THE BLOG

Women in Business: Kati Machtley, Co-Founder, Women's Summit at Bryant University

03/17/2015 05:52 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015

Kati Machtley co-founded and directs the Women's Summit® at Bryant University. Now in its 18th year, this conference draws thousands of women and men from Southeastern New England to Bryant University each year. With three keynote speakers, a power plenary session, and up to 20 workshops to choose from, the Women's Summit is one of the most sought-after conferences in New England, promoting professional, personal, and economic empowerment through education.

With a career in higher education that spans from 1974 to present, Kati makes her home on the Bryant University campus where her husband, Ronald K. Machtley, is president. At Bryant, she helps students to develop programs to advance young women in business. These include the SHE (Student Herstory Event) Conference, and, more recently, the Young Women's Colloquium, which has been very successful since its inception in 2009.

From 2003 to 2007, the Machtleys taught a "Foundations for Learning" course to first-year students. Over several spring semesters, they taught the Sophomore International Experience with other Bryant faculty and staff, the capstone of which was a two-week visit to Italy. The Machtleys have accompanied many Bryant sophomores, serving as faculty members, advisers, and mentors as the group traveled to Rome, Pompeii, Florence, and Tuscany, where they learned about the innovation, design, and creativity in Italian culture that they had studied throughout the semester.

Kati's teaching experience includes positions as a nursing faculty member at three universities. She was an Associate Professor of Nursing in Maternal Child Health Nursing at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI, and adjunct nursing faculty member in Parent Child Health Nursing and Mental Health Nursing at The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She was a visiting clinical instructor at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, in the area of parent-child health nursing and physical assessment. She has also worked as a school nurse/teacher at various public schools in Rhode Island, including a preschool special needs classroom in Middletown. She was a substitute school nurse/teacher in the Smithfield and North Smithfield elementary schools until 2000.

Kati's educational background is in biology and nursing education. She has a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Nursing Education from the University of Rhode Island. She has also completed graduate courses in communicative disorders from the University of Rhode Island.

She has been Director of the Bryant University Interfaith Prayer Breakfast since 1996. The prayer breakfast is an opportunity for Bryant students, faculty, and staff, as well as guests from surrounding communities, to share an hour of music, prayer, and an inspirational message. Held in February each year, it is modeled after the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

For 14 years, Kati has chaired the Angel Tree Project at Bryant University. The prison fellowship ministry provides holiday gifts to the children of inmates.

She is a founding board member of the Emerging Women and Business Conference that began in 2006, and she has served on the advisory board for three years. The conference encourages attendees of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds to become more financially independent by acquiring tools to start and advance their own businesses.

Since 1993, Kati has been a sponsor of the submarine, The USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740), and arranged for crew members to visit Rhode Island once a year for a namesake state visit. She also coordinates a letter-writing campaign between crews of the submarine and Portsmouth schoolchildren.

Kati was a member of the University of Rhode Island's College of Nursing Dean's Advisory Board from 2009 to 2012. She served on the Fundraising Committee for the Women and Infant's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She was on the boards of the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island and Meeting Street School.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up, I was encouraged to be independent and had a lot of confidence-building experiences as a child. There were not many activities for kids in our neighborhood. I spent time organizing shows with younger children that they performed for parents. In junior high, I ran for a student government office, and served as president of the Y Teens, a girls club sponsored by the YWCA. Thanks to the Y, which also offered a basketball league, I had a chance to learn a sport and play on a team. This was important because we did not have Title IX then. In high school, I tried out to be a cheerleader and majorette, but was unsuccessful. Senior year, I was elected president of both the Y-Teens and the Pep Club, and was also a member of the National Honor Society.
In college, after majoring in biology for two years, I chose nursing as my career. Moving to Baltimore for the clinical portion of the nursing curriculum was life changing. Immersed in a new culture, I learned additional leadership skills as part of my education. I went on to positions of responsibility as a charge nurse in a children's hospital and later in a community mental health center, experiences that also allowed me to continue to develop leadership skills.

I was offered a university faculty position and went on to teach at two other universities. Teaching nursing was one of my most rewarding jobs. I would teach junior and senior nursing students in the area of parent-child health nursing, and watch them gain confidence in various settings.

Continuing this career path, I enjoyed being both a teacher and a mentor to these nursing students. I also served as a school nurse/teacher, and taught health education while taking care of the many day-to-day illnesses of children in various elementary schools.

Working on the congressional and gubernatorial campaigns of my husband, former Rhode Island Congressman Ronald K. Machtley, I oversaw volunteer coordination in one of the offices and planned fundraising events and mailings. These experiences contributed additional dimensions to my leadership proficiency. Then we arrived at Bryant University, where my husband serves as president and I found a new role. I discovered an area where I could make a difference - and with the help of dedicated co-chairs and volunteers -The Women's Summit was born.

These life experiences built upon each other, providing me with a foundation that has allowed me to advance my knowledge and skills as a leader in each situation.

Tell us about this year's Women's Summit.
The 2015 Women's Summit will be the 18th held at Bryant University. The theme of this year's Women's Summit is: Succeed and Thrive!

