Diane von Furstenberg may have revolutionized the wrap dress — a staple of many a working woman’s wardrobe — but it will be her leadership lessons on display in Boston this April.
Von Furstenberg has been booked as the keynote speaker at this year’s Simmons College leadership conference.
She, along with actress Marlee Matlin, long-distance swimmer and journalist Diana Nyad, former chair of CBS Entertainment Nina Tassler, the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, and Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, a nun who heads a Ugandan school for girls, will be among the headliners.
The conference, in its 38th year, is expected to draw an audience of 3,300, mostly women, from the world of business.
The event has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a get-together of women from the college’s management school. Over the years, it has expanded into a national networking and leadership-building conference, drawing the likes of former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, writer Toni Morrison, and Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.
Judy Benjamin, executive director of SimmonsLEADS, said she wanted speakers who focused on leading not just in the boardroom, but also on issues such as gender equity and services for the hearing-impaired.
Von Furstenberg, for example, sits on the board of Vital Voices, an organization that supports women entrepreneurs worldwide.
“There’s a balance,” Benjamin said. “We try to stay relevant.”
“You have to find somebody who is young and hip and new and fresh, and somebody who has a story to tell, who has had failures.” — DEIRDRE FERNANDES
A day without DeLeo
House Speaker Robert DeLeo was all set to make his annual speech for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on March 8. Then late last week he found out that “A Day Without a Woman,” the as-yet loosely defined national call to “withdraw from the corporations that harm us,” is scheduled for the same day. The action, taking place on International Women’s Day, is being organized by the forces behind the massive Women’s March in January.
So DeLeo, who participated in the January event and takes pride in the fact that he has appointed more female legislators to leadership positions than any other speaker, decided to move his speech. “I thought it was important that I stand in solidarity with [women], against some of the statements and actions of the Trump administration,” he says.
The chamber was able to reschedule the speech at the Colonnade Hotel for March 7 without much hassle, says president James Rooney. The chamber is now in the process of reaching out to the 100 or so people who had already purchased tickets to let them know about the change of date.
DeLeo does not yet know what he’ll do on March 8, but plans to participate, if he can: “We have to make sure that we get the word out that we’re here as elected officials to protect people.” — KATIE JOHNSTON
Not granddad’s chamber
And speaking of the chamber, Jim Rooney’s remaking of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is almost complete.
Since becoming CEO in mid-2015, Rooney has tried to reshape the group’s image and approach. The goal: to make it more inclusive for the next generation of companies and their leaders.
Rooney enlisted the ad agency Allen & Gerritsen to develop a new brand and website. A&G crafted a logo, unveiled last week, with a decidedly less corporate look than the old one. And the emphasis is now on the “Greater Boston” part of the name, instead of “Chamber.”
The brand change was designed to coincide with the opening of the chamber’s new offices next week. Rooney and his team — four-fifths of his 25-person staff came on board after he became CEO — are moving upstairs, to the 17th floor at 265 Franklin St.
The nearly 11,000-square-foot office will include a room to host networking events. The photos on the walls will feature members’ faces more prominently, as opposed to the current photos’ focus on buildings’ facades. Margulies Perruzzi Architects designed the new digs.
“The broader message is around creating a member-centered space, a fresh brand and identity that sends a signal that the chamber is embracing the new economy of Boston,” Rooney says. “It’s not your grandfather’s chamber anymore.” — JON CHESTO
Taking the pot fight south
A marijuana business adviser who helped pass the law to legalize the drug in Massachusetts is rolling down to Connecticut.
Sam Tracy is a consultant for 4Front Ventures, which helps marijuana companies navigate rules and regulations.
The company is based in Arizona but has a Boston office. It provided plenty of help — including office space — to last year’s Massachusetts legalization campaign.
Now Tracy has taken a part-time job with the national Marijuana Policy Project, which backed the Massachusetts effort. He’ll serve as its Connecticut political director and leader of its Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana.
Massachusetts and the other seven states that have legalized recreational pot did so through ballot questions. Success in Connecticut would look different, because the state does not allow ballot initiatives. Instead, it would require an act of the Legislature.
But with Massachusetts having gone for legalization, Tracy thinks the time is ripe.
“The reality is that anybody in Connecticut is going to be within driving distance of legal marijuana stores, and so with that reality, I think it’s important for other states in the region to rethink their strategy,” he said. — ADAM VACCARO
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