A Conversation with Tamar Gendler ’87, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Tamar Gendler is Yale’s inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) as well as the Vincent J. Scully Professor of Philosophy and a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science. As FAS Dean, and previously as Deputy Provost for Humanities and Initiatives, Gendler has fostered opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue across the divisions of the FAS. YaleWomen had the opportunity to learn more about Dean Gendler’s leadership role as a female dean, the challenges she has faced as a parent in academia, and her vision for the future of Yale’s academics.

1. What are some personal challenges that you have faced as a woman in academia and as a woman in a position of leadership, and how have you overcome these obstacles? 

My academic formation took place in a discipline where women were in the minority. I was an undergraduate at Yale majoring in mathematics and philosophy, and women in the math department were certainly in a minority. Analytical philosophy – my academic field in the humanities – also has a degree of representation akin to the sciences. In graduate school, 10% of us were women, a figure that has since improved, and now women comprise about a quarter of the department. Like anybody who doesn’t embody the expectations of a discipline, I felt I had a dual identity. On one hand, I was a philosopher and part of a discipline, but I was also aware that I didn’t look like a philosopher in the way that people expected. In many ways, this prepared me for my role as dean of FAS.

My counterparts at other leading institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton were all men, so I was used to being in a group of men. It is now the case that four out of five deans are women, so there has been a change in the representation of women in this role at universities.  

There has been, in academia overall, an attentiveness to the way in which the presentation of people in leadership didn’t match the diversity of the community as a whole. Five years ago at Yale, there were more deans named Robert than deans who were women. Today, more than half of the representatives in the university cabinet are women, and this is due to President Salovey’s commitment to appointing leadership that represents the diversity of the community. My sense of our peers at other institutions is that similar efforts have been made.


2. What is your vision for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences?

One of the most exciting things for me is that Yale remains one of the few institutions that educates every single undergraduate in the liberal arts. We don’t have another way of being an undergraduate here: everyone who comes here studies within Yale College, the undergraduate segment of the FAS. Our engineering students are part of a liberal arts institution, and our English students are part of a faculty that excels in the sciences. I was trained as a philosopher in the Western tradition, which teaches that the liberal arts are deeply connected: each trains the human soul to a particular form of understanding. The opportunity to interact with departments from mechanical engineering to Near Eastern civilizations and to identify ways in which each of these disciplinary approaches uncovers some facet of the world is truly rewarding. My job is to think about what the relationship between those departments should be and what their leadership structure should look like through selecting the chairs of each department. I oversee and approve all faculty and think about the resources we should be providing to retain the people who shape this university.  
 

3. What advice do you have for young women who are struggling with work-life balance?

I was fortunate enough to raise two children during the time I was on the tenure track, and I have a partner who is also an academic. Crucial to my being able to do that was my making it clear to the community around me that it is possible to be a scholar and a parent. I often brought my kids to campus during talks, and they would sit at the back of the room with crayons and be present in the world of the work I was involved in. Doing that set an example for some of our male faculty parents and graduate students that it is possible to be both an academic and a parent. It also let my children feel like my world of work wasn’t totally alien to them. Recognizing that people are both workers and human beings is really important in reminding society that the reason we have work is that we can do things that fulfill us outside of work.

My capacity to serve in the academic role that I do was enabled by broadband parenting that took place between my family and a neighboring family with kids of the same age. I managed to live the life I did thanks to a stay-at-home dad who was the afternoon parent to my children. It was an interesting model for those who want to engage in work-life balance: finding a communal relationship where kids can feel supported and connected makes it possible to find flexibility. Living in an incredibly tightly knit community where, across four parents, we shared responsibility, sometimes felt as if we had a large five-child, four-parent family.

4. Are there any interesting anecdotes or key learnings you could share from your time at Yale?

It continues to sometimes be the case that when I meet a student who attended Yale before the institution became co-educational, they are surprised to learn that I am the dean and my associate, a male, is an associate dean. That said, I have been impressed with the adaptability of the individuals for whom the world is changing before their eyes.  