Reading Arianna Huffington's book, Thrive, inspired the title of the conference. Thousands of women have come to The Women's Summit to learn ways to improve their lives and the lives of their families. Many women work so hard to provide for their families that they neglect their own health and well-being. Sleep deprivation, lack of time to get our work done, and a variety of family issues result in many women being exhausted.

Arianna is correct when she states in her book that "We need a Third Metric, a measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power." We must be healthy to perform well at work, and we must take time for unplugging, slowing down, meditation, and mindfulness.
Our summit speakers and sessions will address these important topics for success. With four keynote speakers and 21 sessions, summit attendees have many choices, and they can create an individual program based on their own needs. Sessions include: financial wellness, economic empowerment for women around the world, working with millennials, rituals to help you thrive, navigating negativity, negotiating, writing, the politics of promotion, expanding your personal power and presence, mindfulness-based stress reduction, hearing from top female executives, and more.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at The Women's Summit?
In my previous positions, I was exposed to many different scenarios where I had the opportunity to lead. Working in various healthcare settings, education, politics, and at Bryant University has allowed me to develop a variety of skillsets that have contributed to the success of the Women's Summit over the past 18 years. Being a pediatric nurse and raising two children taught me a lot about setting priorities. Experience in congressional campaigns showed me how important teamwork is. Without the help of the entire Bryant University community, The Women's Summit would never happen. That this is the 18th year of planning this conference speaks volumes about the dedication of the Women's Summit co-chairs, committee, volunteers, and staff who all pull together as a team to make this conference a sellout year after year.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at the helm of the Women's Summit?
One of the highlights was when Arianna Huffington accepted our invitation to be the luncheon keynote speaker two years ago. I had known her as a congressional spouse and was thrilled to see her again when she arrived on campus. Her keynote address was a winning combination: warm, witty, and empowering.

Last year, our luncheon keynote speaker, Viola Davis, gave a testament to her life and had everyone hanging on her every word. In the audience was the drama teacher from her alma mater, Central Falls High School, who also happens to be Viola's sister, and some of her drama students. We also invited faculty and students from the Segue Institute for Learning, a community-based charter school in Central Falls, to hear this accomplished actor and to meet her after her keynote address.

Challenges have included worrying about snow for a March event in New England, and then having a snowstorm start at the beginning of the day and continue throughout the conference. In spite of the storm, most people stayed until the end to hear closing keynote speaker Liz Murray, the young woman featured in Homeless to Harvard. Her talk was very compelling and the audience was amazed at her courage.

It is always a challenge to find the right combination of speakers. Often we have a dream list of accomplished women whose speaking fees are quite high. We work hard to come up with the right combination of inspiring speakers and stay within our budget.

How do you maintain a work life balance?
Some times of the year are easier than others to maintain this balance. From November through the Women's Summit, I don't take enough time to exercise, sleep, and meditate, all of which are needed to thrive, according to Arianna's book. I know that I should find the time, but somehow it never happens.

Part of the sandwich generation, I am now helping to care for elderly relatives. I am needed by them and have the knowledge and skills to care for them, so I go willingly when called.
I do try to set aside weekend time to catch up and get ahead before the next work week starts.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The issue of equal pay for equal work continues to be a challenge for women in the workplace. Finding work-life balance and taking the time to "thrive" are also among the biggest issues for women in the workplace. I believe that stress is a big issue. A recent article in Business Insider noted that stress affects women more than men. The most popular breakout session at The 2015 Women's Summit is on mindfulness-based stress reduction. Last year's attendees requested that we address this topic in 2015.

How has mentorship made a difference in your personal and professional life?
The most consistent life mentors I have had are my grandmothers and my mother. All three were teachers and, at various times in their lives, were the breadwinners or major contributors for their families. I often reflect on the challenges they faced and how they did so much with so little. Living 500 miles from them during my adult years did not allow me much day-to-day contact, but their positive effect on me during my youth continues to inspire me.

In my varied career settings, I am grateful to have received guidance from many different mentors. All those lessons from mentors prepared me for those situations when I realized I had to figure things out for myself.

Now, I find that I am a mentor to the students who help me with the Women's Summit and many others. Even something as simple as helping them to reorganize a resume can make a big difference in their future success. The Women's Summit provides thousands of women with the opportunity to hear from experts who provide guidance for improving their professional and personal lives. These experts are role models who share their insight and wisdom to help women thrive.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
March is Women's History month, a time to reflect on the trailblazers who have enabled us to advance to where we are today. For access to education, the right to vote, healthcare advances, business opportunities, and, most of all, the freedoms we enjoy in this country, we are indebted to many women and men. On my list of leaders I admire are our founding mothers and fathers, who laid the groundwork for our country, as well as the women and men who have fought, or are fighting, for our freedom. Women scientists, justices, elected officials, nurses, doctors, educators, business professionals, and first responders are to be commended for their dedication to their work. Those who care for their families, young and old, are to be praised for navigating the day-to-day challenges that our world presents.

I also admire the many outstanding keynote speakers at the Women's Summit. The ability to overcome obstacles many of these remarkable women have demonstrated always inspires me. Coming from humble backgrounds, many of them have succeeded by virtue of their extraordinary determination, intelligence, and grit. The Women's Summit is proud to highlight the many and varied accomplishments of dynamic women.