BY MEGAN FIELDS ’17
DUDLEY, Mass.—Women from across the country gathered March 23, 2017, at the Empowering Women in Business Conference (EWIB) at Nichols College to hear the inspiring words of keynote speaker and Olympic gold medalist Angela Hucles. Over 200 attendees attended the 7th annual EWIB conference.
Presented by the Nichols Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) since 2013, the conference has attracted women from across New England since the first event in 2011. Past keynote speakers have included Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis; television personality, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and motivational speaker Amy Roloff; and veteran journalist Liz Walker, the first African-American woman to co-anchor a newscast in Boston, on WBZ-TV.
Professor Jean Beaupré, IWL faculty director, opened the afternoon by announcing that all members of the audience were present because they were “big believers in life-long learning.” She went on to thank all the volunteers, more than 20 staff and students, and introduced Nichols College President Susan West Engelkemeyer, Ph.D.
Prompting the audience to take a closer look at the current role of women in business, President Engelkemeyer presented statistics on inequality in gender employment and wages. She noted Massachusetts’ own poor performance according to the Massachusetts Women’s Leadership Index, developed by the IWL and released every two years to assess and monitor the status of women in leadership positions in Massachusetts. The inaugural edition, released in 2015, showed a dismal score of 36. It increased to 39 in the 2017 report, released in March. President Engelkemeyer encouraged all in attendance to keep fighting to raise the score, and thanked Hucles for her own efforts to assist and support women.
When Hucles started speaking, she commanded the attention of everyone in the room. Solidifying the union between the women in attendance, she started by saying “something that we have in this room today, that we all share as business women, is that we all work so hard.”
An introvert by nature, Hucles admitted it had been difficult to see herself as a leader early on because of her reserved personality. It took her years to become comfortable with herself and her leadership style, before finally understanding her own variety of leadership. She emphasized: “There are many different ways to approach problems, many different styles. Mine is just one of them.”
Reflecting on her own career as a double-gold medalist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, she shared a memory from her early childhood on her love of the game.
“I always dreamed of being on the national women’s soccer team,” she reminisced. “Then I learned that the odds of being struck by lightning, about one in a million, were greater than becoming an Olympic athlete. But I still found a way to make it happen.”
Hucles’ path to the Olympics was not without obstacles. She spoke about a time when she contemplated quitting the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, only to persevere through her doubts to attend the Olympics the following year.
Speaking of her personal struggles, Hucles learned to turn what she once thought were her “disadvantages” into strengths. She shared the difficulty of being successful while also being a woman, Hispanic, and a member of the LGBTQ community.
“Once I started to become more comfortable with who I was, I realized I’m a triple threat,” she said. When speaking on how she came to be chief empowerment officer of Empowerment Through Sport, she said: “I was able to empower others by empowering myself.”
During the question-and-answer session following Hucles’ presentation, Nichols senior Arielys Rosario took the opportunity to ask the Olympian how she dealt with stereotypes in her position.
Taking a positive approach, Hucles responded: “You have to be in control of what you choose to enter your life, and enter your mind. You have to always watch what you see, what you do, and who you surround yourself with.”
Rosario—a general business major with concentrations in human resource management, marketing, and international business—related to Hucles’ identity as an introvert. Thanking Hucles for her advice, Rosario learned, “It’s okay to be yourself; you don’t have to be an extrovert to be a leader.
“As a person who is a woman and Hispanic, seeing someone like Angela, who has achieved so much and never let stereotypes overcome her, it was really empowering,” added Rosario.
Megan Fields is a senior marketing and psychology major at Nichols College and interns for the Office of Marketing and Communications.
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Nichols College is a college of choice for business and leadership education as a result of its distinctive career-focused and leadership-based approaches to learning, both in and out of the classroom. Founded in 1815, Nichols transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic, career-focused business and professional education. Nichols serves students interested primarily in a comprehensive business education that is supported by a strong liberal arts curriculum.
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