YaleWomen Northern California and Women’s Health Research at Yale partner in a thought-provoking conversation
“By sparking innovation in health research, we’re finding sex and gender differences that matter.”
- Women’s Health Research at Yale 2017
On May 16th and 17th, Northern California area alumni and friends, along with employees of Yelp and Google, engaged in a conversation with Dr. Carolyn Mazure, the Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology and Director, Women’s Health Research at Yale, in partnership with YaleWomen Northern California and the Yale Alumni Association.
The first evening, hosted by the generosity of Yelp in San Francisco, Beth Axelrod ’89 MPPM (Vice President of Employee Experience at Airbnb and Vice Chair of YaleWomen, Inc.) engaged Dr. Mazure in a discussion about issues ranging from the founding of Women’s Health Research at Yale just 20 years ago, to the uncertain future of federal NIH funding for health research. Attendees were both educated and challenged to consider the broader importance of the study of sex and gender differences in research. Dr. Mazure noted the benefit of women’s health research as “it advances our knowledge of not only women’s health, but also the topic areas that we study, as they affect both sexes.”
The second evening was hosted by the generosity of Google Inc. and presented just as stimulating a conversation, engaging both the alumni and Google employees who attended. In a discussion moderated by Donna L. Dubinsky ’77 (CEO, Board Chair, and Co founder, Numenta, Inc. and Senior Trustee of the Yale Board of Trustees), Dr. Mazure described that the primary goal of the development of Women’s Health Research at Yale was to “stimulate research on women’s health that asks and answers previously unaddressed questions, and to enlist Yale faculty in leading the way in this enterprise.” Over the course of years, she described a shift in research to include more than solely reproductive health; research topics now encompass a diverse range of subjects including a study on the effects of stress on neurodevelopment and how this relates to our understanding of depression in women, a study of gender-specific treatments for tobacco dependence, and studies examining girls with autism and how they can present with different types and/or severity of symptoms than boys with autism.
Overall, attendees walked away better informed about the progress and challenges surrounding issues in women’s health, with a desire to learn more about the work and how to support this vital area of research. Women’s health research explores questions that are crucial to all of us; this work affects our mothers, our daughters, our wives and ourselves. To view videos and learn more about Women’s Health Research at Yale, visit this link.
A note of special thanks to Laurie Benjamin (WHRY Advisory Council), Bethany French (Google), Tiffany Hsu ’16 MBA, Carolyn Kenady ’74, Stephanie Rosenkranz ’02, and the amazing team in the office of Women’s Health Research at Yale.
- Mindy A. Marks ’00, AYA Director for Shared Interest Groups
Last summer, I received the Women in Government Fellowship to intern for Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo ’98 JD. The Women in Government Fellowship encourages Yale undergraduates to pursue political careers by participating in challenging internships with elected representatives in Congress or with elected or appointed officials in other political arenas, where students can see government and policy-making firsthand. Fellows also receive funding to enroll in the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, a five-day intensive course at Yale Law School on the basics of running a successful political campaign. Celebrating its 5th anniversary this year, the Women in Government Fellowship has made it possible for more than 40 undergraduates to attend the Campaign School and explore government work.
As a policy intern in Governor Raimondo’s Office, I conducted research, wrote memos, briefed the Governor, created presentations, and participated in interagency and nonprofit meetings. I got to see our government in action. I also had the opportunity to attend weekly “Lunch and Learn” talks for summer interns by city and government officials, which helped broaden my understanding of the range of government activities and experiences, from the local to the state to the federal level. And I participated in a few YaleWomen Rhode Island events, thanks to the generosity of Rachel Littman ’91.
I was grateful and lucky to be so close to Governor Raimondo this past summer. I was inspired by her path to public service. She talked a lot about being a trailblazing woman, and how women and other underrepresented groups have an extra obligation to serve, to break down biases, and to lead the way for others to follow. Do you know that there are only four female governors? If we don’t join in, who will? Governor Raimondo is a role model for me. Though I had never previously considered participating in government, I felt—and continue to feel—inspired to do so after my summer experience.
This past school year, building on the success of four prior summers of Women in Government Fellows, I worked with the wonderful Stephanie Waite, Senior Associate Director at Yale’s Office of Career Strategy to create programming for students, including the cohort of past WIG Fellows, interested in government on campus, from humanities majors to science majors to graduate students. We hosted a variety of events, from talks with Governor Raimondo and Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, Senior Fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs to workshops with School of Management and Law School students to application workshops.
