On Friday March 6, Ursuline students had an opportunity to converse with Shirley Leung, Boston Globe business columnist and associate editor, at the school’s annual Women In Leadership event. Ms. Leung, a frequent writer on the intersection of business, ethics, and gender balance in the workplace, carried messages that meshed perfectly with International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8. Leung kicked off the session by speaking about how she got started in journalism and how her career evolved, using the analogy of a jungle-gym rather than a ladder to describe the path she took. Leung also described the difference between a columnist and a reporter, saying that as a columnist, “you get to write the things that people are too afraid to say out loud,” and discussed the dramatic impact that the digital age has had on the newspaper industry.
After her introduction, Leung engaged in a fireside chat-style conversation with students Carly Carte ’20 and Madison Chin ’21. The students posed questions about careers in writing and journalism, the writing process, and work-life balance. During the conversation, Leung delivered several empowering messages to the students. For one, she told them that despite continuing gender inequality on corporate boards, companies want to keep women in the workplace because they cannot afford to lose female talent at the rate they historically have; companies have also learned that more diversity in the workplace is linked to higher profits. She adamantly encouraged students to “raise your hands,” in reference to the inclination for women to hold back from pursuing opportunities due to a lack of confidence or a perception that they are not qualified.
Students found the day to be thought-provoking and inspiring. Said junior Mairead Stack, “the fact that Leung specializes in women’s issues and advancement in the workplace has opened my eyes to the importance of a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace that values women’s experiences and perspectives. Hearing [her] say ‘You are worth it. You are valued. Companies want to keep you in the workplace’ was truly inspiring, and gave me hope for a coming future where women are celebrated not just on International Women’s Day, but every day.” Senior Maggie Folwell added “Hearing about Leung’s journey from a young woman - talented, but unsure of her path - to a leading columnist at the Boston Globe, still a bit unsure of what the future holds, was an enlightening experience. . . I was relieved to find that having a plan for myself is not necessarily a requirement for success in the moment.” Added Jayne McGuire ‘21, “I am glad that I had the opportunity to learn about persevering through the gender inequality present in the workplace.”
Ursuline thanks Ms. Leung for sharing her time and expertise with our sophomores, juniors, and seniors, including individual and small-group conversations with some students after her formal presentation. The chance to connect with our community was meaningful for Leung as well. After the event, she reflected on her visit, “I did not write a column for International Women’s Day, but what mattered more to me was speaking to the next generation of women. Thanks for the opportunity.”