The event explored topics centered on preparing girls to succeed and lead in a dynamic, connected world. Head of School Julia Heaton moderated the conversation, which featured five panelists:
Christine Cunningham, Ph.D.
, Founding Director of Engineering is Elementary and Vice President of the Boston Museum of Science.
Mara Lewis '02, President and co-Founder of GrowthX Corporate
Susan P. O'Day '77, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Technology and Chief Information Officer at The Walt Disney Company
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Catherine Steiner-Adair Ed.D, Clinical and Consulting Psychologist and Research Associate at Harvard Medical School; author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age
Among the topics covered: the skills schools should teach students in order for them to thrive in the digital age; the implications of digital communication on brain development and communication; key attributes employers look for when hiring in today’s job market; patterns emerging in the new business sector and how to prepare young women entrepreneurs for that landscape; and how leaders cultivate cultures of innovation in organizations and how young women can succeed in those environments. The ability to communicate effectively, to make and learn from mistakes, and to accept feedback is critical to the creative process and are important skills, the panelists noted.
“If we’re fearful of making mistakes, and we’re so obsessed with being perfect, we lose the creative process, and we lose the iterative process,” noted Ms. Lewis. “In this digital age, technology changes so fast, and you cannot get stuck in one idea or that your idea is the right idea. If you do, you can miss the market and miss the trends. Innovation requires being able to listen and learn and make changes. If you can’t do that, you’re in big trouble, so being coachable, and being open to feedback and criticism, whether it feels good or not, is very important.”
More than 100 people attended the event. Guests came from the fields of education, youth development, technology, girls’ and women’s leadership, and nonprofits. In addition, several Miss Hall’s students, trustees, faculty, and staff were in attendance, including Gaea Cortes ’19, Angela Guachione ’20, Tiffany Harris ’17, Ria Kedia ’20, Lucy Laferriere ’17, Merriam Lrhazi ’19, Téa Mazzeo ’20, Tram Nguyen ’18, Mac O’Brien ’17, and Amy Qian ’18.
Mac O’Brien said she was interested in the forum because of her passion in technology and interest in pursuing engineering and technology studies in college. “As the date approached, I found I was also interested in observing an intellectual conversation in an adult community and outside of a classroom setting,” said Mac, who found the conversation about things that hold women back — such as impostor syndrome, the desire to be liked, and how girls are taught — to be the most significant. “I was most surprised in being reminded how difficult it can be for women outside of an all-women/girls community, and, subsequently, realizing the impact of my experiences at Miss Hall’s,” she added.
Similarly, Gaea Cortes said she decided to attend because she is interested in STEM and felt the forum was the perfect opportunity to learn more. “The most important thing I learned is that it is important to believe in yourself, because people who second-guess themselves are often the ones who don't get chosen,” Gaea noted. “The most surprising thing I learned was that it’s OK to want to do something you’re not great at.”
Both Mac and Gaea also would recommend students attend future forums. “I found that the experience of going to the forum, and engaging in this type of community conversation, is almost equal to the value of the conversation itself,” said Mac. Added Gaea: “I would 100 percent recommend MHS students attend future forums. The women who spoke were so intelligent, and it was great to learn about something you are interested in from experts. Just by being there, I feel like I learned so much about what it’s like to be a woman in STEAM.”