Chair's Letter

Pictured: Members of the YaleWomen Council at the in-person meeting held at Airbnb headquarters in May 2018 in San Francisco


“This is why we do what we do.”

This year, when alums have told us that engaging with YaleWomen has influenced their lives – from deciding to run for elected office, to negotiating salary, to identifying and taking next steps after watching our “Gendered Language and Blocking Bias in the Workplace” webinar (see story below) – we’ve frequently found ourselves saying “this is why we do what we do.”

We also found ourselves focused on the word why in conjunction with the YaleWomen Council’s in-person meeting last month, as we began our work to chart a course for the 2018-2019 year and beyond. You might be interested in exploring the tool we used to help us get to YaleWomen’s why – our purpose and beliefs – which will guide us as we develop this year’s workplan. (Spoiler alert for those of you who tinker with the tool: our why will take us to our how and our what!) Stay tuned for more information!

Please join YaleWomen in celebrating and telling the stories of Yale women. Let us hear from you, in our Facebook group or by email to [email protected]. Our thanks for all you do!

Susan E. Lennon ’85 MPPM
Chair, YaleWomen


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YaleWomen Global Newsletter | Spring 2018

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Soaring to New Musical Heights: Sofia Campoamor ’19, The First Female Whiffenpoof

Sofia Campoamor is a junior in Morse College.  She is a music major and a member of Mixed Company.  She is also, notably, breaking barriers as the first female Whiffenpoof.

Whim ‘n Rhythm and the Whiffenpoofs jointly announced that they would consider singers of all genders to be members.  Why the change now?

It’s important to understand the statement the two groups are making.  It isn’t about being co-ed, it’s about not wanting gender to define the groups.  The groups looked at what was important to them about their music and not the labels that defined them and their singing. 

Why the Whiffenpoofs rather than Whim ‘n Rhythm?

I auditioned for both.  For me, personally, I was interested in the Whiff’s music and taking the year off to concentrate on the group.  I remember seeing the Whiffenpoofs when I was a first year in high school. I thought, wow, it would be so cool if I could do that, but I guess I can’t because I am not a guy.  I want things to look different. 

How do you feel about being the only woman in the group next year?

It is the reality of my next year.  Happily, I am going with some of my closest friends from Mixed Company.  Not everyone might be comfortable with that, but I am.  Still, it will be a group mostly comprised of men, which means I will still have a gendered experience.  I hope that it will be the beginning of a conversation rather than the end. 

How will this impact the repertoire of the Whiffs going forward?

I don’t anticipate it impacting the repertoire at all.  I was considered a tenor.  You want a range of pitches in an arrangement, and tenor parts can be quite high. 

You are a music major.  How has that impacted your a capella experience? 

I really enjoyed being the only music major in Mixed Company.  It’s good to be with people who are not in music all the time.  Last semester, I took a class on arranging voices, and I now have more tools and perspectives.  I like to think about music all the time – in school and extracurricularly.  My major let me make an album for my senior project with original songs as part of my degree.  I am thinking about potentially using one of my original songs in the repertoire next year. 

Do you have a particular influencer you admire? 

I do – Sara Bareilles, a singer-songwriter.  She writes music and has an incredible voice.  She makes everything true to herself.  In her Broadway show Waitress, she had an all-female creative team. 

How has Yale been for you in regards to gender?

I’ve never really felt like my gender has been an obstacle or put me in difficult situations.  There have been classes I have been in where there are very few women, particularly in composition.  However, my primary professor in composition is a woman, Kathryn Alexander, which has been great.  Even when most of the people in the room are men, I have never seen it come up in a way that has been harmful.  But it can make you feel like being a little more watchful.  It puts you on edge. 

I think gender is still useful in connecting with others and as an identity but not to define a singing group.  The women in my life are extremely important to me, as is being able to share and talk about things that are important to me with other women.  Most of the world is still a place where people have a different experience based on their gender.  It can be useful to look at things with that lens so we can address things when gender becomes an obstacle.  I’m trying to learn what that looks like in the music industry.  When you look at instrumentalists in bands, you have your female front woman singing but a whole lot of guys backing her up.  And producing and engineering are jobs still traditionally thought of as male.  There is a lot to be worked on.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I really love writing songs and singing them.  I’d like to be doing that as much as possible.  I want to write as many good songs as I can and keep finding people to sing them and produce them.  I’m still working out whether I want to sing or write.  Right now, I plan on doing both, perhaps focusing on each at different times.  I would be happy just doing the writing but would love to keep the two together if possible. 

