My Two Days At The Massachusetts Conference For Women 2019

My Two Days At The Massachusetts Conference For Women 2019

This was my second year attending the Massachusetts Conference for Women taking place in December 2019 in Boston, MA. This is the second-largest women’s conference in the WORLD. Last year, I learned so much from the speakers, breakout sessions, and the different stations around the conference. You can read all about it here!

Opening Night at The Massachusetts Conference for Women

Again, this year, I went to the opening night before the conference and then the main day. At the opening networking event, I heard from Brene Brown and the founders of TheSkimm. I went to career coaching and networked with other attendees. My favorite keynote was Brene Brown. I expected the founders of TheSkimm to be my favorite, but it was more of an interview, which isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. 

Brene Brown’s keynote speech was the “Call to Courage”. She spoke about how we live in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility. Although it’s easy to stay quiet and hide in our ideological bunkers to “fit in,” now more than ever we need to choose courage over comfort, take chances and put an end to the spiritual crisis of disconnection facing us.” I purchased her book Born To Lead after this keynote. She spoke of real life, relating her journey to ours. She is a parent, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a researcher, and a speaker. She was funny and insightful. I highly recommend if you have the chance to hear her, to do so.

Main Day at The Massachusetts Conference for Women

The day started with the Opening Keynote Session where we heard from many amazing women (and one man); Antoinette Antonio, Anchor WCVB Channel 5, Marian Heard, president & CEO, Oxen Hill Partners and @MassWomen founding board member, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Laysha Ward, EVP & cheif external engagement officer at Target, Simon Sinek, leadership expert and one of the most top-viewed TED speaker, Amanda Southworth, IOS developer, designer, and mental health and human rights activist, Susan Lisa, vice president and  investor relations of Boston Scientific, Yara Shahidi, actress, activist, and breakout star from Freeforms’ Grownish, and Celeste Headlee, award-winning journalist and author. 

Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek was the first main speaker. He is an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. He is best known for popularizing the concept of WHY in his first TED Talk in 2009, which rose to become one of the most-watched TED Talks of all time, with over forty-three million views. 

He was one of my favorite speakers of the day. He started with the difference between a finite game versus an infinite game. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play, there is no winning or losing. An example he used was the difference between Microsoft and Apple. He was brought into both companies to help and after having talked and worked with both he pulled out a few lessons. Microsoft wanted to learn to be more like Apple, so that they could beat Apple. Apple wanted to learn how teachers can teach better and students can learn better.  Microsoft was playing a finite game, while Apple was playing an infinite game. In an infinite game, you can only beat yourself. You don’t beat the competition, you outlast them by being better than yourself the previous year. Mircrsoft fell behind to Apple because they were always trying to beat Apple, while Apple wasn’t focusing on how to beat Microsoft, but how they can beat themselves from their previous numbers, how their employees can be better, how their products can be better, how they can sell more and create more. This leads to the thought of you want to go through life with an infinite mindset, not a finite mindset. You should study your competition, but not spend your time trying to beat them. Spend your time having good leadership and the courage to be better than your previous self. 

Three main points were made… 

  1. An organization needs to give employees a just cause. This just cause is the reason that employees would be willing to give up their interests because they truly believe in the just cause. This is why people would work long hours, travel, give up better paying jobs to stay where they currently are (at your organization). Think of nonprofits.
  2. Love Vs. Like. Love is emotional. Simon talked to a man working at a coffee shop at a very busy hotel and he asked, “why do you love your job”. He said that he was always asked “do you need anything to make you do our job better?”. This was all the managers, not just his that would check-in to see if he needed anything to make his job easier and help him do his job better. It’s not a manager looking for things that are wrong and micromanaging. Managers create an environment with which we work. If workers feel safe, they aren’t spending time protecting themselves, they are spending their time working for the business. 
  3. Worthy Rival. Their strengths reveal to your weaknesses. Study your worthy rival(s). 

“Better we should blow it up than someone else” – Steve Jobs. Find a better way to advance your cause. 

He left us with “Have the courage to lead. Live an infinite life. Committing our lives to other people to help them rise, that is how we rise.”

Amanda Southworth

Amanda Southworth is a seventeen-year-old iOS developer, designer, and mental health and human rights activist. She’s founder and executive director of a nonprofit that uses code for change, serving over 100,000 users across the world. She has created many systems to help with mental health. The first was AnxietyHelper, a mental health guidebook that provides tools based on CBT, resources, and information on various mental illnesses to make the world of mental illness more accessible. THe next was Vernea, a personal security system for members of the LGBTQ+ community in abusive situations to protect them before, during, and after hate crimes, abuse, and bullying. She spoke on the importance of mental health and how it affects every single person, how anxiety and depression has increased over the years, and how her life hurt her and how it has affected her mental health and the reason behind these projects. 

