When a director position was created at the software company where Amy Quigley worked in 2001, she felt qualified to fill the role. Quigley’s boss, who was a woman, agreed but she still promoted someone else. The supervisor said she worried about how other employees might react if Quigley got the promotion.
Now, as president of the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, or MITX, Quigley spearheaded planning for the nonprofit’s first two-day Influenceher Week, an event aimed at empowering women to change the workplace.
“That’s her job, to support me,” she said of her former supervisor. “It was a failure on her part as a mentor. Influenceher is the perfect outcome of all those years of experience; how wonderful it is watching women get that support from one another.”
The group said 280
people signed on to attend the variety of events this week, ranging from keynote speeches by women entrepreneurs to networking spin classes. MITX, which works with companies such as the online alcohol marketplace Drizly and the travel website TripAdvisor, three years ago started hosting small Influenceher events in the evening to provide women with a space to speak openly about obstacles in their careers. The panels and workshops focused on topics such as balancing work and family, asking for promotions, and defining professional goals.
Influenceher Week included a Wednesday panel in the Seaport on redefining the path to success in the technology field. When audience members asked questions, panelists sometimes held up paddles that read “off the record” to signify the panelist was sharing details about a work experience that made her feel vulnerable, and that no one in attendance should mention it on social media.
The panel featured two Boston tech leaders — Julie Yoo, cofounder and chief strategy officer at the patient-doctor matching startup Kyruus, and Jennifer Lum, cofounder and chief operating officer at the developer of artificial intelligence Forge.AI —as well as AlexWilliamson, head of brand for the social and dating app Bumble.
Moderator Kelsey Alpaio from the media company Innovation Leader, guided the discussion through topics such as defining success, mentorship, and the pace of the tech industry.
Lum said it’s important for women to find what rate of change best suits them, whether it be at a fast-evolving startup or in slowercorporate settings. The popular idea that it’s better to fail fast can be misleading, Yoo said, as it took her eight years to start her company.
“I started my career in tech back in the late ’90s, and there were absolutely no events at that time, and no movement around specifically women and tech, so there has been a huge uptick in the last couple of years. Now I’m on a panel like this probably once a month,” she said.
Taylor Brodie, 23-year-old brand strategist at the advertising agency Arnold Worldwide, said she’s going to share her binder filled with notes from the event with anyone at the agency who will listen. Brodie said Yoo’s insights on failure resonated with her and that she was inspired by hearing successful businesswomen talk about their vulnerabilities.
“The presence of a lot of women in the room gives me the confidence to ask a questions I might not want to ask in a room full of men,” she said.
Quigley said she plans to keep future MITX gatherings similarly intimate. “There are lots of events for women in business to hear inspirational stories from business leaders,” she said, “but to have an open dialogue and have these safe conversations, I don’t think enough of these spaces exist.”
Influenceher Week wrapped up Thursday with a networking cocktail party.