Looking out at an audience of close to 50 female business and engineering students, Chancellor Jacquie Moloney had a question.
“How many of you, when your professor asks a question in class, have sat there and thought, ‘I think I know the answer’?”
Hands shot up around the room at O’Leary Library.
“Take a look around the room,” Moloney continued. “And how many times have you kicked yourself afterward and said, ‘I knew that. Why didn’t I say something?’”
Hands shot up again, this time accompanied by nodding heads.
Invited to speak about women’s empowerment at a Q&A event co-hosted by two student organizations, Manning Women in Business and the Society of Women Engineers, Moloney had struck a chord.
“As women, our biggest challenge is overcoming a lack of self-confidence,” said Moloney, whose university has been named one of the top 10 women-led businesses in Massachusetts for two years running. “Find your voice and don’t be afraid to use it. When I started doing that, everything changed.”
Kellsie Howard, a junior business administration major in the Manning School of Business and founder and president of Manning Women in Business, said the message resonated with nearly everyone in the room.
“It’s something I could relate to, and I think it was extremely relevant for anyone in the audience,” said Howard, who invited Moloney to speak at the event after she received the Chancellor’s Award for Women’s Leadership and her club won the 2018 Excellence in Student Advocacy award last spring.
After collaborating with Society of Women Engineers president Katie An last spring on a panel discussion featuring iRobot, Howard reached out to her about co-hosting this semester’s event with the chancellor.
“It’s important to raise awareness about the women’s empowerment movement, especially for colleges that don’t have many females enrolled,” Howard said. “And it’s always great to grow your network and meet other students who care about the same causes as you.”
An, a junior chemical engineering major in the Francis College of Engineering, said interdisciplinary collaboration is important because “we have different insights and different points of view on issues” that can benefit one another.
Moloney, who chatted with students over apple cider and hors d'oeuvres before the talk, shared how she was the only one of eight girls in her family to attend college — and how higher education changed her life.
“College was everything. It was here that I found my voice,” said Moloney, a Double River Hawk who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a doctorate in education from UML (she got a master’s degree in social psychology from Goddard College).
Noting that “the feminist movement was afoot” when she started college in the mid-1970s, Moloney told students that she hopes they no longer face the barriers today that her generation encountered.
“It’s probably why I’m so passionate about making sure that women from all walks of life have access to college education.”