 

 5. What has been the most surprising aspect of your position?  

I’ve realized that the capacity to sustain oneself in a high-visibility and high-stress situation depends heavily upon the backstage camaraderie that comes with building a team.  Erving Goffman describes backstage life and what it’s like to be a police officer or a firefighter in stressful situations but benefit from the camaraderie of the fire house. The work I do is a lot less urgent and personal than a firefighter’s, but there is the same public presentation that can be really isolating and emotionally exhausting. The possibility of coming back to a community that provides sustenance enables one to take another foray. It was so surprising to discover the deep connections that one creates in an office that, on the surface, seems engaged in a few routine matters. Because we are concerned with every decision concerning our faculty members, without the close-knit interactions we have with one another it would feel as if too many fates sat in the hands of too small a group.

When I went to elementary school, I remember wanting to be the teacher: to be the person who makes the class work for the kids and for other people. My conception of leadership has always been of enabling community. My father was a congregational rabbi and held the role of being spiritually available and transmitting the wisdom of a tradition to a community. Leaders must recognize that humans are multifaceted, and that the building of community can enable action that transcends what we can do as individuals. I took up high school roles and roles in organizations at Yale with this same vision: that my job was to create community and build an environment where what I was doing was empowering other people to be exceptional. Deanship, for me, is a continuation of that vision of leadership: being a leader is being a person who empowers others to thrive and who creates a cultural context in which people can express the most expansive features of themselves as thinkers, teachers and mentors.

 

-- Veena McCoole ’19


Joanne Lipman ’83 Moderates Panel Discussion on Working Toward Gender Equity with Anita Hill, ’80 JD, Catherine Lhamon ’96 JD, and Ann Olivarius ’77, ’86 MBA, ’86 JD

Below is an edited version of the panel discussion.

JL: How did you become a leader in the fight for gender equality and what role, if any, did Yale play in that?

AO: It’s not one moment that makes you a feminist, it’s a whole series of things that happen.  For me, I gradually started to see things through a different lens. When I got to Yale, I started to ask is there a caste system?  Is there sexual apartheid? I saw that a lot of women were having sex with professors, and consent wasn’t even in the parlance at the time. I wanted a central database for sexual offenses, and I thought that Yale would want to know how bad this problem was. Yale said no and forced us to file the suit. Alexander v. Yale became the landmark case that recognized for the first time that universities had an obligation to protect students from sexual harassment.

AH: It is true, it is not just one thing that happens. For me, I never even thought I wasn’t interested in gender equity. I grew up in rural Oklahoma and my mother had thirteen children. My mother told me at an early age, “I don't ever want you to ask a man for your livelihood.”

If you want to claim your own personal freedom and your own self-sufficiency, you will deal with gender issues.  I also had to deal with race. I came to understand that in order to be truly equal and free, I had to deal with both race and gender inequalities. Then, there is my personal story. When I found out I got into Yale, everyone was very happy and at that time, a neighbor said to me, “You are going to do great things for women.”  I could not tell whether that was a prediction or command, but it didn’t matter because I was moving into doing things for women. There were a lot of opportunities that came about that I took advantage of, it just came naturally because as a woman who wanted to live independently and self-sufficiently, I had to be paying attention to these issues. Issues of both race and gender inequality can be integrated and must be integrated and that was the trajectory of how I got to where I am now.

It has led me away from teaching just in a law school and led me to Brandeis, which is a policy school, and it has also led me to my work with the Hollywood Commission to bring gender equity to the workplaces in the entertainment industry.  I feel fortunate to have been able to move through the world in the way that I have and landed where I am.

We are working with not only what is happening on screen but also with workers who work in the industry. Every individual in the industry deserves a safe place to work and a chance to showcase their skills without bias.

CL: I grew up with civil rights activists as parents. Coming to Yale was eye-opening. It was shocking to me that my professors were so supportive and so driven in social justice work...  my professors were prepared to mold us in that tradition of working towards gender equity. I started my time in law school after watching [the Anita Hill hearings], and, [Anita,] you spoke what I knew to be true because of how you presented it.  You gave me a path in the arguments you crafted that would change our world. I had the benefit of learning from [both of you], from professors who were prepared to mold all of us in that form of leadership, and I had the luxury of Yale which as the law school of “yes” – Yale gave me those tools and taught me how to do it.

 

JL: It’s been more than a year and half since the ‘me too’ movement. What is your point of view on how far have we come in the wake of the ‘me too’ movement?

