Recently, Alicia Keys and a host of celebrities joined the 16th Annual Massachusetts Conference for Women titled “Power by Purpose: AchievingEquity for All.” The event highlighted women supporting each other and it launched the hashtag #masswomen.
The Dec. 10 conference incorporated a day-long focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion centering around racial justice and civic engagement and attracting over 17,000 people nationwide. Women were able to connect virtually, networking and uniting despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The first conference for women took place in 2005 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and has become an annual event. The conference is designed to influence thousands of lives through discussion of important women’s issues by expert keynote speakers who offer workshops and seminars in business and entrepreneurship, personal finance, the balance between work and life, health, as well as personal growth.
The overall mission is simple: To communicate, support, and promote a woman’s influence in daily life tasks. The Conference for Women is a non-profit, non-partisan event that brings together professionals to connect and inspire the community. It is one of the country’s biggest network opportunities.
This year’s event included breakout sessions on a variety of topics specifically addressing the current political climate such as equity and racial justice, as well as giving legal advice on anti-racism and allyship in the workplace.
“The eloquent and powerful speakers we’ve heard from today personify the mission of the Massachusetts Conference for Women,” said Conference Board President Gloria Larson. “This conference offers an important opportunity to have vital conversations about gender and race, and it also creates opportunities for women to support other women during these challenging times.”
Since the pandemic has disproportionately affected women economically, the conference donated more than $300,000 to 60 women-owned restaurants within Massachusetts to help them during the COVID-19 crisis.
“What this year has taught me is how important it is to slow down and appreciate the moment and each other,” Grammy-award winner Keys mentioned in an interview with “Fortune” magazine Senior Editor Ellen McGirt. “This is a new time. It’s a time to reach out for what we want. It’s time to collect our blessings.”
During the event, Golden Globe award-winning actress Awkwafina mentioned her own experience with racism towards Asian-Americans at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I really don’t think there is any room for it,” said Awkwafina. “More than ever in this country, we need unity, we need hope, and most importantly we need empathy.”
Keys addressed the occurring conversations about race in America as “imperative” and is optimistic they will eventually steer into desperately-needed change.
“We have this collective awakening and this collective consciousness to really be present to know that we do have to fight for what we want to see, and we can’t just wait for a bunch of other people to do it,” she said. “We are showing up for each other in so many ways, and when we show up for each other, we make noise. We don’t back down. We bend the arc, and we change the system, and we win.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Dori Kearns Goodwin also joined in the day’s conversations and shared how she believes former presidents of the U.S. would advise President-elect Joe Biden. She thinks Theodore Roosevelt would urge him to listen to the people and preserve democracy by bridging divides. Abraham Lincoln would encourage Biden to create a team of reliable, solid people who “will speak truth to power.”
“Just as we learn from the triumphs and sorrows of our parents and grandparents, so I believe we can learn from the leadership of our presidents who led in times of crises,” Kearns Goodwin said. “I believe they would all acknowledge that in the end, transforming change does not come from the top-down, but rather from the ground up, from aroused citizens joining together to bring our country closer to its ideals.”
The Massachusetts Conference for Women is presented by State Street Corporation and supported by various sponsors, including TD Bank, Target Corporation and Cisco Systems, Inc.
“State Street is honored to continue our sponsorship of the Massachusetts Conference for Women, which we have supported for many years,” said State Street Corporation Executive Vice President Kathy Horgan. “Despite the challenges that are keeping us physically apart in these difficult times, we are grateful to see that this conference has succeeded in bringing thousands of women together in a relevant and meaningful way.”
Many attendees took advantage of the chat rooms to network with other powerhouse women and exchange advice regarding career skills, personal growth, and job searches.
One of the attendees, Tamika Farmer wrote, “My strongest career skill has to be building relationships with others and staying connected. Whether it has been leading teams or participating on projects, collaborating, and teamwork within one another are essential.”