By: Melissa Monahan, Campus Recruiting Lead.
Last year marked State Street’s 14th year as the presenting sponsor of the Annual Massachusetts Conference for Women, which celebrates, supports, and encourages women and their contributions to the workplace. Traditionally, the event is held at the Seaport Conference Center in Boston where women – and some men – from different industries and from different locations gather in person, all with the same goal: to foster connections and support women in the workplace. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held in a virtual setting; and yet, the energy and passion participants brought to the event was still present – helped along by the excitement surrounding the keynote speaker, artist Alicia Keys!
Cultivating Inclusive Workplaces Still a Challenge
The theme of the conference really resonated with me: “Powered By Purpose: Achieving Equity for All.” By now, it’s no secret that cultivating a diverse workplace through a variety of inclusive practices creates a more productive, engaged, and profitable organization. However, even after the storm of social and political calls for change like the #metoo movement, corporations continue to find themselves challenged when it comes to creating and sustaining a diverse workplace.
Many women and individuals who identify as she/her/hers feel torn between a call for action and a helplessness to enact change; the challenges brought about by COVID highlighted the ongoing gender inequities that still exist in the workplace and in society at large. Mandated quarantines and shutdowns forced many women to choose between focusing on their career or their families. For tech companies that already feel the disparity of female representation in their ranks, this is sure to create increased pressure to attract and maintain diverse female technical talent. Women make up 47% of the overall U.S. workforce, but only 25% of the tech industry workforce. As a talent acquisition professional, I’m keenly aware that companies like Charles River Development – with a continued focus on technology and software solutions – will need to remain competitive and innovative when it comes to attracting female technical talent.
Engaging Sessions and Energizing Speakers
Throughout the course of the online event, virtual attendees could participate in various speaking and networking engagements centered around achieving equity and inclusion for all women in the current workplace. The great thing about the event being virtual is that the content was available online for viewing after the event as well, so attendees could re-visit sessions. One of my favorites was “Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage with Laura Huang.” Another highlight was actually getting to see Kathy Horgan from our very own Global Human Resources department introduce Alicia Keys as the keynote speaker. The event offered great suggestions on professional improvement literature and an online bookstore where attendees could purchase these books.
Reflecting on the Conference’s Meaning
This year’s theme of “equity for all” is particularly significant and has given me the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a full-time working mother with a very active toddler who frequently becomes my “desk buddy” for the day. There have been times during my professional life when I felt hindered because I felt I had to choose my family over my work; however, throughout the course of the various breakout sessions and speakers at the Conference, I felt strongly supported and encouraged. While the event felt a bit different being online, the conference planners did a wonderful job planning and executing on the logistics of such a large event. They also did a great job delivering content that supported and bolstered “Equity for All.”
Some of the takeaways for me include:
- It is up to us to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. Remember that people we surround ourselves with should be those who will help drive the conversation and also support us.
- Seek out mentors/leaders and network with individuals who support you and your professional mobility. In full disclosure, it was not until very recently that I had a manager who actually sat me down and told me, “You can do anything you want here,” and wow, did that feel good.
- Mentor where and when you can and break through silos.
- When you get to where you’re going, remember to pave the way for others in your wake; amplify the accomplishments of other women around you where possible.
The 2020 Virtual MA Conference for Women felt like a success. However, I don’t want the energy from that day to dissipate along with the personal and professional goals I set that day. I hope to carry on that energy so that I and my female colleagues can continue to thrive in the workplace. I am excited and energized; even when I have cleaned up a spill for the hundredth time in the dining room that now doubles as my office. I can’t wait to see what next year’s conference will bring!
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