Under the theme #BeTheChange, the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s hosted the Women’s Leadership Conference on Sept. 24. More than 750 registrants from across the nation joined the half day virtual conference, which included several expert panels and a post event networking reception.
The conference began with a panel conversation featuring Presidents Ann McElaney-Johnson (Mount Saint Mary’s), Suzanne Walsh (Bennett College, Greensboro, North Carolina) and Meredith Woo (Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, Virginia), who discussed women’s leadership, engagement and how their institutions are preparing the next generation of leaders.
“Helping women to develop as leaders is literally part of our mission at women’s colleges. That’s what we are all about. All our programs are geared to helping students develop as strong, effective leaders who will make a difference in their communities,” said President McElaney-Johnson. “Don’t give up your dreams and put them on hold because we are in a crisis. I would encourage students to leverage this time to develop those skills that are going to be critical to your life as a leader.”
A dozen recognized social justice leaders, authors and scholars – including Women’s March National activist Rachel O’Leary Carmona, professor and co-founder of the Los Angeles Chapter of Black Lives Matter Melina Abdullah, and Time’s Up head of entertainment Ngoc Nguyen – joined the conference to discuss social justice, systemic racism and how women are organizing to meet the challenges of the moment.
The closing session featured a powerful conversation between poet Cleo Wade and JoAnna Novak, MFA, associate professor, creative writing. The two women spoke about the power of poetry and staying positive amid the pandemic. “Right now, we are building a world that has never been built before. It is going to require radical imagination from this generation to create a world where equity, justice and anti-racism really exist,” said Wade.
During her concluding keynote remarks, Emerald Archer, PhD, director for the Center for the Advancement of Women, said: “From the global pandemic to racial injustice, 2020 has challenged communities across the country. And yet, women continue to rise. In today’s climate, achieving big results requires leaders to rise up and lead with courage and conviction so that everyone is empowered to be their best.”