She+ Geeks Out Summit

September 27, 2019
District Hall, Boston, MA


Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay – Closing Keynote

Author and Cultural Critic

Roxane Gay is an author and cultural critic whose writing is unmatched and widely revered. Her work garners international acclaim for its reflective, no-holds-barred exploration of feminism and social criticism. With a deft eye on modern culture, she brilliantly critiques its ebb and flow with both wit and ferocity.

Words like “courage,” “humor,” and “smart” are frequently deployed when describing Roxane. Her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, is universally considered the quintessential exploration of modern feminism. NPR named it one of the best books of the year and Salon declared the book “trailblazing.” Her powerful debut novel, An Untamed State, was long listed for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. In 2017, Roxane released her bestselling memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, which was called “Luminous…intellectually rigorous and deeply moving” by The New York Times. She also released her collection of short stories, Difficult Women. The Los Angeles Times says of the collection, “There’s a distinct echo of Angela Carter or Helen Oyeyemi at play; dark fables and twisted morality tales sit alongside the contemporary and the realistic…”

In 2018, she released Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, a valuable and searing anthology edited by Roxane; it has been described as “essential reading” and a “call to arms” by its readers. Roxane’s newest work, How to Be Heard, is set to release in 2019.

Roxane co-hosts Hear to Slay with Tressie McMillan Cottom – a podcast with an intersectional perspective on celebrity, culture, politics, art, life, love, and more. She is also a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times, was the co-editor of PANK, and formerly was the non-fiction editor at The Rumpus. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’sThe Nation and many other publications. She was the first black woman to ever write for Marvel, writing a comic series in the Black Panther universe called World of Wakanda. Roxane fronts a small army of avid fans on social media and when she finds the time, she dominates the occasional Scrabble tournament.

Jody Rose – Morning Keynote

President, the New England Venture Capital Association

Jody Rose is the President of the New England Venture Capital Association where she works in collaboration with the venture and startup communities. A native New Yorker, Jody has held executive-level roles with both enterprise corporations and lean startups, focusing primarily on corporate development in mobile, eCommerce and digital media. In 2015, Jody served as the SVP of Corporate Development and Digital Strategy at Blueprint NYC, an event production agency based in New York. Prior, Jody led National Mobile and Brand Partnerships for micro-location mobile marketing platform, Swirl Networks. Before joining Swirl, Jody served as Director of National Brand Partnerships at Rue La La, where she was responsible for leading brand relationships with a focus on driving new customer acquisition for national partners.  She was one of four employees to launch a new division of Rue La La (Rue Local) and was responsible for leading the launch of their first local market and national strategy. Jody began her career in cable and telecommunications, where she held multiple sales and marketing positions, and quickly rose through the ranks at powerhouses such as MTV Networks, The Food Network, and HGTV. Jody’s experience also includes numerous board positions within the telecommunications and media industries.

VP of Data Science, Hopper

Ella Alkalay

As VP of Data Science at Hopper, Ella is responsible for leading the company’s data science team and building a data-driven culture within the organization. During her time at Hopper, Ella has tripled the data science team and spearheaded the company’s AI and machine learning efforts which drive over 20% of the company’s sales. Prior to working at Hopper, Ella was a Data Scientist at Outbrain, the largest content discovery platform in the world where she worked on recommendations algorithms, serving over than 500M users every month.

Growth Marketing Consultant and Startup Advisor

Veronica Armstrong

Veronica is a marketing executive with deep expertise in e-commerce customer acquisition and product growth. She is passionate about conceptualizing and executing strategies that drive aggressive growth. As the former Head of Marketing at Mayflower Venues and GM of Lovepop Weddings, she cemented her position as a leader in the wedding space by providing couples with the perfect marriage of technology and authentic experiences as they planned the biggest day of their lives. When she isn’t scaling a venture-backed business, she spends her free time advising startups and mentoring women in technology and coaching them as they navigate their unique career paths. Veronica was named one of the top 20 female VPs and Directors in Boston tech by Rev in 2018.

Qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

Stephanie Dort

Stephanie Dort a Boston native, has a strong interest in disability awareness and received her Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Communication Disorders (Speech and Language Pathology and Audiology) in 2008. Having a sibling with a developmental disability prompted Stephanie to complete the Special Education M.Ed. program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2013 where she would be able to effectively advocate for students with disabilities. Currently, Stephanie works for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Her role as a Qualified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor allows her assist consumers with disabilities of the Commonwealth with obtaining or maintaining competitive employment. This includes developing individualized plans for employment as well as providing feedback to schools on service viability. In addition she collaborates with a number of stakeholders and community partners to ensure that appropriate services are extended and rendered to clients.

Before MRC, Stephanie worked at the Ross Center for Disability services at the University of Massachusetts Boston. As the Transition Resource Coordinator, Stephanie met one on one with current and prospective undergraduate students to decipher which academic accommodations are appropriate for the student based on their disability. She also conducted workshops for high school students that have a disability and want to know about accommodations offered at post-secondary educational level. She has presented to students in Boston Public Schools, Quincy Public Schools, Braintree Public Schools, and Needham Public Schools, just to name a few. Stephanie also has experienced special education from various perspectives. Stephanie knows what it’s like first hand to work alongside special education teachers, educational professionals, and family members in planning and implementing individualized family service plans and individualized education programs. She also has experience working in a college access program where she delivered college and career advocacy/awareness workshops for middle and high school students in Boston Public Schools (BPS). She has also served on the Haitian American Public Health Initiatives Family Support Center (HAPHI-FSC) Board, where her primary role was to assist and coordinate workshops as well as organize social events for program participants. Stephanie was also invited to speak at the 11th Annual Haitian Health Conference hosted by the Haitian Health Institute at Boston Medical Center where she conducted workshops for program participants. She also presented at the Parent Academy for the Randolph Public Schools on navigating special education. Stephanie’s overall desire is to advocate, educate, and inform families of the various tools and resources that can provide assistance to individuals with developmental disabilities.

Founder and Lead Consultant, True Change Associates

Chris Haigh

Chris has 20 years of experience working with academic institutions, corporations, and nonprofit organizations focusing on diversity and inclusion, social justice, leadership development, and team building. Chris is a skilled relationship builder, strategic planner, and team energizer, and loves helping people and organizations be their best selves while contributing to a socially just world.

Chris’ experience includes professional roles at The University of Massachusetts- Amherst, Brown University, Rhode Island College, SpeakOut Boston, City Year, Exploration Schools, and most recently Wentworth Institute of Technology as their first Director of Diversity Programs. Chris has taught numerous classes on social justice and leadership development, and is currently an Adjunct Professor for Merrimack College in the Higher Education Graduate Program. Additionally Chris has presented at national conferences such as Creating Change and The White Privilege Conference, as well as regional conferences for American College Personnel Administrators (ACPA) and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).

Chris also serves as a Co-Lead Facilitator for the LeaderShape Institute, a national organization committed to creating “a just, caring, and thriving world where all lead with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible”, and as a Facilitator for Outward Bound Professional, the division of OB that focuses on transformative leadership development with corporate clients using experiential education in the outdoors.

Chris holds a M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst in Social Justice Education, and a BA from Colby College in American Studies. Chris is a Rhode Island native but calls Boston home, where Chris lives with their wife Vanessa.

Founder & Executive Director, En Masse

Sam Hammar

Sam Hammar is an experienced public servant, entrepreneur, activist, and family woman.

Sam became a life-long advocate for working families because of her own family’s experiences. First raised by a single mother then by a single father battling chronic illness, Sam developed resilience and compassion for people struggling to get by. This empathy and passion for working families was deepened after Sam finished graduate school with massive student loan debt and began her public service career teaching journalism and civic activism in the Boston Public School system.

Sam went on to work for the City of Boston, helping to develop its Innovation District — a 1,000-acre space focused on building the city’s strengths in entrepreneurship, technology, and the creative arts on the South Boston Waterfront. Sam continued supporting Massachusetts entrepreneurs as the Executive Director of the Capital Network and as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Technology. In 2016, Sam began her work in the Massachusetts State Treasury as the Director of Digital Engagement, helping to build online connections between the initiatives of the Office of Economic Empowerment and the communities they serve. At home, she served as the Chair of the Melrose Democratic City Committee and was a member of the Melrose Women’s Commission.

