Empowering Brilliance: Unveiling the Transformative Essence of the WiRR Summit

By Rachel Diffendal, PRO New England

The Women in Residential Remodeling (WiRR) Summit, presented by PRO New England, unfolded on Tuesday, November 14th, at the Oakley CC in Watertown. The day’s meticulously crafted program was a testament to the thoughtful curation by Allison Iantosca of F.H. Perry Builders, Beezee Honan of Designer Bath, and Michelle Glassburn of Lavallee Systems. Speakers Nancy Jacoby, MHSA, MBA, RN, FACHE, ACC and Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC skillfully navigated insightful and vulnerable conversations, demonstrating expert care in their guidance.

Conferences like the Women in Residential Remodeling Summit hold a unique magic, for they provide a sacred space where the voices and visions of women in the remodeling industry converge. In this setting, women are not just attendees; they are agents of change, alchemists of innovation, and architects of their destinies. 

Reflecting on her experience at the summit, Haley Maher, Director of Pre-construction at NS Builders had to say, “I moved back to the Boston area after living in the Rockies for the last five years and have been so, so grateful to have found the WiRR community through PRO. Construction is typically such a male dominated field and to be able to find a female centric community to interact with and meet mentors, friends, colleagues, and discuss our day to day lives outside of technical construction is such a gift.” She added, “The energy throughout the day was so supportive and welcoming – no matter what discussion we were in or who was speaking. It’s such a testament to the New England design and construction community that teams who can be seen as “competitors” can leave that at the door and come into these sessions truly looking to connect, give advice, ask for advice, and generally care about others in our industry.”

Why are conferences like these vital, especially for women? 

In the world of residential remodeling, where craftsmanship meets creativity, women often find themselves at the intersection of tradition and innovation. There exists a poignant backdrop—the traditionally male-dominated landscape of this industry. Within this context, the WiRR Summit emerges as a resplendent oasis, inviting women to reclaim their space and beckoning men to join the transformative conversation. 

Julie Dalton, Marketing Manager at Platt Builders Inc. remarked, “The PRO WiRR Summit has been a must-do since I joined the industry in 2020 and the speakers from each of those events have stuck with me. From finding your purpose to leading the way in a male-dominated industry to this year’s program, the content has been valuable and timeless. This year, I was struck by how much imposter syndrome is holding each of us back. I’m amazed by the talented women around me – who nodded in agreement about feeling unseen or even unworthy of their success. This issue is a common theme among us – a sisterhood within our sisterhood.”

In the alchemy of networking, women at the summit forge bonds that transcend professional spheres. They become allies, confidantes, and sources of inspiration. The shared camaraderie becomes a balm, soothing the wounds inflicted by imposter syndrome or the challenges faced in difficult conversations. 

The WiRR Summit offers a sanctuary for shared narratives, creating an intimate tapestry of experiences, challenges, and triumphs. The presentations of speakers, Nancy Jacoby and Diane W. Shannon are but constellations in this vast galaxy, illuminating the path for others to traverse. 

Caption: Speakers, Diane W. Shannon and Nancy Jacoby address the crowd of attendees.

Picture this: a room filled with resonant insights, each word a beacon of clarity cutting through the noise. As Dr. Shannon unfurled the tapestry of imposter syndrome, the struggles that had lurked in the shadows suddenly found a voice. The costs—mental anguish, burnout, and the harrowing specter of anxiety—were laid bare. It felt like she was speaking directly to the whispers that echoed in our minds, unraveling the knots that held us captive. 

The interactive dialogue that followed was a journey into self-discovery. The workshop challenged us to confront our own actions hindered by self-doubt, prompting introspection that went beyond the surface. It was a collective nod of recognition as we navigated our own paths through the maze of resilience. 

Julie Dalton of Platt Builders Inc. had this to say regarding her participation in the presentation, “As many know, I raised my hand to volunteer as an example. While the universe works in mysterious ways, SOMETHING compelled me to raise my hand and I am so glad I did. The experience that day was profound from many lenses – both physical and emotional – and gave me the gift of leaving that baggage right there at Oakley Country Club. Several people have thanked me for my courage to stand up and be honest and others have said they were crying because what I was saying hit so close to home. I am grateful that everyone there created a safe space that made me able to be brave. That’s not something you often find in an industry and it’s something we should all be proud of.”

Stepping into Nancy Jacoby’s realm of “Difficult Conversations: What They Are, Why and How to Have Them with Confidence” felt like entering an oasis of communication wisdom. As a seasoned healthcare executive with a penchant for coaching, Nancy wielded her expertise like a guiding beacon through the intricate maze of challenging dialogues.

Nancy explored the essence of difficult conversations—their high stakes, the emotional turbulence they carry, and the clash of diverse opinions. The roadmap she meticulously crafted was not a rigid set of instructions; it was a flexible guide, a companion for those navigating challenging discussions. 

Bridget O’Neil, Design Consultant at Divine StoneWorks remarked on her experience at the summit, “as a mother and wife who took a pause on my career and is freshly back in our industry, I couldn’t wait to attend my first WiRR. I was surprised and happy that it was more interactive and relative. It was interesting  and encouraging to hear the stories and go through the exercises of the breakout sessions. I felt that since my session on difficult conversations I am more confident and more present in these situations. I can’t wait for next year’s summit!”

Caption: Jennifer Collins, Inviting Interior Style and Bridget O’Neil, Divine Stoneworks.

Luminaries Nancy Jacoby and Diane W. Shannon converged, weaving a tapestry of empowerment and wisdom. As the echoes of their presentations lingered, one couldn’t help but ponder the profound significance of such gatherings for women. Attendee, Haley Maher of NS Builders eloquently stated, “Be curious. Ask questions. Ask for help. Know that if you’re having a thought, concern or fear, someone else in the room is also certainly having it too. Each member of a larger team, whether that’s architect, designer, consultant, engineer, builder, subcontractor brings different ideas to the table. Listen and be open and support each other.”

The summit is a stage where expertise is not gendered but celebrated. Women, often unsung heroes in our industries, stand tall on this platform, their voices resonating like a crescendo of possibilities. Here, the spotlight doesn’t just illuminate the stage; it becomes a beacon for women to step into their power unapologetically. 

The WiRR Summit is not just a mere event; it’s a portal to a world where women’s brilliance is not just recognized but magnified, where their stories become the mortar that binds the foundations of a more inclusive and empowered industry.

Caption: Allison Iantosca, F.H. Perry Builder closes out the day.

A heartfelt thank you goes to the sponsors of the 2023 WiRR Summit who made this day possible: speaker sponsor F.H. Perry Builder; gold sponsors Lavallee Systems, Adams + Beasley Associates, Dovercraft Construction, Platt Builders; silver sponsors F.D. Sterritt Lumber, Designer Bath, Feinmann Inc.; bronze sponsors Splash, Renovisions; and in-kind sponsors Diane Burcz Interior Design, Veronica Jay Photography.

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