Women Can Do 2019 Highlights
For our 21st annual Women Can Do conference on October 17, 2019, the local weather forecast called for a Nor’easter with 100% chance of heavy rain, and 35 mph winds. However, the tents were up, permission slips collected, buses scheduled, and food ordered. Nothing was going to stop our tenacious and gritty staff, nor the 300+ strong, eager, smart young participants, nor the 150+ professionals and volunteers, from forging ahead with Vermont’s largest career exploration opportunity for high school girls and gender non-conforming youth! Adopting the creed of the postal service (‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’), we rolled down and staked tent sides, ordered lighting, moved outdoor stations under the tents, reassured schools, and reassigned cancelled workshops. And at 7:45am, as scheduled, hundreds of young people arrived to Vermont Technical College for a one-of-a-kind experience with hands-on activities related to nontraditional careers for women.
Despite the weather, and some weather-related obstacles that contributed to a slightly smaller event this year (such as trees down, flooding, a broken-down bus, and last minute cancellations), the event carried the same energizing, positive vibes as always. The event kicked off with our Women Can Do video from the 2018 conference, which was a positive, happy, inspiring primer for the participants. Jen Oldham and Patricia Moulton, President of VTC, welcomed students and reminded them to have confidence in themselves, and use this opportunity to try as many new things as possible, and bust the gender norms have likely been exposed to throughout their lives. The signature pep rally had students yelling “Women” “Can” “Do” as loudly as possible to get excitement and energy flowing for the day.
The Action Expo was warm and dry, and students spent time operating robots, trying a flight simulator, welding metal, suturing a banana, using the “jaws of life” to cut steel, and identifying microscopic organisms, among other things. Workshops went off without a hitch and students mixed mortar and laid bricks, investigated a poaching scene, learned about salary negotiation, designed video games, drove an excavator, built bridges out of marshmallows and spaghetti, and much more. At the end of the day, Aly Johnson-Kurts of Change The Story interviewed participants on the overhead microphone as they returned to the main hall so everyone could hear them share how about the different activities they tried throughout the day, and new perspectives gained about career options.
- 356 registered students, 273 in attendance
- 85 chaperones
- 18 volunteers
- 135 professionals & role models
- 24 workshops
- 40 Action Expo stations
- 46 sponsors contributing almost $48,000
“What have you learned about yourself today?” Students responded:
“That I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to”
“That I love being hands on and creating things”
From some of our student leaders at Action Expo:
“I’m not so shy when people talk to me about my program”
“I am better at teaching than I thought”
Comments from presenters:
“Thank you for including me in such a fantastic and inspiring event. I am honored to have presented. I believe we all had a good time drilling, screwing and stapling and it was so good to see so many girls embracing new things and starting out their journeys. (I almost cried at the rally beforehand).”
“I wanted to reach out and thank you again for having [us] as speakers for the Women Can Do conference this past Thursday! The girls were amazing and we very much enjoyed our time in Vermont. I left feeling so energized and inspired by the girls, that I am hopeful to participate in the coming years. Thanks again for all that you do, and for the terrific work you and your team did this week!”