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Packnett Discusses Power at Women’s Summit

The Boston College Women’s Center hosted its sixth annual Women’s Summit on Saturday. The summit was comprised of various speakers and workshops meant to provide members of the BC community with a space to discuss the complexities of women’s issues, as well as other issues, in today’s world. 

This year’s keynote speaker was Brittany Packnett, an author, educator, and social activist who was a member of former President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Packnett’s speech centered on power and how people can create power for themselves. The typical idea that power comes from wealth and politics, she said, needs to be thrown out, and a new definition needs to be created. 

“Power is your ability to create reality from revolutionary imagination. … And you know what’s magical about this kind of power is that any of us who are women, or have oppressed gender identities, or oppressed and marginalized identities of any kind exercising this kind of power is a revolution in and of itself,” Packnett said.

Packnett discussed her journey in self-empowerment and said she still has moments where she questions her self-power. She talked about her experience giving a TedTalk on how to build confidence, and she said that the fact that the speaker directly before her discovered a part of a galaxy made her question whether she truly deserved to be there.  

Packnett co-founded Campaign Zero in the summer of 2015. (Keara Hanlon / For The Heights)

“The whole intensity of the moment threatened to take you out of the very confidence that put you up there in the first place,” Packnett said. “It threatened to take me out of the very confidence that I was up there to talk about.”

She said that reminding herself to be protective of her power can be helpful in these moments of self-doubt, as she must remind herself that she has value and can be of help to others. 

“It’s fascinating how much stuff started to fall in line when I decided to be fiercely protective of my power,” Packnett said. “Because that’s what self-care is. It is deciding to curate a life that I don’t have to constantly escape from.”

Packnett closed her talk by having the audience members write down three things about themselves: what makes them feel powerful, what lie makes them afraid of it, and what truth they will tell themselves instead. She encouraged them to be active in telling that truth.

“As I close. I just want you to remember: If self-love is embracing your power and self-care is protecting power, then the power is yours,” Packnett said. “Don’t ever let anybody take it, make you doubt it, or make you give it away.” 

Packnett’s speech was followed by a series of small workshops on topics ranging from “Dig Deep: Practicing Radical Self-Care to Enhance Well-Being” to “Resiliency: Pursuing Your Passion in the Face of Fear.”

“Step Into the Future” was presented by Julianne Smith, BC ’09, who works at BC’s Career Center helping students find possible career paths based on their various skill sets and interests. Smith shared her story of struggling to find her passion and a career path she believed was the best fit for her. She discussed the importance of students picturing their dreams as a reality and challenged the workshop’s audience to “time travel” and reflect on where they saw their future selves.   

“Talk about these things, right—say them out loud,” Smith said. “Because otherwise they’re just kind of getting buried. It’s really easy, especially in the BC community—I know, I went here—to kind of get lost in other people’s ideas of what the future should look like. So seek radical collaboration. Find those people who are your tribe and talk about what you want and seek out glimpses of your possible selves.”

Smith also encouraged BC students to take advantage of the resources available at BC, both in the Career Center and beyond, to explore meaningful career options as well as meaningful life options.

Attendees discuss self-empowerment in Robsham Theater. (Keara Hanlon / For The Heights)

The workshops were immediately followed by two presentations, or “Main Stage Conversations,” with a variety of speakers who engaged in question-and-answer sessions. In one of the conversations, “Justice at Work,” Marina Pastrana Ríos, founder of the Montserrat Coalition and BC ’08, discussed her journey with social justice and gave the audience advice on how to translate passion for social justice into action in everyday life. 

“You can be a teacher, you can be a doctor, you can be a financial analyst, you can be a banker. It doesn’t matter what you do because the world we live in is unjust, there’s work to be done in your career,” Ríos said.

The other presentation, “No Straight Shot to Success,” featured a panel including SS&C Vice President of Brokerage Solutions Nicole DeBlois Greene, former Wayfair Sales Director Shannon Reidy Nichols, and WorldTeach Executive Director Mitra Shavarini. It was moderated by Katie Dalton, director of the women’s center. The panelists discussed the various failures and setbacks they had endured on their paths to success, as well as how they’ve balanced motherhood and family life with their careers. 

To close the summit, BC’s all-female step team, F.I.S.T.S., put on a short performance and Hae June Lee, Lynch ’20, and Jenaea Duddie, MCAS ’22, performed original poems about their ongoing journey to discover what it means to be a woman. 

“In a world where we see more women on the screen than ever before, women at the Grammys, women making speeches, women as superheroes and the lead roles—it still has me wondering, what does it mean to be a woman for you,” Lee recited. 

February 2, 2020