As I write this piece, I have begun working for a public defender’s office in Portland, Oregon. I look forward to learning more about a different aspect of public service. I am grateful to the Women in Government Program for opening my eyes to public service, providing me with skills, and surrounding me with other dedicated women. We need more programs and fellowships like it! I’m not sure what lies ahead, though there is a good chance that public service is in my future. Having women in government matters, not only because women bring women’s issues and perspectives to the agenda and are skilled at cooperating, but also because we are half the population.
Sarah Siegel ’19
Last week, my husband and I sat around a conference table, discussing our financial portfolio with a new advisor. As he started counseling us, he kept looking across at my husband, rarely meeting my eyes, and even when I directed a question to him, he answered Rob instead. I was sizzling, and later mentioned this to his supervisor.
It is this behavior, likely unintentional - I’m sure the guy didn’t want to alienate clients--that Joanne Lipman ’83, Chief Content Officer of Gannett, and Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY and the USA TODAY Network, responds to in her forthcoming book, Women, Men and Work, to be published in early 2018 by William Morrow.
Lipman would contend that my advisor, and many men with whom she has come in contact in her 40-year journalism career are “clueless, well-meaning guys, blind to a lot of issues women face every day at work.” The book, based on her viral Wall Street Journal piece “Women at Work: A Guide for Men,” argues that while women complain to each other about workplace issues, this represents only half of the conversation. Men need to participate as well.
The misogyny I describe and that Lipman has seen is not “the old kind”; it’s not older Yale alumni who didn’t think women belonged at the institution. Instead, it’s perpetrated by men who think of themselves as equitable, and would be horrified to be considered sexist. Lipman argues that by making these men aware of their behavior, as she does in her book, it will change.
For example, take a meeting where a woman makes a great point: Unless she talks in the emphatic way that men are prone to do, her comment is often left hanging, until a guy repeats it, getting credit for the idea. Lipman tells of one man she interviewed, made aware of this behavior, who now says something like, “Susan, you made the point originally. Why don’t you elaborate?”
Women can help themselves as well, Lipman says. “Brag buddies” are a group of women who get together and consciously back each other up at meetings by repeating an ignored comment. Or, they talk up female colleagues to a boss, since women are less likely than men to push their achievements.
Lipman admits women can unwittingly harbor the same biases as men: “We make an assumption that there are in-groups and outgroups, and that the in-groups are male, who are automatically accorded higher status.” She tells of an interview she arranged with two executives, whom she was now meeting for the first time. A man and a woman, the same age, crossed the room to introduce themselves, and Lipman said that she started to take the man’s hand first, assuming he was the senior, before checking herself.
What would Lipman say specifically to Yale women alums? Lipman has spoken to many young women from prestigious colleges and universities where they were leaders. She says they’ve always felt on an equal footing with men, but were surprised when they hit the post-university world. She tells of one woman, a Harvard Business School grad running her own hedge fund, who was shocked to find herself cut off by men in conversation. Lipman advises younger women not to assume that “everything’s fixed now” or to become complacent.
- Elisa Spungen Bildner, ’75
“When I was 18, I didn’t think I’d still be fighting feminist battles my whole life, but I am.” Mary Miller ’81 PhD, reflected as we spoke about her portrait recently installed in the Faculty Room in Yale’s Connecticut Hall, where it hangs with seven other paintings of Yale College Deans, all white, all male. In addition to being the first (and only) female Dean of Yale College, a position she held from 2008-2014, Miller previously served for a decade as Head of Saybrook College, has taught art history at Yale for over 36 years, and currently claims the title of Senior Director of Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.
According to a sample study of portraiture conducted by the Women Faculty Forum at Yale, about 11% of campus portraits include female figures. Some spaces boast better numbers, such as Saybrook Dining Hall, where another portrait of Mary Miller hangs alongside 3 other portraits of women, making the tally there 4 out of 15 or about 30%. And the hall outside of the President’s Room upstairs in Woolsey Rotunda offers 75% with 4 portraits of past Yale provosts, including three women. Inside the President’s Room, though, men still dominate; here hang no portraits of women out of 8 portraits total. Will those numbers ever change? Will a portrait of a woman one day make it into the President’s Room? While we can’t know the answer to that question, we do know that with the addition of Miller’s portrait in the Faculty Room, the faculty who gather there no longer have only men to, quite literally, look up to. Now they also have this portrait of a woman of accomplishment to inspire them.
As Dean of Yale College, Miller served as chief academic officer of the undergraduate school of 5400 students, managed a staff of 240, and personally raised over $450 million ($100 million in 2014 alone, more than any previous Dean of Yale College in a single year). During her tenure, Miller also identified the need for a clear policy addressing sexual misconduct. Not only did she spearhead the effort to write a new policy; she also developed an ongoing program of Peer Educators to guide students in consent and intervention. Over the years, she explained, she had learned that the world is not a better place, that one could never declare victory—that, in essence, for a policy of sexual misconduct to be effective, people must be reminded year after year that sexual misconduct is possible and that each person must make their own choices. “You are your own person, intellectually, sexually. You are your own self. That should be liberating to both men and women.
