A Recap of TogetHER: An Evening with Kelly Bates

In conversation with our editor-in-chief, Jamie Coelho, Bates reminded Rhode Island women to know their value.

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Last night Rhode Island Monthly had the absolute pleasure of teaming up with Garden City Center to host TogetHER – An Evening with Kelly Bates. With Legal Seafoods providing the setting (as beautifully accented by florals and décor from The Creative Gene), guests were welcome and encouraged to commence the evening by networking with other Rhode Island women professionals. As everyone mingled, we enjoyed tasty seafood offerings of shrimp tempura and bacon-wrapped scallops; sipped on delicious bar offerings including La Pola, a gin and elderflower cocktail originally created by Colombian heroine Policarpa Salavarrieta; and enjoyed fun tracks and MCing from the fantastic Lady DJ. Debra Grigorian of Dress for Success Providence, a local non-profit dedicated to empowering women to achieve economic independence, was also in attendance to collect an overflowing bin of gently used shoes and purses donated by attendees. Grigorian additionally accepted an $800 check derived from event proceeds and additional donations generously made by attendees. She said the funds will go a long way at the 100% volunteer ran organization.

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The main highlight of the night, however, was of course the Q&A session between our very own editor-in-chief, Jamie Coelho, and special guest, Kelly Bates. Bates has faced quite a few hurdles — many misogyny-based— in her tenure as an on-air weatherperson and meteorologist, from being the only female meteorology student in her 200-person graduating class to her departure from Channel 10 in 2021. She did not hold back when asked to speak on the latter subject, letting the room know that higher up decisions had been made to bring in younger talent and to cut her hours back, resulting in drastic drop in her income. Bates went into contract negotiations asking to work in a Right of First Refusal for Time Off (meaning she would be the first asked to step in when a coworker called in sick or took vacation), and when they said no, she knew she had to step away. She also knew it was time to control her own narrative. So, she took to Twitter to say goodbye to her 200 followers at the time. Within a day her announcement had more than a million hits, and her story had been shared as far as Great Britain and India. Messages started flooding in sharing that others, too, had experienced similar situations in the workplace as middle-aged women.

“And I think events like this are critical because the more we talk to each other, the more we know that it’s not just us. I had gotten stuck in the ‘sad’ of thinking, ‘God, I suck,’” she shared. “You don’t know that this happening to all these other people. But now there’s a network for it. You can find your family, the people who reach out to you.”

Bates went on to discuss a variety of other topics, including the startling fact that women hardly ever retire from TV news (instead they’re “filtered out” before they get the chance) and how she’s determined now more than ever to help a new generation of women navigate the industry. She also touched on what it had been like to be a working mother of two children and how she is proud to be the mother of a thriving trans woman. By the end of the session, Bates graciously took a couple of audience questions, including what advice she would have given to her younger self.

“If I could go back, I would tell myself, look, no one is going to fight for you but you. You’ve gotta do this. No one is going to see how nice you are or how accurate you are and just bestow this upon you,” she said. “And that’s a lesson I wish I learned a long time ago — to just stand up and ask for what you want.”

The overall theme of the night was to know your value, and we certainly saw the value in Rhode Island’s women in that room.