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Leaders Share Strategies for Success at Women’s Leadership Conference

Chancellor Recounts Lessons Learned, NBC Celtics Reporter and Host Abby Chin Fires Up Crowd

Outgoing UML Chancellor Jacquie Moloney gives the keynote address at the Women's Leadership Conference 2022 Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Outgoing Chancellor Jacquie Moloney urged women to lean on and support each other during the opening keynote of the Women's Leadership Conference.

By Katharine Webster

Create a vision for the future.

To realize that vision, surround yourself with people with diverse viewpoints and build consensus – or a better plan.

Along the way, take care of yourself, so you can care for others. And lean on other women for support. 

Those are just some of the lessons in leadership that outgoing Chancellor Jacquie Moloney shared with an audience of 300 at the June 2022 UMass Lowell Women’s Leadership Conference, the signature event she founded seven years ago when she became the first woman to lead the university.
Boston Celtics sideline reporter and studio host Abby Chin at the UML Women's Leadership Conference 2022 Photo by Tory Wesnofske
NBC Boston Celtics reporter and studio host Abby Chin talked about persisting through setbacks.

“I’ve benefited my entire career from being in rooms just like this one,” she told the mostly female crowd during the opening keynote. “It’s how I found my voice – from being in women’s networks, committing myself and stretching myself.”

Moloney also shared some highlights of her career, dwelling on the event with Oprah Winfrey that raised $3 million for scholarships. She also spoke extensively about mentoring others and being mentored – and the need to keep pushing forward to maintain the gains that women have made.

“Let’s keep that momentum going,” she said. “Let’s have each other’s backs and build spaces that are big enough for all of us.”

NBC Boston Celtics courtside reporter and studio host Abby Chin gave the closing keynote, a frank discussion of how she overcame self-doubt and setbacks – including being laid off from her first on-air job and then from NBC during the pandemic – to build her career. 
Dr. Izzy Lowell talks about business with social impact at the UML Women's Leadership Conference Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Dr. Izzy Lowell said the social justice mission of her company, Queer Med, has contributed to its success.

“Where so much of my confidence comes from is in the preparation,” she said. “When I got the Celtics job, I went to every single practice, every single shootaround ... and every single shootaround for the opposing team, if I could get there and if the timing worked out.”

Yet early on, when she made a slip on-air, Celtics fans immediately took to Twitter to question her competence and intelligence – an experience that’s common for women in any profession, but especially in fields dominated by men, she said.

“People are just sitting there, ready to pounce on any mistake you make,” she said. “That was really eye-opening for me, but it also reinforced why I invest so much time in preparing.”

Between the two keynotes, conferencegoers attended breakout sessions, choosing among offerings with four themes: leading with impact; leading for social justice; leading in STEM, sustainability and startups; and “putting well-being to work.”

The social justice track led off with a talk by Dr. Izzy Lowell, a family practice physician who founded the first company to offer telemedicine and pop-up clinics for transgender and nonbinary children, teens and adults seeking hormone therapy throughout the South and in northern New England.
Renu Kurien Bostwick, Massachusetts coordinator for Women Out Front, at the UML Women's Leadership Conference Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Renu Kurien Bostwick of Mothers Out Front spoke during a panel on women leaders in sustainability.

Queer Med, which Lowell started in 2016 in Georgia, is now licensed in 14 states and has served 5,000 patients. It is the only such provider that accepts insurance, and it is now applying for Medicaid reimbursement so it can provide even greater access to treatment, she said.

Despite possible Medicaid losses, competition and the likelihood that some states will ban hormone treatment for children and teens, Lowell is confident that Queer Med will continue to grow because of the staff’s dedication to an underserved group of patients, she said. 

“Queer Med is successful not in spite of our social justice mission, but because of it,” she said. 

A panel discussion by women spearheading sustainability initiatives for Casella Waste Systems, Johnson & Johnson, the Lowell urban farming nonprofit Mill City Grows and the all-volunteer group Mothers Out Front struck an urgent but optimistic note about confronting the challenges of climate change.
Nicole Gilmore, development director at MITRE Corp., shares real-life leadership lessons at the 2022 UML Women's Leadership Conference Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Nicole Gilmore, director of development at MITRE Corp., and Renee Bordner, founder of Noteworthy Experiences, spoke about overcoming their fears.

“There’s so much motivation to do more,” said Liza Casella, senior director of business development and strategy at Casella, which is testing electric trucks, piloting curbside recycling of textiles, toys and more in Burlington, Vermont, and working with UMass Lowell on recycling specialty plastics used in manufacturing. “We’re really at the beginning of a new evolution.”

Renu Kurien Bostwick, the Massachusetts leadership team co-coordinator for Mothers Out Front, said that when women work together to advocate for better environmental policies at the local and state levels, positive changes can happen.

“Hope comes with acting with others, collaborating with others, learning with others and celebrating what you’ve achieved,” she said.

At a panel on leadership, women who work in large and small businesses talked about building relationships and mentoring – including the vital role of mentors who ignore your self-doubts. They urged women to apply for jobs for which they’re not 100% qualified and to have confidence that they will grow into them.
Henrietta Isaboke, exeuctive director of World Farmers, at the 2022 UML Women's Leadership Conference Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Henrietta Isaboke, executive director of World Farmers, spoke at a panel on nonprofit leadership.

Nicole Gilmore, director of development at MITRE Corp., said she had to take a lot of career risks because, as a military spouse, she moved often. She learned to ask herself, “What am I afraid of?” – and when she’d identified her fears, to “spend some time in prayer or stillness and ask myself, ‘What would I do if I weren’t afraid?’” she said.

Chanvon Mom, an immigrant from Cambodia whose family is involved in Lowell’s civic and political life, said she came to the conference because she wanted to be inspired by other women who are “uplifting, positive and resilient” to push forward with her own educational and professional goals. 

She particularly enjoyed a panel on women working in nonprofits that included alumnae Nana Younge ’18, founder of Get Girls Going, an entrepreneurship program for Black girls; Henrietta Isaboke ’11, executive director of World Farmers in Lancaster, which offers land and farming and marketing assistance to immigrants; and Alex McAdams from the Gender Equality Law Center and World Beyond War.

“Each of the panelists embodied something from my life experiences as an immigrant, as a refugee. It was a relatable topic and a reflection of who I aspire to be,” Mom said. “I knew that if I were to attend, I could continue moving forward every day.”