The First, Girl Rising, and Girl Up

13. "When I started a pageant for black women, I felt completely underestimated by sponsors, by media, by my own black community, and it was very discouraging."

"But over the last three years, we've flourished and we've grown larger than anyone ever thought we could." – Patrice Harrison, CEO/Founder of Miss Black US Ambassador
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"But over the last three years, we've flourished and we've grown larger than anyone ever thought we could." – Patrice Harrison, CEO/Founder of Miss Black US Ambassador

14. "I started working in the late 70s/early 80s, and at that time salaries were really unbalanced."

"They've certainly gotten better, and I'm sure there's still work to be done, but back then it was very difficult. To be in a managerial role was even more difficult, so thank goodness times have changed." – Michelle Heartlove, President of General Federation of Women's Clubs of DC
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"They've certainly gotten better, and I'm sure there's still work to be done, but back then it was very difficult. To be in a managerial role was even more difficult, so thank goodness times have changed." – Michelle Heartlove, President of General Federation of Women's Clubs of DC

15. "When I was presenting research I'd completed to a community, and the research garnered a lot of interest, a respected man proceeded to come to me and tell me that 'sex sells' even though my research had nothing to do with sex."

"I did nothing to insinuate there was anything sexy about it. It was simply a professional opportunity for myself and for community members to learn about the subject, but all he could see was that the only reason other people would be interested in me or what I would have to offer is because of sex." – Lulete Mola, activist working in philanthropy, policy, and community advocacy for women and girls of color
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"I did nothing to insinuate there was anything sexy about it. It was simply a professional opportunity for myself and for community members to learn about the subject, but all he could see was that the only reason other people would be interested in me or what I would have to offer is because of sex." – Lulete Mola, activist working in philanthropy, policy, and community advocacy for women and girls of color

16. "I was in a domestically abusive relationship, and everyone thought that I wouldn't come out of it. I did."

"And when I first got into a university, most people in my family told me I'd drop out. But now I have my master's degree." – Wariesi Flores, CEO of Sumptuous Locks
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"And when I first got into a university, most people in my family told me I'd drop out. But now I have my master's degree." – Wariesi Flores, CEO of Sumptuous Locks

17. "I dropped out of high school when I was 16, and I think at that point there were a lot of really severe assumptions about what that meant I was going to do with the rest of my live and what 'kind of girl' that meant I was."

"And now I'm an attorney, so to all of those naysayers, look at me now!" – Sonya Rahders, Law Students For Reproductive Justice Law & Advocacy fellow at Advocates for Youth
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"And now I'm an attorney, so to all of those naysayers, look at me now!" – Sonya Rahders, Law Students For Reproductive Justice Law & Advocacy fellow at Advocates for Youth

18. "When I first got into the organizing world, I was doubted as to whether I could actually do the job of an organizer because I'm a mother."

"It takes a lot of time being away from my child, in other cities, doing organizing work with families. But here I am now, four years later, a very successful organizer and loving it." – Erica Clemmons, Organizer for Georgia Chapter of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"It takes a lot of time being away from my child, in other cities, doing organizing work with families. But here I am now, four years later, a very successful organizer and loving it." – Erica Clemmons, Organizer for Georgia Chapter of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women

19. "A couple years ago, I ran as a candidate for our state House of Representatives. I was the first Native American female ever to run."

"And I ran against two old white farmers in South Dakota. Even though we're all Democrats, the issue turned into 'Are we all ready for a Native American woman to represent you?'" – Dustina Gill, created juvenile justice diversion program for Native American youth
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"And I ran against two old white farmers in South Dakota. Even though we're all Democrats, the issue turned into 'Are we all ready for a Native American woman to represent you?'" – Dustina Gill, created juvenile justice diversion program for Native American youth

20. "I remember right after I finished my doctorate, I was really looking for my next big gig. Someone had introduced me to this woman, a truly incredible game-changer in Silicon Valley."

"We're sitting there at lunch, and instead of listening to her and answering her question, I was sitting there wondering, 'Why is she spending her time with me? I'm nobody.' She could tell I wasn't at the table with her...and when I told her I had nothing to offer her, she held up a mirror and said there will be enough people beating down on me, I shouldn't do it to myself." – Dr. Patti Fletcher, marketer, strategic advisor, board member, investor, writer, gender equity advocate
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"We're sitting there at lunch, and instead of listening to her and answering her question, I was sitting there wondering, 'Why is she spending her time with me? I'm nobody.' She could tell I wasn't at the table with her...and when I told her I had nothing to offer her, she held up a mirror and said there will be enough people beating down on me, I shouldn't do it to myself." – Dr. Patti Fletcher, marketer, strategic advisor, board member, investor, writer, gender equity advocate

21. "When I would show up to carpentry sites for work, men sometimes assumed I can't build."

"I left one male-dominated field for another." – Shelley Halstead, lawyer, former carpenter, and founder of Black Women Build
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"I left one male-dominated field for another." – Shelley Halstead, lawyer, former carpenter, and founder of Black Women Build

22. "I transferred to a public high school and they told me that I wouldn't be able to get an advanced diploma, that I should drop out of Spanish courses because I was too far behind."

"I proved them wrong and went on to college and got into the foreign language honors society, graduated with honors, and Spanish is my minor. I think about [the teacher who told me that] whenever I think I can't do something, and I prove her wrong every time." – Rachel Gibson, Technology Safety Specialist, National Network to End Domestic Violence
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"I proved them wrong and went on to college and got into the foreign language honors society, graduated with honors, and Spanish is my minor. I think about [the teacher who told me that] whenever I think I can't do something, and I prove her wrong every time." – Rachel Gibson, Technology Safety Specialist, National Network to End Domestic Violence

23. "I think I probably underestimate myself more than anyone outside. The fact that I'm serving as deputy director, I would've never even imagined it."

"Because I have great advocates and mentors in my life, that's why I am where I am." – Jaqueline Cortez Wang, Deputy Director for White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
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"Because I have great advocates and mentors in my life, that's why I am where I am." – Jaqueline Cortez Wang, Deputy Director for White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

24. "I remember [my parents] had not saved for college even though they had put me in a very expensive college, and left me hanging second semester sophomore year."

"They underestimated [my ability to] come up with $16,000 (and by the end, $19,000) a year. I wrote a lot of letters and a lot of appeals, and I did it." – Joya Dass, Business News Anchor for NY 1 News, leader of South Asian women's networking initiative
Hannah Giorgis/BuzzFeed

"They underestimated [my ability to] come up with $16,000 (and by the end, $19,000) a year. I wrote a lot of letters and a lot of appeals, and I did it." – Joya Dass, Business News Anchor for NY 1 News, leader of South Asian women's networking initiative

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