The Bryant University Women’s Summit® celebrated its 23rd year of inspiring, empowering, and advancing women on Wednesday, June 10, undaunted by a global pandemic and resolute in support of social justice and inclusion.
As “the soul of every country from the beginning of time, women have lifted up families and nations,” the Summit’s Founding Director Kati Machtley told the audience. “It’s our turn to lead this nation back to health … and to heal racial hatred and prejudice.”
That message resonated with the more than 1,000 women and men from throughout the region who gathered virtually for the 2020 Women’s Summit®. This year’s theme was “2020: Expand Your Vision,” and keynote speakers shared inspiring stories of how seeing beyond the horizon – and the stratosphere - enabled them to achieve success and make a positive difference in the lives of others.
The power to change the world
In her speech, keynote speaker Mae Jemison, M.D., the first woman of color in space, and a leading voice for science, social responsibility, and education, encouraged the crowd to take control of their path. “We won’t have leadership as women until we feel comfortable and go ahead and set the standards of achievement ... to reexamine what needs to be praised, what should we aspire to, what should our society aspire to,” she said. “We need to be able to define the goals and measurements of success. That’s a role that we have to take in order to have our power, in order to change the world today and in the years to come.”
We have the opportunity to create a brighter future now, Jemison noted, “while the world is looking, while we’re paying attention – from the pandemic to what we’re seeing as economic crisis to justice movements where we have seen laid bare both the lack of equity, but also that so many people actually do care.”
She urged Women’s Summit participants to use their “experiences to bring a different perspective to the discussions… to look to the best inside of us and to risk taking those actions that we know will help to make all people whole, that will help to make us all be included in the bounty and the wealth of this world and this society.”
Other keynotes included:
- Susan David, Ph.D., CEO of Evidence Based Psychology, one of the world’s leading management thinkers and an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist who authored the #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling book “Emotional Agility.”
- Laura K. Ipsen, President and CEO of Ellucian®, the leading provider of software and services built to power higher education. A 25-year Silicon Valley veteran, Ipsen previously held leadership roles and worked to drive transformation at Oracle, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems.
- Laysha Ward, Executive Vice President and Chief External Engagement Officer, Target. Ward achieved success through her ability to lead through change. She served on the board of directors of the Corporation for National and Community Service under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Summit transformed to overcome challenges
The 23rd annual summit, which also featured 22 breakout sessions on a range of topics, was originally scheduled for March 13, but was postponed in accord with COVID-19 pandemic public health advisories. For the safety of the Women’s Summit community and in keeping with the governor’s guidelines, it was transformed into a virtual conference.
The 2020 summit was the last directed from beginning to end by Kati Machtley as she and her husband, Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley, are retiring on June 30. In her honor, the Businesswoman of the Year Award, presented annually at the Summit, was renamed the Kati Machtley Businesswoman of the Year Award. Machtley presented this year’s award to Kim Keck, President of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, for her work as “a devoted advocate for healthcare policy and women’s leadership.”
One of the longest-running and most popular conferences in New England, the Women’s Summit welcomed a sold-out crowd this year as it has every year. With a mission of empowering women professionally, personally, and financially, the Women’s Summit has incorporated current trends in education, leadership, entrepreneurship, communication, diversity, health, wellness, technology and financial topics in breakout sessions that support participants’ professional and personal aspirations.