On April 23 at the Harvard Club in Boston, D-Lab founder and co-director Amy Smith was honored as one of “Boston’s Most Influential Women” by the Women of the Harvard Club Committee. Ten accomplished women who have created circles of access and influence in the areas of business, law, science, healthcare, philanthropy, government and academia were recognized during a festive gala.
The committee stated that, “Each honoree, whether affiliated with a national corporation or from a local community, exhibits excellence in their demonstrated leadership, outstanding achievements and the enduring positive effects of their influence.”
Smith prepared the following comments which were shared with hundreds of attendees at the event:
“What makes an inspirational woman? Swarnika, a young engineering student from India, was sharing with me the gender discrimination that she experiences at her university. She cannot leave campus on the weekends without special permission, and is fingerprinted as she comes and goes. She cannot participate in certain activities because they meet at night, and she is not allowed to go out after 7 p.m. And she has nearly been expelled for protesting against this system.
She is passionate, she is inspirational, but she is not influential. She is speaking out to a system that is not listening. I asked how I could help. She mentioned that her school was very interested in working with my program, and that maybe I could be an advocate for her cause. It made me think about the conversations I could have with school administrators, which are conversations that she could not.
It also made me reflect on the influence I can and want to have, and gave some answers to the question: An influential woman can help give a voice to those who are forced to be silent. An influential woman can help bring equity and compassion to those who have been unfairly ignored. An influential woman can help empower those who have been disenfranchised. An influential woman can help provide inspiration and direction to those who might be feeling lost.
I’m sure there are many other answers to the question, but these are a few ways that I would hope to use whatever influence I may have acquired through my life and my work so far.”
In addition to Amy, the other honorees included: Stephanie Sonnabend, president of Sonesta International Hotels Corporation and co-founder and chair of 2020 Women on Boards; Helen Drinan, president of Simmons College; Aileen Gorman, executive director at The Commonwealth Institute; Peggy Kemp, headmaster of Fenway High School; Sandra Moose, senior advisor at The Boston Consulting Group; Betsy Myers, founding director of the Center for Women in Business at Bentley University; Diane Patrick, Esq., first lady of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and partner at Ropes & Gray; the Honorable Emogene Johnson Smith, presiding justice in Wrentham District Court; and Valerie Stone MD, director of the MGH Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency Program and associate chief in the MGH General Medicine Division.