What would you tell others at this point in your life about how you find courage?

Throughout my life, the best things I’ve done, I did not know to be scared of.  I didn’t know what it would be like, so I thought, I’m just going to do it.  That’s something I’ve noticed again and again, and it’s been really wonderful. 

Where do you find inspiration for what you do?

It depends.  If I’m sitting at an instrument, I improvise and then pursue.  Or if I have a lyrical idea, I attach it to music pretty quickly.  I may take a saying or construct a new idea around familiar songs.  I try to write songs that I want to hear, songs that don’t exist yet.  I grab something on my mind and try to build around it. 

- Susan Pepin ’87, MD, MPH

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One Chapter Ends; Another Begins: Joan O’Meara Winant ’73 Reflects on the Early Years of YaleWomen

For me, the roots of YaleWomen stretch back to my long-ago undergraduate days as one of the first female freshwomen.  The somewhat chaotic goldfish-bowl atmosphere on campus in the fall of 1969 led many of us to form intense, life-long friendships with female suite- and college-mates.  After graduation, we sought each other’s company at engagement parties, weddings, graduate school graduations.  Then those occasions passed, so we started meeting for a weekend every year, to talk about careers, relationships, marriages, divorces, kids, infertility.  No subject was off the table, and confidences were kept.  We loved being together and missed each other when we were apart.

Yale herself created two fantastic opportunities for us to reunite on campus:  the Gender Matters: Women and Yale in Its Third Century conference co-hosted by AYA and the Women Faculty Forum in 2001 and, a few years later in 2004, AYA’s In the Company of Scholars: Yale Women in a Changing World conference.  Both brought together not just my own personal posse but a diverse group of amazing Yale women alums from both the College and the Graduate & Professional Schools from all eras.    

It was during AYA’s 2010 conference, Celebrating Yale Women: 40 Years in Yale College, 140 Years at Yale, that the opportunity to capture the energy and passion of Yale women alums took hold.  Nancy Stratford ’77 and Ellen Gibson McGinnis ’82 were tasked with hosting a series of listening sessions around the country to explore the interest in, and feasibility of, a Yale women alum group.

Nancy and I, both living in New York City, met and bonded on our walks back to the subway after several of these sessions and decided to put our heads (and our contact lists!) together and hold a few events.  At the time, my late husband, Riv, was quite infirm, so I had lots of time at home to email and talk to people while he rested.  He encouraged me because he himself was a huge “people person” with a large international network of friends and colleagues and so thought our work was valuable.  He was able to attend one or two early events of what would become YaleWomen NYC. 

Our list and our events grew; sadly, my husband’s health declined.   His memorial service was on February 26, 2011, the official launch date of YaleWomen, which is why I am not in the iconic Founders’ photo on the YaleWomen website.  

So, my chapter as his wife and colleague ended, but the YaleWomen NYC chapter that emerged has been both a balm and a solace in my widowhood.   We stood 75 strong, new friends and old, in Riv’s and my apartment for the 2017 holiday party.  I felt his spirit in the room; I don’t think I was the only one to sense his presence. 

We may go on in life together with some sadness, but there is also joy in finding new and enduring connections in the vibrant mix that is YaleWomen NYC. 

- Joan O'Meara Winant '73

Photo courtesy of Joan O'Meara Winant.

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Bringing A Diversity of Experiences to Yale Athletics: A Profile of New Athletic Director Vicky Chun

In July, Victoria ("Vicky") Chun will depart her post of six years as Vice President and Director of Athletics at Colgate University to lead Yale Athletics as Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation. Chun is the first female Asian-American to serve as an athletic director in NCAA Division I history, and the fifth female athletic director in the Ivy League. In her new capacity, Chun will oversee 35 varsity sports teams as well as intramural and club sports and facilities enjoyed by many members of the Yale community.

As Yale's first new athletic director in 24 years, Chun steps into a role long held by Tom Beckett, who is retiring this year. Her rich diversity of experiences include sports administration in the NCAA, national committees, volleyball coaching at Colgate, and conference championships won as both a player and a coach.

Chun's commitment to academics aligns well with Yale's institutional values. Under Chun’s leadership, for the first time ever, the student-athletes at Colgate outperformed non-athlete students academically in 2016, boasting a higher grade-point average. Chun believes that a powerful combination of academics and athletics can bring together the whole university.

