“Women are awesome,” Sallie Krawcheck excitedly said to over 1,000 women on a lucky Friday the 13th at Bryant University. As Krawcheck opened the 2015 Women’s Summit Succeed and Thrive, she emphasized women’s importance in the workplace. She pointed out the interesting fact that while men have been found to put finances at the top of their priority list in choosing a profession, women top their list with finding meaning and purpose.
This prompted the Succeed and Thrive theme of the 18th annual Women’s Summit at Bryant University, directed by Bryant’s First Lady, Kati Machtley. The event, which sold out in less than a day, was crafted to help attendees grow personally, professionally, and financially. In addition to attending two of the twenty-one offered sessions on topics ranging from finance to stress reduction, all guests listened to three powerful keynote addresses. The dynamic keynote speakers included Chair of Ellevate Network, Sallie Krawcheck, Today Show co-host, Hoda Kotb, and CNN Contributor Mel Robbins.
After the first round of workshop sessions and a Power Plenary Session led by financial expert Charlotte Stallings, the attendees filled the Bryant gymnasium for the highly anticipated luncheon keynote. Before Hoda Kotb’s speech, the crowd was briefly addressed by Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, just a few hours following her first state budget proposal. As the first female governor of Rhode Island, she told the crowd that she is proud of her unique position to show girls that they can be whatever they want to be. As she discussed her plans to solve the problems of the state and the nation, she said “ladies, I need your help” and referred to women as an “underused resource.”
As the Luncheon Keynote Speaker, Hoda Kotb highlighted the event. Kotb openly discussed her journey to her career in journalism, her battle with breast cancer, and her life as cohost with Kathie Lee Gifford on NBC’s Today Show. She was friendly and warm, even stopping to take selfies with excited fans. As she took the stage, she quickly proved that she is truly herself during her talk show; definitely not a TV personality. As she usually does during her morning show, she wanted to share some of her favorite music. She held her earbuds to the mic and attempted to play ‘Uptown Funk” for the crowd.
After settling in, Kotb discussed her rise to a prominent journalism career which required a lot of hard work. She drove herself around the Southern half of the United States for nearly two weeks, going to interviews just to be turned down. As she began to lose hope in her quest to become a news anchor, she finally landed a job in Mississippi. As she pointed out, “it only takes one… not everyone needs to love you.”
Although she had a hard time finding supporters in her early career, she made a room full of fans during her speech. As she shared her personal stories, she consistently made the crowd laugh through her comedic way of story-telling, even during some of her more serious topics. She truly embodied her advice that there are “two things that get you through life. You have to be resilient and have a sense of humor.”
One of the more serious topics came from Kotb’s discussion of her battle with cancer. She admitted that although she initially did not want to be defined by her cancer, it gave her the courage to take chances and taught her that her life “has margin to be valued, not wasted.” The experience of surviving her battle with cancer gave her the insight to realize that the way that you spend your days is the way that you spend your life. So if you want to change your life “you don’t have to do anything big and profound,” you just need to change up one day.
After Kotb’s keynote and a second round of workshop sessions, the event was capped by an entertaining and interactive presentation by motivational speaker and CNN Contributor, Mel Robbins. She engaged the crowd by randomly selecting women to share their goals following the sessions of the day. She assured the audience that thanks to all of the technological advances of the last five years, it has “never been easier to live the life you want.” Easy access to information is empowering and can allow for amazing changes as long as you are willing to change.
According to Robbins, the world is full of resources and it is our job to be resourceful. She delved into some of the psychological background on why we do things and how we should change things. She provided many common examples of some of the things that hinder success and some useful advice on how to change. One of the examples was procrastination. According to Robbins, procrastination is never a problem of finding ideas; it is a problem with getting started. It is important to realize that “you’re never going to feel like it” so you should instead take control of the situation and advance yourself.
Robbins made a wonderful and likely unintended allusion to Bryant as she described ease of information as a “world of open gates.” The famous Bryant archway that we are so careful to walk around holds a lot of meaning to our community, but it was originally just a gate. Now it is a symbolic gateway, representing success and accomplishment. Just as Bryant University regularly provides a gateway to opportunities for students, Bryant served as an exciting new gateway to success for the attendees of the 2015 Women’s Summit.