Inspired by the words of Notre Dame Women’s Basketball Coach Muffett McGraw, the team sought to raise awareness about gender equity with high school aged students. “I cannot tell you how many hours these young ladies put into this to pull this off,” said Girls Basketball Coach Brad Kreick. “It was eye opening to me how much went into it regarding the logistics or fundraising or selling tickets.They were there through the thick of it and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) kicked off the conversation as the evening’s special guest. “It makes a difference when women are at the table,” Sen. Shaheen told the crowd as she encouraged women to run for public office. She stressed that anything is possible with a strong support system and confidence in your own abilities.
After inspiring remarks from the Senator, the panel moderated by former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) took the stage to discuss topics from equity to leadership to work-life balance. Sarah Behn, the head women’s basketball coach at Brown University, noted that it’s important to look at the progress made in gender equity and pay. “The people before me made less, but they paved the way for me,” she said. Sandy Cleary, founder and CEO of SLC Group Holdings, advised the young women to focus on proving themselves as peers. “You only have one chance to make a first impression,” she stated. “You hold your head high and have confidence when you walk in that room.”
WMUR-TV News Director Alisha McDevitt described how she worked her way up from being a news producer to the news director. She shared some of the lessons she learned along the way, telling the audience that you have to, “Stand up, raise your hand, and believe in yourself.” She added how proud she is that in nearly 25 years at the station, she’s seen more women hold her job than men.
Moving on to a discussion about leadership, McCall Gosselin, vice president of PR and communications at Planet Fitness, emphasized McDevitt’s message. “It’s very important to raise your hand. It’s empowering to raise your hand. And once you do it one time, two times, it gets a lot easier,” she said.
Dianne Mercier, senior vice president and New Hampshire market president at People’s United Bank, explained that, “As women we always think there’s just one more qualification we need to get ourselves out there.” The rest of the panel agreed with Mercier and suggested going for the jobs you’re not quite qualified for, because you can always figure out what you don’t know.
Three female student leaders from area high schools also gave speeches. Bedford High School’s Emma Rosenbaum challenged the hypocrisy of adults who tell girls they can do anything only to not take them seriously when they try to take the initiative toward solving problems. “If empowerment is a process, then empowering women starts with girls,” she passionately stated. Pinkerton Academy’s Jesse Ames poke about confidence with a personal story about her experience with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes unpredictable hair loss. She shared how she was able to stay confident with the support of her family, teammates, and teachers, noting, “Confidence in its simplest form is acceptance.” On the ignorance and judgement she sometimes faced, Ames decided, “It’s not selfish to be yourself; it’s selfish to put down others because they’re them.” Goffstown High School’s Olivia Brannen talked about the importance of mental health following the death of her cousin, Zoe Desmarais, acknowledging that October 10 is Mental Health Awareness Day, and encouraged the audience to seek help when they need it. She received a standing ovation for her empowering message on ending the stigma about mental health.
By far the highlight of the night, was the presentation of $20,000 to Bridges, a non-profit agency dedicated to helping victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The donation was thanks to the incredible generosity of the Girls Basketball Program and event sponsors.