Although Yale has ten more varsity athletic teams than Colgate, Chun notes similarities between the two institutions. "In terms of recruiting, we are always looking for the same student-athlete," she said. "The sheer size is a difference, but the core values of integrity and succeeding at the Division I level are the same." Chun said she is excited to work with the larger number of student-athletes of Yale's academic and athletic calibre and benefit from the "larger outreach" afforded by Yale's reputation. 

Chun attributes both her previous successes at Colgate as well as her future hopes for Yale to her leadership as a woman. While gender parity in the realm of collegiate athletic leadership has improved over time, Chun remains in the minority of female leaders in sport. Yet the incoming athletic director sees this as an advantage. "I think there is an inherent trust for a woman leader, because as a woman, you tend to be in tune with where people are coming from without them having to say it," she said. Chun says she felt that her leadership as a woman created more trust among athletes, coaches, administration, and faculty, "through transparency and a lot of communication."

At Yale, Chun hopes to foster not only a winning athletic program but also one that is healthy and positive from the inside. "I love the external work that comes with being a director of athletics, but my heart is about making sure that the internal is set," she said. "I want people to be happy at Yale and want to work hard for Yale." Chun says she looks forward to meeting with students, staff, faculty, and coaches to hear their opinions on what can be improved. "Tom Beckett has done a wonderful job at Yale for more than 20 years, and I would like to see what he thinks could improve because he has been there," she said. Beyond engaging with the athletic community upon her arrival, Chun hopes to lead Yale's athletic teams to more wins and increase engagement with the surrounding community of New Haven. "I hope I'm able to take the success I was able to achieve at Colgate and bring it to Yale," she said.

In the past, Chun has only coached women's teams, and she mentioned that she has received comments about having never coached a men's team. Despite this, she believes athletes in general want to win and all need an environment conducive to their success. "My job is to give them, male or female, that opportunity." Chun also mentioned the importance of thorough preparation as a leader representing an esteemed institution. "My preparation for everything is thrice normal because it's one thing to let myself down, but I really can't let Yale – and women in athletics – down," she said, adding that the pressure she faces makes her a better leader.

"The ultimate goal is to create leaders for society, and when I look at what the Yale men and women are able to do globally, it is incredible," she said. "Being a part of mentoring them and giving them a great experience at Yale so they go out into the world and make great changes is an opportunity that only comes at a place like Yale. I see it as an opportunity of a lifetime."

- Veena McCoole 19

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Where Will You Be on Saturday, May 12th?

At the intersection of Nathan Hale’s declaration, “I wish to be useful” (inscribed in the Memorial Quadrangle) and one of YaleWomen’s areas of focus, Contributing to Society, is Yale Day of Service – this year, celebrating the 10th anniversary of bringing alums across clubs, classes, Graduate & Professional School associations and SIGs, including YaleWomen, together in service to their local communities.

YaleWomen, especially through our chapters around the world, has a distinctive opportunity to bring alums, families, and friends together, by sponsoring and/or participating in project sites, particularly those that focus on women and children. 

Elvira Duran ’05, co-chair of this year’s Day of Service and a former YaleWomen Council member, notes that while May 12th is the official 2018 Day of Service date, “Service is needed in our communities and is given by Yale alums in so many ways year-round. This year we strive to achieve our goal of having at least one service site in all 50 states. Can Yale women alums who live in or know alums who live in Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota help make this possible?”

The Day of Service website offers a wealth of information, from Ways to Participate, to the Organizer’s Toolboxsubmitting a Service Site, Finding a Service Site and much more!

Do you know that Yale was the first American university to inscribe service to society explicitly in its founding legislation? Day of Service is one of Yale’s compelling pride points! Let’s help make this 10th anniversary an extraordinary one!

Pictured above, Elvira Duran

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YaleWomen Hosts Webinar on Access and Impact of Women on Corporate Boards

The percentage of women holding board seats has been inching up very slowly, maybe a percentage a year. But, is this really progress? 

While the importance of women having a role in corporate governance is increasingly apparent, the percentage of all women holding board seats in the S&P 500 is about 21%. It’s significantly less for women of color. This year we’re seeing that the representation of all women among new board members is at an all-time high, about 36%. But if you dig deeper, only 6% of these new directors are women of color. Boards do not reflect the diversity of America in terms of both the talent pool and the customer base. There’s still quite a bit of work to do.

So what can we do – especially in the current environment in which corporations are increasingly conscious of the risks of not having a diverse boards – to increase the number of women in the boardroom, change the conversation to make the workplace significantly different for women, and impact the policies of the corporations that shape our world?