Breakout Session One at The Massachusetts Conference for Women

Breakout Session One – Thinking In Bets: Lessons in Unemotional Risk-Taking and Decision Making with Annie Duke and Emcee Alice Lin

In poker and throughout our lives, we are more successful when we maximize the time spent in a favorable situation and minimize the time in unfavorable ones. But many of us are too quick to quit when we are winning, or refuse to walk away from a losing game. Former World Series of Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke lives with uncertainty and has found that the key to long-term success is to think in bets. 

We started the session by being asked to estimate how much time you spend, in minutes per week, deciding each of the following:

  1. What to eat
  2. What to watch on Netflix
  3. What to wear

Here’s how long the average person, in minutes, spends per week on these decisions:

  1. What do you want to eat? 150 minutes a week
  2. What do you want to watch on Netflix? 50 minutes a week
  3. What do you want to wear? 90 – 115 minutes a week

The lesson? Time adds up. The time the average person spends deciding what to eat, watch, and wear adds up to 250 – 275 hours per year. You need to speed up these decisions. In poker, you are not supposed to take more than 1 minute to make a decision. A takeaway from this is that you don’t know if something is good or bad luck until you’ve had time away. 

Poker is a game of decision making under conditions of uncertainty over time. The uncertainty revolves around luck and hidden info. John Van Nerumann is the father of game theory and he defined game theory to be “a game of decision making under conditions of uncertainty over time”, which is the same definition of poker. A decision is a bet on a particular future based on our beliefs. 

Think about it this way:

Belief >>> Bet >>> Future. 

Any decision you make is a bet. There are two types of uncertainty; imperfect information and luck. 

Beliefs >(imperfect information)> Decision >(luck)> Outcome

The time-accuracy tradeoff –  Increasing accuracy costs time. Saving time costs accuracy. We’re not good at talking with the future me. Example: Jerry Seinfeld has a skit where he talks about how the Morning Jerry suffers because Night Jerry wants to stay up and do stuff or have another drink, etc. Night Jerry does all this stuff and says it affects Morning Jerry not him. So this leads to the Happiness Test. 

The Happiness Test:

  • Ask yourself if the outcome of your decision, good or bad, will likely have a significant effect on your happiness in a year. 
  • If the answer is no, the decision passes the test which you can speed up. 
  • Repeat for a month and a week. 
  • The shorter the time period for which your answer is “no, it won’t much affect my happiness”, the more you can trade off accuracy in favor of saving time. 

Repeating Options: When the same type of decision comes up over and over again, you get repeated chance to choose options, including options you may have rejected in the past. The more you know your own preferences, the better your decision making will be. One of the best ways to figure out your likes and dislikes is to try stuff. 

“A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing” is an example of a big decision and how to handle it. Imagine that you have a week of vacation time next year and you decide to take a big trip. You’ve already narrowed it down to two destinations, Paris or Rome. How difficult would it be to choose between them once you’ve narrowed your decision to Paris or Rome? When a decision is hard that means it’s easy. When you’re weighing two options that are close, then the decision is actually easy because whichever one you choose, you can’t be that wrong since the difference between the two is so small. You don’t know how the trip will be for you if you ask a friend whos been for advice, it is a waste of time to gather ALL information to decide, so the best option is to flip a coin. Use the Only Option Test. For any options you’re considering, ask yourself “If this were the only option I had, would I be happy with it?” The Menu Strategy to go about this is to spend your time on the initial sorting and save your time on the choosing. Sorting options is the heavy lifting of decision making and that’s the place you will get the most value out of slowing down. Once you’ve done the sorting and you’ve got one or more good options, there’s not a big penalty for speeding up. 

Quit-To-Itiveness: The lower the cost to quit, the faster you can go because it’s easier to unwind the decision and choose a different option, including options you may have rejected in the past. Which brings you to Opportunity Cost. When you pick an option, you lose the potential gains associated with the options you don’t pick. When the cost to quit is low, you can go fast. When you can exercise multiple options in parallel, you can go even faster. Decision Stacking is finding ways to make low-impact, easy-to-quit decisions in advance of a high-impact, harder-to-quit decision. 

This breakout session was my absolute favorite of the day. 

Breakout Session Two

Hyperfocus: Productivity in a World of Distraction with Chris Bailey

The research is clear: the state of our attention determines the state of our lives. Yet our attention has never been as overwhelmed or in demand as it is today. We’ve never been so busy while accomplishing so little, and we’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with a lack of stimulation and distraction. 

  • Start with the basics that make you productive; water, sleep, fuel.
  • Alcohol he describes to be “borrowing energy & happiness from the morning”

Caffeine: With an extrovert, caffeine can help with productivity and will stimulate. With an introvert, it has the opposite reaction but same stimulation.

