Last week's 19th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women included 10 faculty and staff members from St. John’s Prep. Treated to headliners like Gov. Maura Healey, the Commonwealth’s first female Governor, and a list of keynote speakers that included Golden Globe-winning actress America Ferrera (Ugly Betty, Barbie), MIT computer scientist and digital activist Dr. Joy Buolamwini, “Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood, and Dame Jacinda Arden, the former prime minister of New Zealand, the St. John’s contingent spent the day listening, learning, and exchanging ideas as well as ideals.
Speakers addressed the critical importance of equity in representation, the power of women as a collective force for change, and the necessity of staying optimistic in challenging times.
“I was so impressed with the vulnerability of all the women and the collective power of seeing so many strong voices in one place offering points of view from different perspectives,” said Middle School Music teacher Diane Hastings. “Yet it was all with a theme of ‘stay strong in what you believe in and continue doing the work that will move change forward.’ I loved that the overall message was so much about inclusivity from all different spheres and also that presenters represented all different stages of the career spectrum.”
More than 9,500 attendees packed the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in the Hub’s Seaport District. Programming sessions were offered throughout the day featuring topics like Rebuilding Relationships in a Disconnected World, How to Advocate for Yourself and Others, and Leading With a Limitless Mindset.
“I thought Margaret Atwood struck a chord with me because she represented what a true ally looks like,” said Math teacher Kara Brown. “Even if you have to put yourself in an unpopular position, you speak the truth because it will build up someone else’s lived experience.”
St. John’s inclusion in the event was made possible by the School’s administrative team, which purchased a table to support the Prep community’s professional continuing education opportunities.
“America Ferrara was powerful and I was moved when she reminded us all that women shouldn’t have to be exhausted and fed up in order to be heard,” said Latin teacher Elizabeth Solomon. “They should be able to have a seat at the table because it’s joyful, not just because it’s a step taken to counteract burnout and frustration.”
Attending the event were CLAS Learning Coach Lacey Allis, Brown, Math teacher Holly Duren, Middle School Counselor Katherine Gorham, Hastings, Multicultural Affairs & Community Development Specialist Grace Leete, Managing Director of Information Services Marissa McLaughlin, Teaching & Learning Instructional Coach Kelly Papa, Middle School English Teacher Monica Roy, and Solomon.
“Prime Minister Arden was really absorbing and I was touched when she spoke about bringing compassion and emotion into being a leader and the importance of (sharing successes and challenges) as a community,” said Roy. “That resonated with me and it’s something I’ve tried to share with the boys … that emotional times are hard for me too, and we can all decide when to process them and when to take action, which she also spoke about.”