CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF
Asked to define herself, Bethenny Frankel responded simply “woman,” which elicited a roar of applause from the crowd at the Massachusetts Conference for Women.
Frankel, a reality TV personality and founder of the lifestyle brand Skinnygirl, was one of the conference’s opening-night speakers Wednesday, along with feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
Tamara Benton, who lives in Whitman, and Dawn Amaral, of Weymouth, are veteran conference attendees, and they were excited to hear Frankel’s keynote address.
“Her rags-to-riches story proves that anyone can do it,” said Benton, who works for State Street Corp.
Now in its 13th year, the conference is an opportunity for women to network and compare notes, to discuss issues such as the pay gap and gender discrimination in the workplace. Wednesday, sponsors set up tables at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center centered on education, career development, and community connection.
Candid as always, Frankel discussed the many times she’d been told “no” in her career.
“Being a woman or an entrepreneur is just as much a part of my identity as being a mom,” she said.
In a sitdown with “Chronicle” co-anchor Shayna Seymour, Frankel said she’s at her best when she’s being totally honest, even if that’s sometimes difficult for those around her. (Anyone who’s seen her in action on “The Real Housewives of New York City” or “Bethenny Ever After” knows this to be true.)
“You just feel so good when you’re being honest,” said Frankel.
Between the TV shows, her business, and a new book, “I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To,” Frankel said she’s just trying to “roll with it,” but does wish she had more time for a personal life.
“I don’t define myself by having a full calendar,” she said. “I long for more of an empty calendar.”
Frankel didn’t address the avalanche of allegations of sexual misconduct, but she was followed by Steinem, who did, referring to President Trump as “the sexual harasser-in-chief in the White House.”
In the wake of sexual harassment claims that have toppled several powerful men, including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, “Today” anchor Matt Lauer, TV journalist Charlie Rose, and comedian Louis C.K., the topic of sexual harassment is sure to be very much on the minds of the conference’s 10,000 or so attendees.
The women’s conference opened the same day Time named “The Silence Breakers” — those who’ve come forward to report sexual harassment and assault — as its Person of the Year, a recognition of the (mostly) women who have spurred a worldwide conversation about sexual misconduct.
Speakers at Thursday’s conference will include actress Viola Davis, who’s won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony; perennial Academy Award nominee Meryl Streep; legendary designer Diane von Furstenberg; bestselling author Celeste Ng; and celebrated chef Barbara Lynch, among many others.
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