The Massachusetts Conference for Women

On December 7, 2017, I had the privilege of representing the Her Campus Northeastern Chapter at the Massachusetts Conference for Women as a member of the press. The conference is an annual event where thousands of women (and a few men) gather to empower women in the workplace and life in general through exhibitions, speakers, panels, and book signings. My day was crazy but I walked away with an immense amount of pride in being a woman and a feeling of hope for women everywhere.

7:30 am – I arrived at the Boston Convention and Event Center still half asleep but very excited for the day to come. I checked in, received my press pass, and a swag bag full of goodies from sponsors. Before grabbing my seat for the morning keynote speeches, I took a quick walk through the exhibition where vendors and sponsors had booths set up.

                                                                                                               Courtesy of Olivia Whitfield

8:00 am – The morning keynotes began with Maria Stephanos ,an anchor from WCVB Channel 5 & The 10 O’Clock News, who welcomed everyone. Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton University and author, then discussed gendered communication within organizations, which was incredibly interesting. I was excited because I just took classes on Gender and Communication and Organizational Communication. His presentation was highly relevant to how women fit into the workplace and how important it is that women and minorities are represented for the sake of a company’s performance. This is true of government as well, where the people legislating should be representative of the population they are legislating for. The star of the morning keynotes, however, was Viola Davis (yes, you read that correctly), award winning actor and activist. I had chills on my arms and tears in my eyes as she spoke. Viola talks with such power and poise – in person she is rattling.

10:00 am – After the keynote speeches ended, I headed to a breakout session on personal branding and making your mark. The panelists advised everyone to provoke an emotional reaction with your audience so they feel connected to you, to update your headshot, LinkedIn, and personal branding statement at least once a year so that you are consistent in your message for the modern moment, and to use the people around you for feedback. The most impressive panelist was Alex Wolf, founder of Bossbabe Inc. and a branding strategist that connects Gen Y companies to millennials. As a millennial herself, her insight into entering the world of business was well articulated. I was able to meet her after the panel and asked her, “What is your number one piece advice to women in college who are becoming people of the ‘real world’?” to which she responded “Have forgiveness in yourself.” She went on to say that it’s okay for you to change your mind if what you thought you wanted is not actually it.

11:30 am – I headed to the second breakout session I chose to attend called “Pioneer Your Big Life: How to Use Grit and Perseverance to Your Advantage.” This was another panel of experts but was lead by Ann Shoket, whose name you might recognize because she was the Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen Magazine and published her book The Big Life recently. The discussion focused on balancing your ambitions with your dreams and motivated me, and the other 150 women in the room, to not be daunted by challenges but embrace them. The whole panel was incredibly positive and talked about working in industries dominated by men (such as restaurants and sports), finding partners that honor their ambitions, and motivating themselves to kick butt regardless of the conditions.

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12:30 pm – I went to the exhibition hall to actually look around and talk to people (and find food). There were retail companies owned by women, technology, professional guidance (such as revising your resume and practicing interview skills), and author book signings.

1:00 pm – The luncheon and afternoon keynotes were star studded. The Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, spoke, as did fashion designer icon Diane Von Furstenberg, who is quite a savage and is very candid. My day ended with watching Gloria Steinem moderate a talk with Meryl Streep. Just writing that sentence makes me so happy because they are icons. Honestly my jaw was on the floor for a solid 40 minutes. As my idols talked to each other 100 feet from me, I could feel the camaraderie from the 11,000 conference goers grow. They discussed discrimination in the entertainment industry, and touched on the recent happenings regarding women coming forward to share their experiences with either specific men or #metoo.

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The whole event was incredible. Sitting in a room of 11,00 people who have shared your experiences of fear and discrimination, but who chose to rise up in spite of it is ridiculously inspiring. I walked away from the Massachusetts Conference for Women with strength and pride. This is the power of social movements and inclusion.