Productivity Formula:

  1. Energy – if you’re burnt out at 1pm, your productivity is higher in the morning
  2. Attention – focus on what you want to accomplish
  3. Time – Time Management

3 Strategies to be more productive

One // The Rule of Three. You are naturally wired to think in three. You can only hold 3 pieces of information in your brain at once. The world revolves around the number three, just think… (Good things come in threes… Celebrities die in threes… Three times the charm… Beginning, Middle, End… Three Little Pigs, Musketeers, blind mice, little bears). Productivity should be about accomplishing goals, not failure or effectiveness. So, set 3 work intentions & 3 home intestines, so your brain can focus on those three things. Ex. Stay present in all three meetings

Two // Where your energy goes, so does your focus, then your productivity. Know your biological prime time – this is when you do everything / what takes the most of you. When you’re at your lowest, this is your “creative prime time” So what we did, is that we calculated our biological prime time. 

Calculate Your Biological Prime Time

  • Grab a pen and paper
  • Think about a day off, like the weekend
  • How long do you sleep for, ideally? (e.g. 8 hours)
  • Divide that sleep time number by two (e.g. 4 hours)
  • What time do you go to bed at on that free day? (e.g. 11:30)
  • Add the hours to your bedtime (e.g. 11:30 bedtime, plus 4 hours = 3:30 am)
  • Now, plot that time on this chart
  • Now, plot that time on this chart

Three // Screen Time. He did a test where he didn’t use his iPhone except for the normal features (make a phone call). He found that he had a better attention span aka being able to focus more, he had more ideas, and he had more plans. This breaks down into two sections to achieve productivity. On average, it only takes 40 seconds of focus before we’re distracted/interrupted. Our brains crave distraction because, by our brains bouncing around, it creates dopamine each time it bounces. In order to achieve a greater focus, you have to overcome our brain’s natural reaction. Take time to be bored and let your brain rest. Boredom takes a high stimulation and turns it into a low stimulation. 

He did a research project of one month of boredom where each day he spent one hour being bored. He reached out to his fans and asked them what he should to create complete boredom and their answers were hysterical. Day one, reading the iTunes terms and conditions, day 4, on hold with Air Canada, day 19, counting the 0’s in pi, day 23, reading Wikipedia articles about rope, day 24, watching a clock (and 26 more). From this he found that by spending an hour a day bored caused a better attention span, more ideas, more plans, leading to more productivity. “Not all those who wander are lost” is the second. The best ideas come when you’re not focused. “Scatter focus” creates more ideas and plans, your mind wanders. During this time that your mind is wandering, 12% is spent in the past, 28% is spent in the present, 48% on the future, and 12% on other things. We think about our goals 14x more when our brains are wandering versus when we are focused, You need to let your mind wander.

Misconceptions on focus / productivity; “we need to fit more in” → “we need more space”, “distraction is the enemy of focus” → “overstimulation is the enemy of focus”.

He challenged us to do a Two Week Challenge to disconnect to create more productivity. Take 8 days to settle your brain down to very low stimulation (limit screen time, disconnect ritual/day, rediscover boredom, scatterform, grayscale mode on your devices) and see how your productivity changes. 

Lunch Keynote Session

During our lunch, we heard from another amazing selection of women. All inspiring, but I didn’t have as many takeaways as the breakfast keynote. The keynote speakers; Karen Holmes Ward, director, public affairs & community services at WCVB Channel 5, Gloria Cordes Larson, former president at Bentley University and @MassWomen board president, Mayor Marty Walsh, Kathy Horganm EVP & chief human resources and citizenship officer at State Street Corporation and @MassWomen board member, Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Laureate & co-founder, Malala Fund, Tara Westover, American historian & best-selling author, Educated: A Memoir, Renee Connolly, global head, communications & corporate responsibility, MilliporeSigma and @MassWomen board member, Megan Rapinoe, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Star & gender equity advocate, and Kara Swisher, co-founder and editor-at-large, Recode

Malala Yousadzai

The first main keynote was Malala Yousadzai. She is co-founder of Malala Fund and a Nobel Laureate. Her vision of a more equitable world means that every girl will have the opportunity to learn and lead. The Malala Fund invests in local education activists; advocates for policy changes and resources needed to give all girls a secondary education; and amplifies girls’ voices through the digital publication Assembly. Inspired by her father’s activism, Malala began her campaign for girls’ education at age eleven with her anonymous blog for the BBC, Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl. She soon began advocating publicly for girls’ education and often joined her father on visits to neighboring villages to recruit for the school he founded in their rural home. Independently, she began attracting international media attention and awards. Due to Yousafzai’s increasing prominence, at age fifteen she was attacked by the Taliban for speaking out. She recovered in the UK and has continued her fight ever since. From her conversation, my main takeaway was to always keep fighting for what you believe in. Find the people who support you and will be an advocate with you, and stick to your cause. 

