On Thursday, Jan. 9, members of the Episcopal community gathered to begin a meaningful and inspiring conversation on achieving goals and celebrating the accomplishments of others. The evening's keynote speakers were Ashley Johnson '03, most recently an anchor and reporter for NBC 11 Alive in Atlanta, and Samantha Stetson P '24 '27, director of client council and industry trade relations at Facebook.
Greville Haslam Head of School Dr. T.J. Locke introduced the speakers, saying, "Tonight will help us all grow as leaders, especially in regard to supporting our female colleagues, children, and students. Thank you for joining us. We are grateful you share our value in these conversations and embrace our co-educational philosophy."
He went on to describe how far the community has come since female students began enrolling in 1974. "We have even made strides since our last event in 2018," he said, detailing the increase in women in leadership roles at EA and the growth in female enrollment in STEM elective courses. "Our new math and science department chairs are both women," he said. "And two years ago, 12 percent of the students in AP Computer Science classes were girls; now that number is 45 percent."
The keynote speakers went on to offer a thought-provoking conversation on topics ranging from networking, finding one's passion, mentorship, changing careers, pay equity, work-life balance, goal setting, and beyond.
"As women, we need to support and respect each other and think about ways to pay our experiences forward," Stetson shared, "You don't have to be senior-level to open doors for someone. One action can make an incredible difference, but a collection of actions is unstoppable." She explained that this support can be as simple as taking a new colleague to lunch or as formal as establishing a mentorship relationship.
"I don't have just one mentor," Johnson explained. "One of my mentors helped me learn not to take things too personally. He taught me to ask for feedback and never go into a performance review blind. Go to your boss or even an admired colleague and put your work in front of them."
Both women agreed on the importance of networking, not just when seeking a career change, but every day. "You have to live your life and meet people and make connections. I've never received a job from indeed.com," Johnson said. "I take networking very seriously, no matter where I am, even if I'm at the gym - I once got an interview through someone I met at the gym - I've gotten jobs from events like this."
Stetson agreed, "You may need a connection to break through. You have to think of the people you're interacting with every day as part of your network because regardless of the company they're at right now, they might be in a different role in a different company tomorrow."
When pursuing a new job, the speakers recommended putting yourself in the best possible position by negotiating for your desired salary, benefits, and work-life balance. "You have one opportunity to negotiate," Stetson said. "Don't ever sell yourself short. It takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort to hire someone these days." Johnson expounded upon the importance of negotiating in the hiring process, saying "You are your own best advocate. Do your research. There will be clues that will show you when you need to speak up. Find out what the best pay is at your level in your city."
The conversation then shifted to the challenge of balancing professional and personal priorities. "I don't believe in work-life balance," Steston began with a laugh. "I think it's more of a work-life integration. Today, you're always connected. There's no start and end to your workday. You have a bank account of time each day, time being the only thing in our lives that is finite. You decide how you want to spend it. I highly recommend something we do at Facebook called vision writing."
Steston went on to explain the process. At the beginning of each year, managers and employees complete a vision statement, written in the past tense, and dated for Dec. 31. Each person writes about what they accomplished that year, professionally, personally, and for their community. They can choose how much of their vision statement they want to share with their teams and managers.
"That vision becomes the blueprint for the year. It is how we hold people accountable for what's important to them, both for our managers and those who report to us. With this blueprint, when you show up at work, you show up as your whole self, and people know who you want to be, personally, professionally, and as a friend. You will have an entire community to support you in achieving those goals." Stetson urged the whole room to consider writing a vision statement for 2020 and sharing it with others.
Following the keynote, attendees had their choice of two breakout panel sessions. In the Sherrerd Board Room, Caroline Waxler Levitt '89, writer and producer for Disney+, and The Hon. Christine Fizzano Cannon P '30 '30 '32, Pennsylvania appellate court judge, led a discussion for mid-career professionals. In the Ridgway Black Box Theater, Margaux Viola '03, strategic growth manager at Compass, Ashley Eyre West '04, managing director at the Oxbridge Group, and Jackie Bailey-Ross Moriniere '08, assistant director of employer relations at Swarthmore College, led a discussion for emerging professionals.
Moriniere offered advice on networking and landing that first job to many of the college-aged alumni in the audience. She explained, "You shouldn't feel guilty about reaching out to the connections you have. People will want to help you and want to talk about their careers. And you have to think of networking as a long-term investment - connections you make today may be most helpful to you later on. Make sure you keep in touch, even if it's once a year and you have to keep a Google spreadsheet to remind you." She explained that you can start small, by asking your family, faculty, and friends about their work experiences, why they like the work they do, and ask them to put you in touch with people they know in your industries of interest.
West agreed, sharing one of the best pieces of advice she received about
networking and interviewing. "Everyone enjoys telling their story and talking about their experiences. Do some research and ask your interviewer or your contact what they like about their job and what made them choose their company. You will be surprised at how open people are to sharing their experience."
Following the panels, attendees spent time networking and departed with the promise of keeping in touch with the new connections they made. After the event, Carrie Creed P '33 (and wife of Jamie Creed '00) remarked, "I am grateful that EA has nurtured an environment where both men and women can thrive and continue to learn from each other. This event had the perfect mix of targeted discussions, inspiring stories, and tips on personal growth and development."
"The strength of the network that EA offers is truly unbelievable," Gianna Smith '15 added. "EA has always placed importance on helping others, specifically those within our community, to reach their goals and dreams. The Women of EA event was no exception to this standard. It was especially wonderful seeing women empowering each other through encouragement, advice, and networking."
For Isabella Sanchez '16, the event was unique, as it was a space where women in all different stages in their careers could come together. "Alumni of all ages, teachers, and parents were all able to gain and contribute something," she said. "And as an aspiring journalist, my favorite part was being able to connect with Ashley and get a better understanding of what my career path might look like."
If you are interested in learning more about how you can engage with the EA network, please contact the Office Alumni Engagement at (484) 424-1775.