The 3rd Annual Kingswood Oxford Power of Women event took place this past Sunday, April 11. Due to the COVID pandemic, this year’s presentation took place online. With a record number of attendees, the event boasted four incredible women from a variety of backgrounds and careers who shared their insights and wisdom on a variety of topics including the workplace, equity and inclusion, the STEM field, and advice (good and bad!) they received along the way that shaped them as professionals and as people.
The Power of Women is a student-run organization at Kingswood Oxford, the largest club on campus with over 75 participants. Founder and advisor of the organization Jayne Rotter said, “This organization is truly a collaborative effort of students, faculty, alumni, board members, and the greater community. The most important aspect of this program is the connection we make between students and these dynamic women. This is incredibly powerful.”
The program kicked off with a range of Kingswood Oxford young women who shared their insightful hopes for the future.
My hope for the future is that…
That the world is going to be more environmentally friendly
That people aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in
That we will have more women role models in the STEM field
That we have more racial equality
That all women can work together to create change
That there is more diverse representation in social media and politics
That young girls realize their worth and potential
That there are more female leaders in the business industry
During his introductory address to the group, Head of School Tom Dillow shared, “It truly is a wonder to see the growth of this program in such a short period of time. We had twice the number of registrants than in previous years...despite everyone's prevailing Zoom fatigue!” He acknowledged that perhaps the success of the power of women should be no surprise given the ongoing landscape as it pertains to women, in particular in the workplace. “There is a pressing need to celebrate, normalize and educate students about the incredible impact on women in leadership as well as the obstacles that they have had to overcome along the way. Despite some progress in closing a gender gap in various industries and executive pay, there is still a way to go,” said Dillow. “The very purpose of this program is, in effect, to encourage our KO young women to aim high but also for all of our students. Our young women and our young men need to become aware of those barriers and also develop a conviction to dismantle them.”
Senior Co-Chairs of the Power of Women (familiarly referred to on campus as the POW), Risha Ranjan ‘21 and Sloan Duvall ‘21 emceed the afternoon, setting the stage with the goal of the organization. "The POW works to connect women in the KO community with students to develop an authentic and engaging dialogue around the issues of women’s leadership and empowerment,” said Ranjan.
The students curated several questions which the four guests answered. Attendees were encouraged to use the question and answer feature of the chat to ask questions throughout. The goal was to make the experience as interactive as possible despite the webinar format.
Jessica Zachs P’09, ‘11 is a former KO parent and founder of the local non-profit called Dignity Grows. The organization provides personal and menstrual hygiene products for neighbors in need who cannot afford them. During this time of COVID with hygiene being a major issue, her team has seen an incredible increase of need. In the Hartford Area alone, they have distributed over 12,000 totes in two years to between 16-18 different distribution partners. The organization is 100% volunteer-driven.
Karen Jarmoc P’14, ‘17 is the Corporate Sustainability Lead at The Hartford. Jarmoc helps support the emerging expectations, especially among millennials, who want to invest in or support a company that has sustainability as a mission. For the 10 years prior to joining The Hartford, Jarmoc was the CEO at the Connecticut Coalition for Domestic Violence.
Cindy Shi P’25 is a corporate executive at the Barnes Group, responsible for the company's digital transformation activities, to capitalize on technologies and innovation and creating marketing advantages. In past experience, Shi served as manager of strategic initiatives at Henry Schein and was an equity analyst with UBS Investment Bank.
Taryn Braz ‘14 is a graduate of KO and currently a special events assistant with the Boston Red Sox in their fan and youth Engagement division. Her department was created in an effort to try to reach different demographics in the Boston area and beyond. Braz helps create and execute events that are developed to reach the community, retaining current fans, and finding new ones.
The women participants were asked several questions and did a beautiful job of being insightful and relatable. They shared, how by following their innate passions and interests, they were able to find, do, and be incredibly successful in a career they loved. Questions ranged from how interests in high school have translated into their working life, to women continuing to break down barriers in the STEM field. One question asked by students that prompted some inspiring answers was what advice you received along the way that you have taken to heart, good or bad.