When she committed to sitting for her portrait for 20+ hours, Miller hoped for a “warm and authoritative” effect. In the painting, she stands in a dark blue blazer covering a black outfit, hands crossed at mid-section, holding a pair of glasses. She gazes out at the viewer with an unmistakable authority. Alone among the 8 portraits that hang in the Faculty Room, Miller’s includes no props of her profession, while the 7 other images boast urns, paintings, maps, books (open, in piles, in rows), and even a machine alight with scientific discovery. Miller, on the other hand, stands against a rich gold background, a background that she said got “lighter and lighter” as the artist worked, finally “luminous” in contrast to the other darker paintings. While Miller explained that the bright, uncluttered trappings resulted from the artist’s desire for a 21st century portrait style, I can’t help but think about how these choices mark the subject as decidedly different. Unlike the others, this figure looks toward the future, suggesting: It’s not the props of my profession that matter, or the credentials; it’s the legacy I’ve left, the determined work toward an unwritten future.
- Alice Rebecca Moore ’16 PhD
In the last issue of this quarterly enewsletter, we asked you to tell us about your mentoring interests and needs so that we have a better understanding and can better shape YaleWomen's mentoring network. Your responses to the survey yielded great food for thought! Stay tuned for news about what emerges from your input. In the interim, many of you said you are interested in working with current Yale students. Check thefor student-oriented events the chapters might host this summer. Here are a few other opportunities to explore and take advantage of:
Designed for career exploration, the program provides an unparalleled opportunity for students at Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to learn more about professional opportunities in a given career field. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
YEI Mentor Network taps Yale alumni to create a robust, engaged circle of founders and senior executives who can advise both growing student and faculty startups. For more information, email Rick Hunt at email@example.com.
1stGenYale is an emerging AYA Shared Interest Group (SIG) whose mission is to support alums who are 1stGen and share a common bond to make Yale a welcoming and supportive place for current first-generation students at Yale College and the Graduate & Professional Schools. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLY connects students and alumni. By sharing career and life experiences, alums help students develop career plans and life skills. CLY events offer insight on both unusual and established career paths, along with networking and mentoring opportunities as well as interviewing and job-search skills. CLY events go deeper than career wisdom: alumni share insights about leadership, teamwork, financial literacy and greater self-awareness (e.g., strengths, passions, and work/life balance). The 2017-18 calendar of events is in the planning stage. To indicate your interest in serving as a mentor, click here.
Denise Stevens ’95 PhD
Chair, YaleWomen Mentoring Committee
SL: What are your thoughts on the naming of the new college after Pauli Murray?
TL: I was appointed after the college was named, but I am overjoyed that Yale decided to name a college after Pauli Murray. Since my appointment, I've been educating myself about Pauli Murray, who is probably, as Slate.com says, “the most important civil rights activist you do not know.” It is an incredible opportunity to serve in a college named after someone who is so much of the modern world. I want to create programming to reflect her legacy and I want her legacy to help create the community in our college.
SL: What specific programs do you have in mind for Pauli Murray College?
TL: Lots of things that are fun and have nothing to do with Pauli Murray the person, of course! But I do hope also to host programs that commemorate Pauli Murray in different ways. For instance, I’m planning events in collaboration with the in Durham, North Carolina. I also hope to commemorate her life in other ways. Pauli Murray was a lifelong dog lover - so I think it might be fun to have an open-door dog day. She was also a pastor and a deeply spiritual person. In honor of that, a Fellow of the college, a faculty member at the Divinity School who has studied Pauli Murray as a religious figure, is planning “moments of reflection” in the college. There was also a play written about Pauli Murray, and we are working on bringing that to our own little theater. One of our students has been deeply inspired by her poetry, some of which will be the first set of readings for our book club. All in all, a whole series of events that reflect her ongoing legacy.
SL: The Head plays an important role in shaping the college’s culture and identity. As Head, how do you hope to shape the college’s culture and identity?
TL: The culture and identity and the traditions will grow organically. I want to keep it open to the students and have the students make it their own. For instance, we left open the question of the mascot this spring so that our incoming first-years get to vote too.
SL: What’s on the table for mascot?
TL: Pauli Murray was a dog lover, and she named one of her dogs "Doc." He was black and white and Pauli used to joke that his real name was “Black and White We Rise Together.”.... but that’s just one idea.... I want to leave it up to the students. For various reasons I don’t quite get, some of them are pushing for a penguin!
SL: Any traditions you would like to start in the college?
