March 8, 2024 / Thought Leadership

Inspiring Inclusion: International Women’s Day Reflections

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the ways in which women have empowered and inspired us throughout our lives. To celebrate this year, we asked CPers to reflect on the 2024 theme, “Inspire Inclusion” and what it means to them. All were welcome to participate, as IWD is a day for everyone, which makes it completely inclusive. Here are some words of wisdom and inspiration from the team at Connelly Partners.  

My daughter will be entering the workforce in a little over two years and so I’ve doubled down on making young women feel a sense of belonging not only at Connelly Partners but at Emerson College, where I’m an Adjunct Professor. Feeling like you belong is an inherent human need but with women in particular, I believe that need is of paramount importance. I’m committed to creating a space where young women can feel heard, celebrate their individual strengths and allow them to bring their authentic selves to work and class. We’re all making great strides by keeping this conversation top of mind. My hope is that by the time my daughter becomes a working woman, she will feel that her contribution is not only celebrated, but vital to the health of her organization.

Alyssa Toro
Sr. Partner & Chief Creative Officer

Over the past 15 years, I have had the pleasure of mentoring a female in business every year. Most often they have been women from advertising or communications backgrounds looking to navigate their careers and wanted general feedback or support for challenging situations, but I’ve also had women reach out from truly male-dominated businesses (such as mining) for mentorship that were struggling to find their voice in their companies and their place at the proverbial “table.” It’s truly been an honor to provide support and guidance to these women and help them thrive in their careers.

woman with short brown hair standing in an offfice

Nadine Cole
Managing Director, Connelly Partners West 
President, VRX Studios

I grew up in the 70s and 80s in an Italian family where I was one of only two girls in the entire extended family. And although he was raised during a time that had very different views of the role of women, my father was my biggest cheerleader. He always encouraged me to believe in myself and raised me to know I could accomplish anything I set my sights on in my life. His belief in my potential and his encouragement to break free of any preconceived “female” roles gave me the confidence that is so critical in today’s world.

woman with brown hair sitting in a brick officeJoAnne Borselli
Group Brand Director

I feel fortunate to have many powerful female role models and mentors in my life – from bosses, coaches and friends to the strong women in my family. For me, the most impactful and consistent piece of advice has been around authenticity. Early on in my career, I had a hard time finding my voice to push back and disagree with others in challenging situations. Had this continued, it would have prevented me from being a part of important decisions and ultimately, having a seat at the table. My boss at the time told me that confidence would come in doing it in my own way. That maybe my way was “dropping a velvet hammer instead of an iron hammer” when I needed to be firm. This has stuck with me and any time I feel initially intimidated by a certain situation or conversation, I take a step back to assess how to handle it in a way that feels true to my personal style. That conversation with my old boss happened nearly 15 years ago, but it empowers me daily. I’m forever grateful for the seat at the table she helped me achieve.

woman with brown hair sitting in a black room

Hillary Williams
Group Brand Director

Inclusion is such a great topic for IWD. However, all too often, women wait for invitations to be included rather than taking control for themselves. How many times have you heard a woman say something like, “Can I ask a question?” or “This may be a stupid question, but?” How often, as women, do we wait for the promotion or the plum assignment versus asking for it? When we do these things we’re automatically excluding ourselves. I’ve seen it far too often over the years, along with other behaviors and attitudes that hold women back. One way that I’m working to remedy this and to foster inclusion is by founding our Empowering Women’s Networking Events at Connelly Partners. Every quarter, we invite women from diverse professional and social backgrounds into our agency for an evening of networking and conversation. Doing so, I believe, will help women network better with like-minded women AND male colleagues, to find their voices, and to share opportunities with one another so that we can all make inclusion a habit and part of the way that we work.

Michele Hart-Henry
Managing Director, Connelly Partners Health

I inspire inclusivity and support the progress and advancement of women and girls by always creating a space where mental health is a priority. I have endured my own mental health journey which has empowered me to always put the health and wellbeing of the people around me first and to pass on the tools that have helped me along the way. In my career, I have learned that not every day is going to be perfect, we all have our bad days and it’s easy to get “in our heads” as women in advertising. In moments of doubt or angst, it’s important to take a step back to evaluate the situation. Giving myself time to put my mental health first is something I have learned to embrace. And I pass this on to the women on my team by always encouraging them to do the same. We love our jobs and we often make sacrifices to deliver the best outcomes to our clients and colleagues, but this should never come as a compromise to our mental health. Mental health days, and taking respites to walk away from certain situations is key. I pass this same mentality on to my daughter. As children age, the stressors of childhood become even more apparent. It’s important to create a calm space. To offer an embrace or to take a moment for breathing exercises. I have taught my daughter that it’s okay to have big emotions, and this to me will teach her how to embrace her peers in the same light. To always be accepting!  

woman standing by a spiral staircase

Ashley Campbell
Brand Director

Working with the interns at Connelly Partners in the office is a great way to inspire and be inspired by young women poised to enter the workforce. I always try to make sure they see that no matter our tenure, we all have questions, make mistakes, celebrate jobs well done, and have each other’s back.

Woman sitting outside in a chair with a brick wall and bushes behind her

Laura Lyverse
Design Studio Director

Counting my blessings in my career, I’ve had the honor of working alongside some of the most talented women in advertising, with Connelly Partners boasting a team of phenomenal women leaders across the globe who bring inspiration and motivation every single day. And let’s not forget my exceptional wife, a total rockstar steering her agency’s future while effortlessly balancing our chaotic home life. These women collectively emphasize that success isn’t confined to career highs; it’s about building a kickass life beyond the office. Let’s be real – the superior gender is owning the game.

man standing in front of a wooden pole and a brick wall

Dave Kimball
Chief Growth Officer


On behalf of the team at Connelly Partners, we wish you a happy International Women’s Day.