When you think of being a CEO, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Typically, the term CEO refers to being the chief executive officer of a corporation, but at Bryant University’s 17th annual Women’s Summit, CEO took on an entirely new meaning. On March 14th over 1,000 men and women, including myself, attended the annual Women’s Summit to learn how to become the CEO of your entire life, both personally and professionally. Among the guest speakers were co-founder of The Knot, Carley Roney, neurologist and author of “Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You”, Dr. Marie Pasinski, first female U.S. Navy fighter pilot, Carey Lohrenz, and award-winning actor, Viola Davis.
The Women’s Summit began in 1997 and was co-founded by a woman named Kati Machtley, First Lady and wife to Bryant University’s President Ronald Machtley. Originally, the Women’s Summit was established to promote women in the business field and to help them become more successful in their professional lives. Yet, as the years passed, more and more women became educated, held higher positions in the workforce, and even became the breadwinners in their families, which ultimately shifted the dynamic of the annual summit. Today, the Women’s Summit is held to empower women of all ages to handle any challenge, both life- and work-related, that they are faced with on a daily basis.
Being my second time attending the conference, I knew just how empowering and moving the summit is, and I was eager to gain a better understanding of how to take better control of my own life. The day’s events began with opening remarks from the first keynote speaker, Carley Roney. As the people were filing in, it was as if the energy growing in the room was palpable. It was amazing to watch as hundreds and hundreds of women gathered into one room excited, hopeful, and all there for the same purpose: to learn and be inspired.
Carley delivered an excellent speech filled with wit, laughter, and motivational words of wisdom. What really caught my attention, though, was when she admitted to not being perfect; a standard in which I believe most women struggle with. Perfectionism is an illusion. It’s virtually impossible to be human and to be perfect, yet, women are constantly setting themselves up for such unrealistic expectations. Perhaps it’s because we are under this scrutinizing pressure to live up to some impractical ideal, or maybe we just want to have it all. But, in order to get on the path to becoming the CEO of your life and achieving success, it is important to understand that perfectionism is unattainable. And we must be willing to accept that. As Carley said during her speech, “Imperfection is where it’s at!”
After feeling empowered by what Carley Roney had to say, I had the opportunity to join in on a press interview with this year’s luncheon keynote speaker, award-winning actor Viola Davis. I had seen Viola in movies, interviews, award shows, and other media outlets, but physically being in her presence and listening to her speak so eloquently was such a surreal experience. Viola is a prime example that any individual, no matter their circumstances, can go from nothing to something. In the midst of deep poverty and hardship, she worked tirelessly to give herself a better future despite thinking there was no way out. Her successes are nothing short of perseverance and the ability to take charge of her life personally and professionally. She is truly the epitome of being the CEO of your life.
I wish I could have bottled up Viola’s speech during the luncheon to carry it with me wherever I go. Her words were powerful. They left you feeling that anything is possible, as long as you’re willing to work hard for it. She also talked about the inevitability of failure and how she has many faults, but not to forget that those feelings are all a part of everyday life. In her speech she stated, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” When all is said and done, it is up to us to figure out who we are as individuals. Are we putting ourselves first to ensure we can live to our highest potential and, in turn, serve others? What are our shortcomings, and can we use them as building blocks to our success? What defines us? On the path to becoming the CEO of our lives, it is important that we consider these questions because, by better conditioning ourselves, we are able to offer more in return personally and professionally.
Once again, the Bryant University Women’s Summit committee put together a fantastic conference this year. With twenty-one different workshops, a power plenary session, and three keynote speakers, the summit did not fail to inspire the women and men in attendance. I left the conference filled with inspiration and motivation to be a better “me”. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be among the crowd that day, and I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event.