Tara Westover

The second main keynote was Tara Westover. This was my favorite lunch keynote. Tara Westover is an American historian and writer known for her unique and courageous education journey. Born to Mormon survivalist parents opposed to public education, Westover never attended school. She spent her days working in her father’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother until she decided to get an education and experience the world outside her community. Her grandmother wanted her to have an education and gave her the choice to go with her when she would travel to a new place for part of the year, Tara decided not to go. Later on, she heard opera singers and fell in love. Tara heard that if you wanted to learn how to do something new like that, you go to school. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT successfully, and she was admitted to Brigham Young University. Just seventeen, the first time she set foot in a classroom, she continued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She then earned her MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 she was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge and earned her Ph.D. in 2014. She wrote her book Educated is an account of her struggle for self-invention. The stories she told were both hysterical and inspiring. She shared her first experience of the first time she was in a real classroom, the first time she heard of the Holocaust, and more. 

The main takeaways I got were

  • You don’t know where your passions will take you, but not having a passion will take you nowhere. 
  • Respecting others is the prerequisite of respecting yourself
  • Of the nature of woman,… you don’t have to believe what other people say about you/you are, you do that yourself

Tara shared her thoughts about the role of education today in our nation’s divide, suggesting that it has become part of our political divide. “As a mechanism of enlightenment, understanding, and opportunity itself, it shouldn’t become part of that division. But we can change it. And to do that, we should change our idea of what education is and what an educated person looks like. We might admit it has less to do with knowledge than with empathy. An educated person is not someone who can recite an army of facts and knows a lot but who has nurtured an interest in other people and is curious to see things from another person.”

Her main takeaway is “to be an educated person is perhaps not to know more than another person but just to know another person”. 

Megan Rapinoe

Keynote number three… Megan Rapinoe is a two-time World Cup Champion and co-captain of the US Women’s National Team. She is a vocal leader on and off the pitch. Rapinoe is an advocate for equality for all, and has intersected her purposeful lifestyle brand founded with fellow teammates. After their last win, she started the fight for equity pay between the Women’s National Team and the Men’s National Team. My main takeaways were “you are more impactful than you think” and “force multiplies with each other”. 

Breakout Session Three

Encore | Communication: Speak Up, Stand Out with Charmaine McClarie and Emcee Eileen Elliott, Ph.D.

Effective communication is more than just words and phrases. It’s a projection of your competence and even your potential as a leader. Great communicators can voice their vision confidently, move plans and projects forward, and present their ideas across all levels of an organization. We started this session by asking ourselves three main questions; How do people see you? How do you see yourself? How do you want to be seen? 

After thinking of these answers, we moved onto the Executive Success Principles (ESP):

  1. Communicate the vision
  2. Speak in headlines
  3. The 3 “must-make” points
  4. Create witnesses
  5. Don’t audition for the part
  6. Embody your message

One // Communicate the vision, not just the initiative. Share what the end goal is so it doesn’t feel like you’re just giving your team more work to do.

Two // How you communicate helps shift the level of importance. By speaking in headlines, you are sharing the importance of what you are saying. 

Three // What’s in it for them? Why should they listen? What do you want them to do about it? Use the “language of leaders” to hit each of those points. Ask yourself these questions “How do you look and carry yourself” and “Why are they writing a check for you?”  You want to be able to articulate the value of what you do. 

*We took five minutes to write our own “elevator speech” where we had to translate not what we do, but what is the value of what we do. I rewrote mine a few times and then we turned to the person next to us and gave them our message where they gave us tips on what they thought and what we were missing. It’s always good to have a second opinion. 

Four // Go into any room equipt. Keep a little blackbook, when you do something really well, write it down. Give people the language to talk about you before they make up their own. Don’t audition for a part you already have, act the part. If you come to the room and audition for the part instead of acting it, if you don’t speak, it is the same as you not being in the room, so why come. 

Five // Embody your message. Look like you what you you’re talking about. 98% of your image is based on your voice that you give. As an example, think about your voicemail, it communications who you are. As homework, she suggested changing our voicemail each day. Make it clear and concise, get the point across, don’t hesitate. They can always replay your message. Talk with “statement speak” talk without a question mark. Think about why you are in the room and would the room be any different without you in it. 

This was my second year attending this conference and I am so glad. This has been one of my favorite experiences and I would love to continue attending this event each year. The different women-owned vendors, the opportunities to learn about charities and what businesses are doing, enjoy food vendors, do career coaching and learn at the wellness corner. There was something for everyone at this conference. 

You can read my experience at last year’s Conference here!

Have you ever attended this conference or a similar one? If so, what was your favorite part?

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