5 Key Learnings from the “Largest Conference for Women” in the Country

Thanks to the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL), Babson College, I got an opportunity to attend the largest conference for women in the country — Massachusetts Conference for Women. As a current Babson MBA graduate and a CWEL undergraduate mentor, this was an amazing chance to further develop my abilities in order to support future women leaders.

8:00 AM — 10:00 AM
As I entered the power-packed #masswomen venue, I felt immensely rejuvenated surrounded by over 13,000 women. I believe it was a positive spirit in the air that made me feel so energetic. I saw women helping each other get past the security check, in addition to carrying their own respective gigantic bags; juggling their phones to confirm arrangements for the day — addressing various family needs; bearing the weight of the multiple layers of clothing (thanks to the Boston Winter); while also striving to keep the well-done hair and make-up in place for the long day ahead. That said, time to tune in to learning no.1: Look at women around you, look for women around you. They are always available to offer you a helping hand. All you need to do is accept that with grace and extend similar support to others. Do not think twice — be that woman you needed as a girl!

11:00 AM — 12:30 PM
Post the security check, as I scurried around to make it to the morning keynote sessions, an older woman stopped me and said: “Why don’t you eat something before you head upstairs?” She immediately led me to the area where breakfast was being served. I could only think of my mother at this point who would never let me step out of the house without eating. A quick grab and I found my way to the next venue, the ballroom. On my way, I noticed how well the crowd was being ushered at all floors — by women on walkie talkies. And once inside the ballroom, I was so overjoyed to see that the session was all set to be recorded on camera and the person behind the camera — a woman! No points for guessing the speaker — a woman, keeping over 1000 people glued to her insightful speech. Well, this brings me to my next key takeaway: Women can handle any role and responsibility (without making a mess) given to them. I was so fascinated to see multiple facets of a woman in one single venue — the innate caregiver, the trustworthy navigator, the behind-the-lens supporter, the inspiring motivator.

1:00 PM — 2:45 PM
It was now time for me to head to the luncheon keynote session. The speakers were Malala Yousafzai, Tara Westover and Megan Rapinoe - women who have brought in phenomenal changes to the world; be it amplifying their own voice or fighting for pay equity. Given that the average collective age of the audience was more than these celebrities on stage, it was amazing to see the older generation too draw inspiration and cheer the young leaders on. Here’s my next key learning: Be appreciative, respectful and accept everyone irrespective of age, color or background. Celebrate a fellow human being.

3:00 PM — 4:30 PM
As I walked around the never-ending pavillions on career, tech, education, wellness, social hub, politics, community development…I couldn’t help rethink the fact that women have made it this far and expanded their horizons. Hailing from an entrepreneurial family myself, I know the struggle is real. This unconsciously made me spend most of my time at the pavilion focused on ‘Small Businesses led by women.’ I was elated to see so many passionate woman entrepreneurs bubbling with enthusiasm and hear their unique stories. Given my interest and background in the digital communication space, I decided to head towards the ‘Tech Roundtables’ session — an intimate, 10 member group setting for like-minded individuals. It was so refreshing to see how the speakers were willing to share their secret recipe to enable the others at the table who were from different ethnicities. Learning no.4 unfolds: Share your learning, uplift each other. Collaboration can create wonders!

4:30 PM — 5:00 PM
The last leg. As the day was coming to a close and the restroom wait lines grew longer, I chatted with a seasoned professional who was on the ‘Career Coaching Panel’ earlier in the day. We spoke about the sessions we liked, the sessions we had pre-planned to attend but couldn’t make it but intend on catching up digitally, the speaker we enjoyed listening to the most and so on. She expressed how her day turned out to be so satisfying as a career coach, guiding other women to plan the way forward. Ten minutes of wait time and this friendly conversation turned out to be so refreshing for both of us although it had been a pretty busy day. And this encounter brought out my final takeaway: Seek a friend and be a friend — it helps to unburden your thoughts.

I walked out of the Boston Convention and Conference Center, reflecting about the day. I wondered why in spite of being the ‘Superwomen’ we are, we are still striving in many parts of the world for acceptance and upliftment. The left side of my brain argued that we are stepping into 2020, rapidly moving in the digital world, and women are taking big strides and making a mark everywhere. But, the right side of my brain questioned me of all the negative conundrums I saw on all media last week and that we are still struggling to get the basics — education, a hygienic environment, and a risk-free society. Women should no longer be asking for ‘equality’ and it should be considered a norm anyway.

The unanswered quest about ‘How far do we, as women, still have to go?’ kept flashing in my head. As I asked myself this question, I recollected the letter I had written to my ‘future self’ earlier during the day. (Image of ‘Letter to your future-self’ template below)

A brighter future perhaps?

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Amrutha Ananth

Amrutha Ananth

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MBA ’21, Babson College | Marketing Communications Professional