Thank you for that kind introduction, Haley, and good morning! I am pleased to welcome you to the second [email protected] Women’s Empowerment Conference! For those of you who have braved the elements and endured travel delays to get here, I admire your persistence!
I want to first thank the Brown Entrepreneurship Program and the Jonathan M. Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship for their enthusiastic organization of the [email protected] Conference. And thanks as well to the stellar lineup of workshop leaders and speakers.
And I understand we have attendees here from Northeastern, Harvard, RISD, Babson and other colleges and universities – my thanks to you for joining us here in Providence.
Let me begin by saying that it’s been quite a year for women, hasn’t it? Remember in January of last year when it started? The ground truly began to shift with an historic Women’s March that galvanized women from all backgrounds, tired of being demeaned, diminished and dominated.
The Me Too and Times Up movements that followed redrew the lines of dignity, respect and equal treatment for women in the workplace. And now, we see more and more evidence that crossing these lines will have consequences.
Emboldened women candidates are planning runs for elected office at every level in record numbers. Women scientists are on the front lines, defending scientific integrity and evidence-based discovery and public policy.
And here at Brown, our timing was impeccable. We celebrated 125 Years of Women at Brown last May with a spectacular gathering of powerful, influential women alumnae.
So as we open Women’s History Month, today’s meet-up of women leaders, entrepreneurs and creators is yet another marker of how far we’ve come, of how we feel more independent and empowered than ever to start things, invent stuff, and own ideas.
Women are wielding creativity and entrepreneurial thinking in so many ways.
Lately, our Twitter feed has spotlighted stories of Brown women alumni who have addressed societal issues by bucking conventional wisdom or reconceiving the status quo.
The other day, for example, there was a post about Nancy Schieffelin, Class of 1967, who in 1964, appeared in a men’s ice hockey scrimmage disguised as a male player. This inspired act of creative resistance led Nancy to play a role in the formation of the first women’s college ice hockey program and, eventually, to the founding of the Pembroke Pandas.
Another post cited Dr. Nawal Nour ’88 as a recent honoree of Forty Over 40, a platform for recognizing women who are reinventing and disrupting. Dr. Nour founded the African Women’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, to improve the health of refugee and immigrant women who have undergone female genital cutting.
And another post saluted Deb Mills-Scofield ’82, our Nelson Center ‘Mentoring Maven,’ who has done so much to build the mentoring culture at Brown – through the Women’s Launchpad, the Social Innovation Fellowship, and Women in Science & Engineering.
Notably, the theme of Women’s History Month this year is “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” It is meant to recognize women working together with strength, tenacity and courage to overcome obstacles and achieve joyful accomplishments.
And really, what could be more joyful than women creatively pursuing their passions, what they love, what they care about, and what is meaningful to them?
On all fronts, there is a rising tide for empowered, entrepreneurial women.
And as we see it here at Brown, entrepreneurship is creative problem-solving – not solely in the business realm, but in every undertaking. It is a methodology, a practice. It is a mindset for life.
With every innovation, with every successful start-up, with every assured contribution women make to social progress, history is made. Potential is realized.
At moments of transformation like this, it is vital to have support architecture – organizations, mentors, networks, and training – so that we can enact our brilliant, game-changing ideas. We are incredibly fortunate to have all of that in the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship.
The entrepreneurial energy that the Nelson Center has unleashed, particularly for women, has been a gift that keeps on giving. During any given week here at Brown, scores of events are held to help women groundtruth their assumptions, cultivate their skills, and support their ventures.
In a little less than two years, the Nelson Center has nurtured a community of like-minded women who simply want to create, and shaped a kinetic, risk-taking, joyous environment.
In my mind, the seeds of our entrepreneurial culture have always been here – the intellectual independence, resilient social conscience and collaborative ethos that keep drawing visionaries to Brown, generation after generation.
But now, with the leadership and expanding reach of the Nelson Center, the case for Brown as one of the most entrepreneurial universities in the country is, I am convinced, open and shut. Brown is a destination for would-be entrepreneurs, of any gender.
To close, in looking over the sessions on today’s program, one that caught my attention was “Achieving Success in 10 Years or Fewer,” as it entails putting together a business plan for your life. It’s an appealing concept: imagining the next decade, mapping out a pathway, writing up a plan – but at the same time, like any good entrepreneur, being nimble enough to respond to change or identify new opportunities.
What I like about it is that it pretty much has to be a creative, entrepreneurial exercise. Think about how many people go through life without any plan at all. This flips the script on that.
But then again, this crowd knows all about flipping scripts and disrupting things. For so many of you, that’s what you do – that is the end game. And for others just getting started, well, give it another year or two. You’ll be on fire.
So let’s get to work! I’m sure you are all looking forward to hearing our Class of 1995 Keynote Speaker, Anna Fieler, the Chief Marketing Officer of PopSugar. And, later today, closing speaker Cherie Aimee will share her extraordinary story of “crossing over” and returning to inspire entrepreneurs to think big and lead lives of no regret.
For women at Brown and happily, for women everywhere, it really is an amazing time to be doing just that.
Once again, thank you so much for the opportunity to welcome you to [email protected].