On February 27th, YaleWomen Council member Akosua Barthwell Evans, PhD and ’90 JD, moderated a conversation about women on corporate boards with Brandi Stellings ’89, Senior Vice President of Catalyst, and Ann Fudge, former Chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam. Drawing upon their vast collective experience and expertise, Ann, Brande, and Akosua offered honest and practical advice about how to think about and develop a strategy to pursue a board seat, as well as what each of us as consumers and investors can do to increase the number of women in board positions.  The webinar was produced by Ursula Burton ’88 and Jennifer DeVore ’87.

Special thanks to Catalyst for hosting Women on Corporate Boards, the fifth in YaleWomen’s webinar series dedicated to lifelong learning and elevating more women to leadership positions. Thanks, too, to Brande for shouting out the value of volunteer work as an alum, including with YaleWomen!

You can watch this and previous webinars here.

- Elizabeth (Eli) M. Gerard ‘79

Pictured above, from left to right: Brande Stellings, Akosua Barthwell Evans, and Ann Fudge 

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From Women’s Health Research at Yale: Making Sense of Research Reports in the Media

Women’s Health Research at Yale is Yale’s interdisciplinary center on health and gender. Learn more about WHRY and its work here.

In Making Sense of Research Reports in the Media, WHRY notes that “as a consumer, it is critical to know which questions to ask when reading and evaluating a media report of a medical study.”  Consider that “for a long time, it was presumed that the results of health studies conducted with men could be summarily applied to women. However, we now know that men and women differ in the prevalence, symptoms, and response to treatments for many health problems. When reading a study report, it is important to see if women were included in the study and if there are any different results for women and men.”

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Blazing the Trail: First Gen Alums and Students Celebrate Their Shared Experiences


Several years ago, many years after I earned my MBA (then the MPPM) at SOM and a career in investment banking, I made a major career transition to become a school and mental health counselor. My coursework and internship broadened the lens on some of the work I was doing with the AYA Board of Governors to engage alums and current students, in particular, the importance of the sense of belonging in a new academic and social community of college. For first generation and underserved students, the lack of exposure to and knowledge about navigating the way through the college experience, and then life after college, may make the concern about belonging more pronounced.

I wanted to support Yale’s first gen students and enhance their college experiences by connecting them with alums who could share the stories of their own experiences and provide insights and support by drawing from these experiences. Magda Vergara ’82, my friend and colleague on the AYA Board of Governors (and a founding YaleWomen Council member), shared my passion, and we worked together to make this vision a reality. The outcome: 1stGenYale, a Shared Identity Group (SIG) launched in 2016, which since then has hosted a variety of opportunities for first gen students and alums to come together. (Do you know that 16.6% of first-year students at Yale College – the Class of 2021 – self-identify as first gen?)  

Join students, alums, and faculty to “Connect. Share. Support.” at our inaugural conference, Blazing the Trail: Being the First, April 13-15, 2018, at Yale. Keynote speakers include Marta Moret ’84 MPH, president of Urban Policy Strategies, a New Haven-based consulting firm that conducts research and assessment in public health, Peggy Kuo ’85, magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York, and David A. Thomas ’78, ’86 PhD, president of Morehouse College.

We are especially proud of this outcome: net proceeds from the conference will be invested in the Yale College Dean’s Student Assistance Fund to provide for urgent or emergency needs, including such things as purchasing a winter coat, meals when the dining halls are closed, or a plane ticket home for a family emergency. 

In the words of a Yale woman alum from the Class of 2016: "Being a first generation student was a significant part of my identity at Yale. Over the course of my time in college, this aspect of my identity went from something I was not proud of to something I actively engaged in. Being a part of this new first-gen alum community has allowed me to further open up and engage and understand this part my college experience. I am so humbled to be a part of the inaugural efforts to strengthen this segment of the alum community!"

Please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or need additional information.

Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81 MBA is the immediate past chair of the AYA Board of Governors.

Pictured, from left to right: Lise Pfeiffer Chapman and Magda Vergara

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Whence Came Yale Women’s Leadership Initiative

Origin stories are like myths. They are probably true at their core, but the details become fuzzy and sometimes unbelievable, as they are told over and over again. Experts say that one’s memories actually change every time one retells them. The following founding story of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Yale is a true memory - one that has been recalled and retold many times, because of the beauty of what came later. 