“Really follow your interest and passion,” said Shi.” “In the end, a high-paying job is one thing but you won't be able to work your whole life doing something you don’t love. You know yourself very well. Figure out what it is you want to do. Help people, make friends, and keep your network alive, and do all of these things early on. It will help you later on. On your journey, be curious and hungry for knowledge. I am still always curious and passionate to learn.”
Zachs agreed. “The best piece of advice I ever received was to listen to the story of others,” she said. “Too many of us live in our own world and our own cocoon and there is so much more that we will learn by listening to those around us. A lot of my philanthropy has been motivated by listening to the stories of others. Each of us should understand that we can make a difference in people's lives and don’t wait for someone else to do it. If you find something and feel passionate about it, bring people in because an individual's passion is going to ignite the passion in so many people.
Worst advice ever given? “Hearing ‘you’re just girls’,” said Zachs. She emphasized, “And don’t EVER live in that space.”
Braz was asked how a Kingswood Oxford education has influenced her career. She said, “The way you have to get involved in so many things at KO really has helped me a lot in college balancing a pretty intense workload, especially in my current job. Trying out different things and finding out what you like is so important to do when you are young. Having those opportunities to dial in on what I want to do and what I like doing was a really beneficial part of my KO education.”
Jarmoc shared her perspective from a parent lens. “What KO provided for my kids is a sense of community, and this idea of community is really powerful. There was a place where they felt safe, and they felt comfortable taking risks. They had the opportunity to build friendships and relationships and to have mentors. All of those things have helped them in college and in their upcoming careers and growing careers. It gave them the knowledge and confidence to know that there is support out there and individuals you can reach out for advice. The friendships they have made at KO are lasting; that is their base. There is so much to be said for Kingswood and the community that exists there and how transformational and lifelong that impact can be for students.”
Finally, as a nice conclusion, the women shared what their own hopes for the future are.
“My hope for the future is that the young women of KO, their male counterparts and this generation continues with their passion to support policies and practices and activities that build a better world for all of us and a better society,” said Jarmoc. “ A world where we are perhaps not talking about race and equity and gender in our lives as we are today - that it becomes a much better place because of your passion and your commitment to making things better.”
“My hope is wanting to see more women work in the STEM fields and technology,” said Shi. “I want to see this, particularly in the STEM field so the next time we all talk about this we see 50/50% female and male collaboratively to change the world. That is my hope.”
“My hope for the future is that there aren’t too many ‘firsts’ left,” said Braz. “The Red Sox just hired their first black female coach. I hope this becomes a more recurring trend that more women and more women of color especially get involved in the sports industry.”
Zachs said, “Meanness. This incorporates so many emotions and actions are something that is holding us back as a human society. And my hope is that people can find it in their hearts to start to move away from that because the impact of that; everyone doing a little thing is going to put us in a much better place for humanity.”
The Power of Women is continuing to grow not just in the number of participants but also in the impact that they are having on the community. This year, for the first time ever, the group created an award recognizing a female-led non-profit that is making a difference in the lives of women. At the conclusion of the program, the co-chairs announced that Dignity Grows would be that recipient. Additionally, to support the ongoing mission of this organization, KO students already have plans in place to assemble bags and totes filled with these feminine hygiene products to give to Journey Home, another local non-profit that leads the effort to end homelessness.
Admittedly at the outset of this year’s program, there was some concern that being online rather than in person might not provide Power of Women participants with the same emotional response or impact as in years past. This fear was quickly dispelled moments into the program. The feeling among speakers and participants and the connections that were made over the course of 90 minutes was palpable, authentic, inspiring, and lasting. In a year marked with a landscape of deep unrest nationwide on so many levels, hearing the very real and invaluable impact women have and are continuing to make on a local, national, and global level solidified that the future is indeed, very, very bright.
For a full recording of the event visit www.kingswoodoxford.org/powerofwomen