TL: They’ll emerge on their own, as they do in any healthy community. As Head, I want to bring a spirit of openness. The geographic location of our college physically borders a New Haven neighborhood, so our college interfaces with both New Haven and Yale. The students are excited about that, and they want to be great neighbors. We want to embrace that and we want to embrace many cultural traditions. But here’s one idea. I look forward to hosting an open-door Seder that welcomes every member of our community. I really hope it can be a celebration of freedom and resilience.
SL: How do you view your position as Head?
TL: I hope to share myself with a little microcosm of Yale College. As Head, I really want our students to know that a 21st century Yale looks outward, looks global, and reflects and embraces what is deeply American.
I’ve been thinking about the Ellen Pao / Kleiner Perkins trial as the jury continues to deliberate. Was Ellen Pao qualified to be promoted? I can’t tell. Was she the victim of overt gender discrimination, and dismissed because she challenged her firm about it? It seems like it. Was she subject to unconscious bias at Kleiner Perkins? Unquestionably. The problem is that Kleiner Perkins’ answer to the first question is an outcome of the third answer.Read more
You’ve all heard the airline safety spiel: how to buckle your seat belt, find the way to your closest exit, and put on those oxygen masks. Helpful images accompany the oft-quoted line, “Put on your own mask before helping others.”
Take care of yourself first — that’s the up-to-date advice for caretakers and (especially) new mothers. Of course, the thinking is that if you’re not okay, you’re going to have a hard time helping the people who need you, be they children, parents or spouses. The airplane metaphor is very practical; if you faint from lack of oxygen while you’re adjusting your child’s mask, you’ll both be left gasping. But there’s also a broader application, in which, for example, caretakers are advised to get some time off and mothers are told to get themselves to a yoga class or take a bath.
After I had children, I heard a lot of this kind of advice.
There’s a pretty straight line from Feminism to the idea that women should take care of their own needs before attending to others. When you get down to basics, the big news from Feminism was that women actually have needs, desires and ambitions. It sounds like common sense now, but as a doctrine back then it was close to a revelation.
Feminism told us that we had certain rights, but those also came with responsibilities. By the time I graduated college in 1979, not only had I learned that I could be assertive, I had learned that I should be assertive. Putting myself first wasn’t just acceptable, it was laudable.
Yet in spite of the overwhelming influence of Feminism on my life and the gender-neutral expectations with which I was lucky enough to be raised, once I became a mother, any shred of putting myself first dissolved. It became at best a goal for another decade, inserted into my brain right next to “having it all.”
Culturally speaking, good mothers are all about sacrifice. Beginning with pregnancy and childbirth, motherhood is easy to see through that lens. Children want and need you in a variety of ways, from essential to optional — for food, cleanliness, attention and guidance. But neither responsibility nor overwhelming love makes being at the beck and call of an infant or a toddler more fun than say, having a leisurely meal, or chatting with friends.
What about the inverse? Are you a bad mom if you put yourself first? There’s a range of badness that would make a nifty graph. On one end, making time to feed yourself and brush your hair occasionally — on the other end, shooting heroin. Drug use, prostitution, leaving the family — they’re all classic tropes of bad motherhood — definitely the wrong kind of putting yourself first. And there are pretty active controversies about where certain choices should go on the continuum — for one (judgmental) person choosing not to breastfeed equals being a bad mom, for another it’s letting your kids have access to screens. Most of us are somewhere in the middle: we go out to dinner with friends and then feel guilty about not being home to help with homework, we miss a soccer game to go to the gym, or maybe bribe our toddlers with television to get a half-hour nap.
The truth is that I felt guilty about not living up to either ideal — motherhood’s or Feminism. I’d lay down my life for any of my children in a heartbeat, but if they interrupted me say, when I was eating, sleeping, reading, or watching ER, I could get crazy annoyed. (Now that they’re adults I don’t mind quite as much.) But back then I felt guilty when my own need for comfort, adult conversation or intellectual stimulation made me inattentive or absent. And on the other hand, I struggled to justify not having a job, or not writing that novel. Was I a bad feminist because I didn’t want it enough to make it work?
It’s a legitimate question, one that’s definitely come back to haunt me.
Asking the right questions is fundamental to finding the right solutions
Have you ever wondered why women's representation, across all levels of government, has been stalled for decades at less than 25%?
Although women have long had entree to careers in business, law, and medicine, why are women CEOs and those in C-suites such a rarity - and what happened to all the potential managing partners and department chairs?
Are the anti-discrimination laws we have the ones we need to close an array of gender gaps?
What are the consequences over time of the significant gender imbalance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers?
If we were to educate students differently, would it change the numbers? And what would "differently" look like?Read more