In the spring of 2006, Allison Pickens woke up in the middle of the night in her dorm room in Swing Space and scribbled a bunch of thoughts on post-it notes that she stuck to her desk. For months, she’d been imagining a campus organization that empowered women leaders. She often found herself lonely, as one of the only women in her classes and clubs, which typically focused on debate. Having attended an all-girls school for middle and high school, she had belonged to a different world, in which women ran all the school organizations and didn’t hesitate to participate loudly in class. She wanted to build a new environment at Yale. But it was hard to know who to talk to about it and where to start. 

Later that semester she went to lunch with her friend and FOOT companion Tamara Micner. Tamara was Editor of the Herald, and she excitedly mentioned a story she was working on with author Alexandra Suich, who was also a journalist at the Globalist. Alexandra was writing about the challenges that women faced in attaining leadership roles in campus clubs and student government. Allison read the article and knew she had found kindred spirits. Suddenly an idea that had felt unattainable entered the realm of possibility, as she realized the prospect of working with a team of women who had similarly believed that the Yale community needed to change. 

Marissa Brittenham was Vice President at Yale College Council, and someone whom Allison had always admired as a member of YCC. After a student government meeting, Allison approached Marissa and Rebecca Taber (who later became the first woman YCC President in 7 years) and shared an idea to start an initiative that fostered women’s leadership on campus. 

Soon after, the five women sat together on the lawn in Berkeley College and mapped out the vision and charter for what became the Women’s Leadership Initiative. Never would they have imagined that 12 years later, after the founding story had long been forgotten, the organization would still be thriving. 

-- Allison Pickens ’07.  After graduating from Yale College in 2007 with a BA in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, Allison Pickens, the founding president of YWLI, earned her MBA at Stanford University School of Business.  She is the Chief Customer Service Officer at Gainsight in San Francisco.

Haleigh Larson followed in Allison’s footsteps, serving as YWLI’s President in 2017.  Haleigh will graduate from Yale College in May.  She will take a gap year before entering an MD/PhD program in order to focus on refining her interests in genetics and aging research, as well as pursuing an interest in science and health policy writing. Longer term, she plans to work in clinical genetics, hopefully helping to lighten the burden of Mendelian disorders and devising novel ways to do so, while contributing to the resolution of the complicated genetic tech legal bundle coming down the pipeline. She reflected on how her YWLI experience has shaped her life.

While walking out of the 7th annual YWLI conference as a first year in the spring of 2015, I chatted about the unique value women add to a medical team with an inspiring physician, and mother of a wonderful young woman who would later serve as one of WLI’s Vice Presidents during my term. During that day I listened to women from myriad disciplines and a variety of ages speak about making mid-career U-turns, double minority leadership and balancing life as medical professional. Not long after walking back to my room, I wrote an email to the WLI board asking how I could get involved planning next year’s conference. Fast-forward one year, and alongside an incredible team, I helped organize WLI’s largest conference to date. 

Apart from the wonderful relationships and career guidance, WLI’s open discussions on what being a woman and a leader really means attracted me. I knew that I had a minority point of view on the topic – to me, being a leader didn’t necessarily entail running a Fortune 500 company or being some type of Wall Street CEO, but was more of a combination of traditional leadership, character and personal development that encourages and positively influences the development of those around you. 

More than anything, I was motivated by WLI’s tradition of empowering young women to become leaders both here at the University and wherever their ambition and dedication take them. Our world is tumultuous, or rapidly changing to say the least, and discussions about women, women’s rights, women’s leadership, etc. are happening every day. In the midst of all this, it was difficult to define exactly what I wanted our focus to be during my year as President. Providing outstanding networking opportunities, mentoring relationships, and inviting inspiring speakers to help our fellow undergraduates achieve their ambitions was a no-brainer. But above all this I wanted to emphasize the ethic of a woman who finds strength from developing her principles and herself.  My time at Yale helped me realize that it is one thing to take advantage of a bevy of opportunities, but using those resources to help inspire an individual vision, develop your own initiative, and share that with others was something completely different.  Inspiring Yale’s undergraduate women to develop their resourcefulness and personal vision, with the support of our shared fundamental mission, was something I actively worked to encourage.

--Haleigh Larson ’18

Haleigh Larson ’18 and Allison Pickens ’07 contributed to this article. 

Pictured, from left to right: Kate Walsh '77 and '79 MPH, Eve Rice '73, Ming Min Hui '10 and Lynn Oberlander '87

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