Her passion for effective, modern government services and policies drove Sam to quit her job in 2018 to run for Massachusetts State Senate as a Democratic primary challenger. As a first-time candidate along with her inspiring team and grassroots organizing, she received 45% of the district’s vote.

Entrepreneur, Researcher, Author

Diane Hessan

Diane Hessan is a successful entrepreneur, researcher and author. She is the founder and Chairman of C Space, formerly Communispace, which was the first company to build online communities for market research, back in 2000. Diane was CEO of the company during 14 years of exponential growth, as C Space worked with hundreds of global brands to gain insight and inspiration from their consumers. A serial entrepreneur, Diane has consolidated all of her investment and advisory work into a new company called Salient Ventures, which will help accelerate the next generation of growth companies in tech. Most recently, Diane has researched voters across the U.S – first for the Clinton Campaign and now on her own. Diane has personally interviewed nearly 1000 voters from all states, ages and ends of the political spectrum, and is now online with them weekly as she looks for trends, shifts, and common ground. She has appeared on many national and local television shows, and writes regular Op-Eds about voter sentiment.

She has also led two companies in the education space, as CEO of Startup Institute, which helps young professionals develop the 21st-century skills they need to succeed – and as EVP of The Forum Corporation, a large training and development company, where she led sales, marketing, operations, product, and technology until the company’s sale to Pearson.

Diane co-authored the book Customer-Centered Growth: Five Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage, a Business Week best-seller that is published in 11 languages. She has keynoted over 50 events in the last five years, focusing on leadership, entrepreneurship, women’s issues, and customer centricity.

Diane has received many honors, including the Pinnacle Award from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Most Admired CEO award and Boston Power 50 awards from the Boston Business Journal, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year (National Finalist), the Northstar Award from Springboard, the Great Boston Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year, and a range of Best Boss citations. In 2014, she was inducted into the Babson Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs and she received the Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship from Brandeis. C Space also has won many major awards – both for innovation, technology and impact — in the market research arena. In 2018, Diane received honorary doctorates from Bentley University and the New England College of Business. Diane serves on the boards of Panera, Eastern Bank, Brightcove, Tufts University, Mass Challenge, CoachUp, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and is Special Advisor to Datapoint Capital, a leading early-stage venture firm. In 2017, the Boston Globe appointed her to its Editorial Board. She received her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and her B.A. in Economics from Tufts University. She has 2 grown daughters, and is also founder of The Sound Bytes, an a cappella group that sings about business.

MA State Director, Apprenti

Lauren Jones

Lauren serves as the Massachusetts Director for Apprenti, a non-profit that delivers a registered apprenticeship program for employers to help enhance and diversify the talent pipeline for middle-skilled IT related roles. Her 14 years of professional experience spans local and state government as well as the private and non-profit sectors with a focus especially on economic development, workforce development, communications, and business marketing. Prior to joining Apprenti, Lauren spearheaded partner programming for HUBweek’s 2018 innovation festival, managing collaborative events and initiatives with over 200 companies. During her time in local government, Lauren created and led the Business Strategy Unit for the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development in the City of Boston, supporting business attraction and engagement with companies like General Electric, Amazon, Reebok, ASICS, and more. She also oversaw the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program including annual recruitment of approximately 40 new companies annually to provide youth summer employment. Lauren resides in Boston, and holds an MPA from Northeastern University and a BA from Providence College.

Graduate Research Fellow, National Science Foundation (NSF)

Moiya McTier

Moiya McTier grew up in a log cabin in the Pennsylvania woods without running water. Through hard work and a significant amount of luck, Moiya was accepted to Harvard University, where she became the first person in the school’s long history to study both astrophysics and folklore & mythology. After graduating, Moiya moved to New York to pursue her PhD in astronomy at Columbia.

