By: Kati Machtley  

Early in the morning on March 16, 2018, there was a traffic jam on Route 7 at the entrance of Bryant University.  Over 1100 women and some men were arriving to attend the sold-out 2018 Women’s Summit.  This was the 21st Women’s Summit that was held at Bryant.   

The entire Bryant University community pitched in to make this Women’s Summit a success.  Everyone including faculty, staff, and students worked together.  This resulted in a day of educational enrichment for all who attended. Many thanks to all! 

Women’s Summit Director, Kati Machtley, and the Co-chairs of the Women’s Summit met over the past 10 months to create another great conference.  The co-chairs are, Mary Moroney, Betty Powers, Annette Cerilli, Sheila Guay, Laura Hayward, Laura Kohl, and Elisabetta Misuraca. They along with the Women’s Summit Program Committee, the Women’s Summit Logistics Committee, additional faculty, staff, student volunteers, AV staff, facilities, grounds, and public safety all worked in harmony to launch another great Women Summit. 

The mission of the Women’s Summit is to empower women professionally, personally, and financially. This year we had four amazing keynote speakers who did just that with their presentations. In addition to these four keynote speakers, there were 24 different breakouts, sessions to choose from throughout the day presented by experts in their fields.  You can see the full listing of these empowering sessions and the biographies of the speakers by going to the Women’s Summit website at wsummit.bryant.edu. 

Our first keynote speaker, Jennifer Hyman, Co-Founder and CEO of Rent the Runway kicked off the day.  Her inspiring Opening Keynote address revealed how she and her friend created their nearly 1-billion-dollar company because of both innovative and disruptive thinking by introducing clothing rental via technology as a utility in women’s lives. 

Jody Urquhart, the Power Plenary speaker, is a motivational speaker spreading the message of the importance of fun and meaningful work.  Jody is the author of All Work & No Say… Ho Hum, Another Day. 

Nely Galan, a self-made media mogul and the former President of Entertainment for Telemundo, was the first Latina to head a major television network. A Cuban immigrant who achieved success on her own terms, Galan now teaches women of all ages and backgrounds to become entrepreneurs.  She wrote SELF MADE: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way, a 2016 New York Times Bestseller. 

Our Closing Keynote speaker was Brigid Schulte is Founding Director of The Good Life Initiative at the nonpartisan think tank, New America, and serves as Director of the Better Life Lab, working to transform policy, practice, and culture so that people and families can live their best lives at work and at home.  Schulte is the author of the New York Times bestseller Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. 

When the co-chairs and I met early this past summer to create a theme for the 21st Women’s summit we felt then that the challenges that we as women faced were greater than ever before.  We came up with the theme Rise to the Challenge and Reach New Heights! 

Through the summer there were many natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and fires that made us appreciate the necessities that we often take for granted, and the many first responders who rose to the challenge to help those in need.   

Our theme of “Rise to the Challenge continued to be appropriate as time went on.  This past year has seen unprecedented movement and vocalization from women on issues that have long been ignored.   

The movie Wonder Woman, directed by a woman was a box office hit while the Fearless Girl appeared on Wall Street. The statue of the Fearless Girl is a symbol of the campaign to appoint more women to corporate boards.  This campaign with the symbol of the Fearless Girl sponsored by State Street Bank has pushed more than 150 companies to add women to their previously all-male boards.   This month on International Women’s Day another statue of the Fearless Girl was unveiled in Oslo, Norway. 

In the early fall, the painful experiences that women often encounter in their careers came under public scrutiny when revelations about harassment surfaced in Hollywood first, then at Uber, Fox news and major television networks.  It continued when we learned that this misconduct spread through startup and venture capital communities and other organizations including the Olympics where young gymnasts were assaulted by a trusted physician.  

This sexual misconduct resulted in a resurgence of the #Me Too movement. Scores of people rallied in support of those affected, while perpetrators faced the consequences of their actions.  

Through the year, highly visible women in Hollywood gained strength from each other and brought a lot of these issues to the forefront on national television.  As we watched the Golden Globe Awards we saw and heard of the solidarity of women actors, writers, producers, and directors. 

Time’s Up Pins were visible on the actors who all wore black. That night actor Reese Witherspoon said, “Time’s Up on discrimination, harassment, and abuse in the workplace.” I would add that Time’s Up for unequal pay for women. 

At the Grammy Awards the women actors carried white flowers, and at the Oscars, the talk was of moving ahead to a new phase of #Me Too and Time’s UP.  This new phase, according to Tarana Burke, founder of the #Me Too Movement is to do the work required to give those affected people the resources they need to deal with these injustices. At the end of the Oscars Frances McDormand, the Actor who received the Oscar for Best Actress asked all the women actors in the audience to stand up for gender pay equity. 

Throughout the year senseless acts of violence in Las Vegas, London, New York and Florida shook us to the core. Now a new movement #Never Again has been created by none other than the High School Students, and parents In Parkland Florida who are so deeply affected by these shootings. They too are rising to the challenges that they face. They organized a national March on Washington with 500,000 people which just took place this past March 24. 

Now is the time when women are more united than ever and are gaining strength from banding together.  Not everyone is a feminist, but most are united against harassment, discrimination, abuse, and violence.   

As you can see it has been a challenging year, but women and men at Bryant and at the Women’s Summit are rising to the many challenges we face to reach new heights. 

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