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Social Impact Heroes: Kelly O’Grady, Miss Massachusetts USA 2019 is inspiring the world towards gender balance with #HereToSlay

I was a figure skater for over 15 years, and when that ended due to injury, I frankly had no idea what to do. After focusing on something so completely for such a long time, I had no conception of who I was outside the sport. I struggled with the transition immensely — after training at an […]


I was a figure skater for over 15 years, and when that ended due to injury, I frankly had no idea what to do. After focusing on something so completely for such a long time, I had no conception of who I was outside the sport. I struggled with the transition immensely — after training at an elite level for most of my life, that dream was no longer possible. It felt like I had lost a piece of myself. My high school teacher gave me this advice, and it has never lost its resonance. Life doesn’t stop when a dream ends. You adjust, reinvent yourself and find a new challenge. The biggest obstacle for me in following that advice is finding a goal that truly sets my soul on fire — not a goal that other people wish for me, or that looks good for my resume, but one that speaks to the core of who I am. I am overjoyed to say that I have that fire back — my passion for female empowerment and working towards a better gender balance with #HereToSlay is something which stems from my experiences and is so personally exciting to me. This journey that I’m on to give a voice to women like myself as Miss Massachusetts USA has helped me hone my purpose.


As a part of our series of interviews featuring prominent female leaders, as well as an opportunity to reflect on Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, I had the pleasure to interview Kelly O’Grady, Miss Massachusetts USA 2019. Following a competitive figure skating career of 15 years, Kelly O’Grady graduated with Honors from Harvard University. After pursuing her passion for the media and entertainment industry by working in Corporate Strategy at The Walt Disney Company, she attended graduate school where she earned her MBA from Harvard Business School. Kelly currently travels the world advising CEOs and top industry managers across a wide range of business challenges and strategic initiatives. Kelly also represents her state of Massachusetts in the Miss USA pageant system.

Thank you so much for joining us Kelly. You are in a position of great influence. What would you do to encourage the community, society, or politicians to help form a more gender balanced world?

I want to see us reach a place in society where gender does not factor into the conversation anymore — where equality has become so ingrained in our schools, our workplaces and our political system that gender is no longer an advantage or disadvantage. We are simply seen and treated as equal individuals.

On an individual level, I believe that there is so much each of us can do to help create and promote a more equal society. I have always been passionate about female empowerment and founded #HeretoSlay — a speaking series, mentorship program, and social media campaign — to help empower young women and create a support system for all of us that face these challenges every day. Where I think we sometimes struggle is when we do not bring men into the conversation. Rather than alienate our male colleagues, we must ally and partner with them as equals — get them invested in our progress — as we strive to achieve a better balance. I strongly believe that each of us can live these principles, help each other, and lead by example to create a better world.

On a global scale, there is immeasurable opportunity to make gender equality and female empowerment one of our core developmental objectives. In particular, we can work to create government policies and business practices around the world that reduce gender disparities in access to education, increase the political and social freedom of women to realize their rights and determine their life outcomes, promote gender equality in the workplace, and reduce violence against women. But we must make this one of our global priorities as a society.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, leadership is all about commitment to achieve a vision despite any obstacles that might come your way, while inspiring others to join you through action and mentorship to do the same. Importantly, it has nothing to do with hierarchy or your existing position!

One of the best examples of leadership I look to actually happened in my home city of Boston! Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and she did so at a time when women were not officially allowed to run. Race officials even tried to stop her and grab her official bib during the run, but she persevered and made history by completing the race.

I am a big believer that strong leadership and mentorship is so important to helping women overcome obstacles and inspire each other, and I personally strive to follow in Kathrine’s footsteps in any way that I can.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite “life lesson quote” is: “Find what sets your soul on fire.”

I was a figure skater for over 15 years, and when that ended due to injury, I frankly had no idea what to do. After focusing on something so completely for such a long time, I had no conception of who I was outside the sport. I struggled with the transition immensely — after training at an elite level for most of my life, that dream was no longer possible. It felt like I had lost a piece of myself.

My high school teacher gave me this advice, and it has never lost its resonance. Life doesn’t stop when a dream ends. You adjust, reinvent yourself and find a new challenge. The biggest obstacle for me in following that advice is finding a goal that truly sets my soul on fire — not a goal that other people wish for me, or that looks good for my resume, but one that speaks to the core of who I am.

I am overjoyed to say that I have that fire back — my passion for female empowerment and working towards a better gender balance with #HereToSlay is something which stems from my experiences and is so personally exciting to me. This journey that I’m on to give a voice to women like myself as Miss Massachusetts USA has helped me hone my purpose.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I would love to munch on some avocado toast with actress Emma Watson! This is not just because I am a huge Harry Potter nerd (for the record, I am and would be in Slytherin)! I admire Emma and think it is so impressive that she is not only wildly talented as an actress, but also extremely active in education and promoting women’s rights.

Further, her commitment to pursue higher education, even in the face of all her career success, is such an inspiration to young women — she was not content to rest on her laurels, but continues to push the envelope in all aspects of her life. As someone who earned two degrees from Harvard, Emma served as a constant source of inspiration for me!

Finally, how she has used her celebrity platform to champion women’s rights at the UN and beyond with her #HeForShe campaign is extremely impressive.

Emma is everything a role model for young girls should be, and she inspires me to strive to be a similar type of role model for young women.

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