Moiya is an award-winning astrophysicist and science communicator. She’s given more than 100 talks about science, been interviewed for television and podcasts, designed an exhibit for the New York Hall of Science, and written a science fiction novel. Her mission in life is to build a better world by teaching people how to think like scientists.

President & Co-Founder, Fairygodboss

Romy Newman

Romy Newman is Co-founder and President of Fairygodboss, a business with the mission is to improve the workplace for women everywhere. Before venturing into the crazy world of entrepreneurship, Romy ran digital advertising sales and operations at The Wall Street Journal, and also worked in marketing at Google and Estee Lauder. Romy studied american studies, literature and art at Yale and many more practical things at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. Romy is a frequent speaker and contributor to Fortune, Huffington Post, and Inc. She is a proud mother of two, wife to a very supportive husband, devoted yogi and crossword puzzle lover. Romy is highly motivated to bring better performance and productivity to our companies and our country by making the workplace work better for women.

Founder, OpportuniMe, Author, Speaker

Miracle Olatunji

Miracle Olatunji is an entrepreneur, international speaker, women’s advancement advocate, student at Northeastern University, and author of Purpose: How To Live and Lead With Impact. In high school, she founded OpportuniMe, an education startup that connects high school youth to summer experiential learning opportunities for passion, career, and self discovery. Through OpportuniMe, hundreds of youth have been able to find and secure opportunities.

Miracle is also the Director of Innovation at Thrive, an organization that empowers college students through financial literacy education and funds student-led entrepreneurial ventures in personal finance and financial technology. She has been honored as a Young Global Leadership Scholar, Youth Entrepreneur Of The Year, a 40 Under 40 Woman To Watch, and a grand prize winner of the World Series of Entrepreneurship. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Thrive Global,, The Female Lead, and other leading publications. She is also an ambassador for Innovation Women, an organization dedicated to connecting women with opportunities to advance their businesses and careers.

Executive Director, Boston Women's Workforce Council

Shereen Shermak

Shereen Shermak is the Executive Director for the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership between Mayor Walsh and the Greater Boston business community charged with closing the gender pay gaps by removing the visible and invisible barriers to women’s advancement.

As Director, Shereen focuses on recruiting more employers to sign the 100% Talent Compact and engaging them in actions that advance gender equity in the workforce. She leads and oversees all operations of the Council’s work, including the annual best practices conference and quarterly membership briefings in which Compact signers are invited to share strategies and tools. The 100% Talent Compact is a first-in-the-nation employer pledge to take concrete, measurable steps to close the gender gaps in pays and representation. Over 220 businesses have signed on to the Compact to date, including five Fortune 500 companies. The Council, comprised of 29 appointed members, serves as a resource and thought leader on pay equity, in addition to other challenges facing women in today’s workforce.  

Prior to this role, Shereen served as an angel investor and an advisor to start-ups and small businesses in the early stages of their growth. She has a wide variety of both public and private sector experience, including having served as the Executive Director, Operations, Division of Economic and Financial Opportunity for the Department of Small Business Services at the City of New York.

Shermak earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Duke University, a Masters in Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government. Shermak is a member of Board of Overseers of Big Brother Big Sister of Massachusetts Bay and the Board of Visitors at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. She is a resident of the South End.

Investor, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures

Mary Tobin

Mary Tobin is an investor with Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, where she supports and funds early stage startups focused on the future of shelter, vehicles, and insurance. In her previous role as Manager of Strategic Initiatives at the New England Venture Capital Association (NEVCA), she created strategic partnerships for the NEVCA and Hack.Diversity, built programs to improve investor-founder connectivity, and led gender equity engagements. A graduate of Northeastern University, Mary founded her first startup in college and remains an evangelist of the Boston innovation ecosystem.


Our mission is to empower women+ in the workplace and educate, promote, and support diverse and inclusive companies and organizations. We aim to achieve this by taking a holistic approach. We provide tech and tech-adjacent women+ and their allies an opportunity to network and connect with each other as well as with companies who wish to hire them. At the same time, we support companies in their diversity and inclusion efforts by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and tools to create an inclusive environment, in a safe and welcoming space. Learn more about She+ Geeks Out!


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