25 Years, 5 Questions: Caron Hobin is the Vice President of Bay Path’s Strategic Alliances. She has been organizing Bay Path’s Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC) since its inception, incorporating her vision for an informative and empowering day into the economic and business development goals of our region. We talked to her about delivering one of the best days of the year, going on 25 years.
Q: What do you look for when you’re putting together the WLC?
CH: We search for remarkable women who are willing to share the struggle and triumph behind their stories in ways that will resonate with our audience. Since there are still many events you can attend where the majority of speakers are men, our keynote speakers are mostly, but not exclusively, women. Over 25 years, we’ve had three male keynote speakers and they did a fabulous job.
Q: What was one memorable moment from the past
25 years you can share?
CH: There are so many! Here’s two.
In 2001, the first time we brought Rita Moreno to the WLC, my phone rang at 8:00 PM the night before the conference. It was Rita’s manager, explaining that Rita’s last living relative had just passed away, and she didn’t know if Rita could compose herself enough to deliver our closing keynote. She told me that Rita would call me in the morning to let me know if she felt up to coming. So, we started the conference without knowing if we had a closer or not. I kept checking my phone, and at 11:00 AM, with the conference fully underway, Rita called and said, “The show must go on, I will be there!” In true Rita Moreno style, she delivered and was so incredible that she’s the only keynote speaker we’ve actually asked back.
The second memorable moment, was in 2018 when Lena Waithe was booked to close the conference. She was running very late. Dr. Leary had actually started to introduce her before she had even arrived. Those are just two of many close calls. Running a conference is not for the faint of heart.
Q:What are you hoping attendees get out of their time at the WLC?
CH: I hope attendees leave feeling exhilarated from the keynote addresses and eager to implement the new tips and techniques they learned from the focus sessions.
Q: What’s something people should know about you that informs the perspective you bring to the WLC?
CH: I consider myself a lifelong learner, and I bring my own curiosity and willingness to learn new things to planning the WLC. I’m a voracious reader—memoirs, fiction, non-fiction and magazines of all types, from architecture to technology. My bedside stand has always at least three books in progress. Whenever I come across a story about a woman that I think would be a fit for the WLC, I reach out to her. I’ve become very good at putting myself out there. My invitations have been turned down too many times to count, but I don’t take rejection personally. You have to be a little fearless to do this.
Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed in women and work since this conference began?
In the very early years, our evaluations showed that the bulk of our attendees had completed high school or had associate’s degrees. Now, the majority of our audience has at least a bachelor’s degree. The largest segment of our audience today reports they are middle-level managers or higher, as opposed to the early years when our largest segment reported they were administrative assistants. I’m reading this as a positive statistic, showing growth in ambition and opportunity for the region’s women, also possibly a greater willingness of local companies to invest in the professional development of the women who work for them.
The size of the audience is also one of the biggest changes. In the first nine years of the event, we were constrained to an audience of 800. In the tenth year, the MassMutual Center opened, and our audience more than doubled. We’re expecting 1,800 this year. We have amazing speakers booked, and as we mark the 25th year, we can really look back on how we’ve arrived at this point.
There’s a lot to celebrate.