05/05/2017 by Jessica Wright |

“Lean On:” My Secret Weapon

I would not describe myself as an angry person.

On a particular day in September of 2016 in New York City, however, I was. My husband and I were in town for a cousin’s wedding. I was dropped off at our hotel and went to check into our room. After speaking with a very pleasant front desk clerk, I hopped into the elevator.

Before the doors closed, a gentlemen and his girlfriend got on with me. “Press 6,” he said, after making a crude remark. I didn’t care for it, so I didn’t respond and may have (as I often do) rolled my eyes.

The following conversation is what made me angry:

Man: “Have you met Tom’s new girlfriend?
Woman: “No, not yet.
Man: “Well, I met her the other day. You know, she would be fine looking but she has a lot of tattoos. Women with tattoos are unattractive.”

I’ll pause in my narrative to mention that I have a handful of visible tattoos. The man had noticed this, given that I was wearing a t-shirt.

His companion became uncomfortable with her male counterpart and told him he was crazy, especially since he, too, has several tattoos. The man continued:

It’s okay for men to have them – but when women have tattoos they are unattractive.

He wanted me to feel bad about myself that day; to feel less than. This small act to chip away at a woman’s self-confidence is sadly all too common. I am certain that most women reading this can think of a time where she, too, was made to feel less than.

And frankly, that day, I did. I felt sad. I felt targeted. Admittedly, I had “angry cried” quite a bit by the time my husband met up with me at the hotel. Then I remembered that I have a secret weapon. Something to pour all of my frustration and defeated moments into.

The Carney Sandoe Women’s Institute. For the past year, as this event has taken shape, it has been a lighthouse through some very tough times for me. When it would be much easier to fall into an angry place, I was able to pour my energy into something positive and productive.

The theme is “Lean On: Strengthening One Another Through Mentorship and Collective Wisdom.” Our team has drafted an incredible program. It has been built around all of the stories both school contacts and candidates have shared with our team over the years about the challenges and triumphs of working in education and the journey we are all on. Our goal is to create a place for women and their allies to connect and find common ground, uniting together in personal and professional development and open conversation. The power we have as women when we come together cannot be underestimated.

A highlight of organizing “Lean On” has been interviewing and speaking with the Honorary Faculty members, all of whom are at varying stages of their careers. Every woman was echoing one another with a very similar refrain: “We have needed something like this for so long.”

The CS&A team could not agree more. Typically, I find myself running around at our events, but I look forward to “Lean On” in an entirely different way than I do our hiring season. This will be a day of reflection and connection. I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds.

If you would like to learn more about the event, please check out our website! Continue to check back as this page is updated often.

Hopefully I’ll see you there – I’ll be the one looking fabulous (tattoos and all)!


Jessica Wright is the Associate Director of School Services and Executive Assistant to the President.

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