AO: We have to get the laws changed to extend the statute of limitations because in so many cases there is very little I can do as a lawyer because of the statute of limitations. We also have to find our voices because I’m finding that even though a lot of women are coming forward about sexual assault and giving their names, they are not naming who did it, so there is still no accountability. That has to change. We are just getting started.

 

JL: Anita, you spoke out during the Kavanaugh hearings.  Tell us about how that transpired and where we are now.

AH: What troubles me about the Kavanaugh hearings is that the people in power are more concerned about maintaining power than getting to the truth. Those kinds of experiences are happening in almost every setting in corporate America as well as in colleges and universities. It was only in 2014 that universities really became accountable and started to put processes in place [to prevent situations that] had prevented women and men from coming forward for years.

Processes are important in politics or education or the workplace. It’s not just the bad behavior, . . . it’s the processes that maintain and protect the bad behavior. If we don’t look at those systematically and unravel the system that has protected powerful men who have engaged in gender violence, we will pass it along to another generation. We can’t afford it. It is a crisis, [but gender violence] has never been recognized as [a crisis] by the government.

The Kavanaugh hearings, to me, were about exposing not only how badly the Senate made decisions in 1991, they were about showing that the same individuals are still in power and making the same decisions.

We know that men must be making these decisions because they have the power to do so. We should think about different ways to bring men into the conversation.

Men have to talk about their experiences with sexual abuse, too. We can’t make it a woman issue because it will become sexualized. We have to understand the power dynamic, but it’s not about sex, it’s about the ability to use sex to minimize people and abuse people.

 

JL: What is the path forward? How can we make things better?

AO: The women who come forward go off and do great things. So, we need your voices. Yale has some of the finest women go through its doors – go forth, don’t be fearful. Speak up.  Now, more than ever, we need your voices. The world is out there to be conquered, and you in this room can make it so.

CL: Seizing the moment is so worthwhile. I have been stunned by how much of a difference even small acts can make. In just three years, we have changed the landscape within universities.  

AH: I’m going to push back on the idea of retaliation.  It is real.  It is real in the workplace for those who are more vulnerable.  The best way to respond is to think about how to protect the more vulnerable people and how to create the kind of environment where if someone speaks up, we are willing to support that person. You need to speak up for yourself and for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

To have gender equity, we have to understand gender equity involves a whole lot of nuances. We know that it’s not just two genders. We now acknowledge that race matters, that sexual identity matters.  If we are going to understand gender equity in its fullest, we must educate ourselves about those differences and how those differences matter and how the world perceives those differences. We don't have to all be the same, we just have to believe in human dignity.

I invite us to think openly, think boldly, think radically about equality.



Letter From The Chair - Winter 2018

"Open the aperture to better illuminate issues." This is how one founding member of the YaleWomen Council captures the import of YaleWomen’s work and why it matters. It’s an apt metaphor for why we do what we do. As this calendar year comes to a close, we reflect on how YaleWomen has grown from the "big idea" of possibilities that was envisioned in 2011 to the tangible realities that "open the aperture," including this very e-newsletter and the stories it tells in every issue. Looking over the horizon into 2019, we know that our best work is always ahead, especially as we work toward the January 15th webinar that will focus on career transitions, the March 7th Award for Excellence event that will celebrate Yale women alums with Lifetime Achievement and Impact awards, and the events that chapters will host through 2020 in celebration of 50 Women at Yale 150.Continually raising the bar on our own expectations of the work we do is one of the most remarkable and rewarding aspects of engaging with YaleWomen. (Consider joining the Council!) We also reflect on the fact that none of this would be possible without you – we are grateful for your support! As always, we would be glad to hear from you at info@yalewomen.org.

In the spirit, hope, and peace of the season, YaleWomen sends best wishes for all good things in 2019.

Sincerely,

Susan E. Lennon ’85 MPPM
Chair, YaleWomen



YALEWOMEN WINS YAA EXCELLENCE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ENGAGEMENT & LEADERSHIP

YW_Award_Assembly_2018_pic_2.jpg

Image: Rachel Littman ’91, Karen Warner ’06 PhD, Sue Pepin ’87, Susan Lennon ’85 MPPM, Anne Boucher ’80, Nancy Stratford ’77, Kathy Murphy ’71, and Eve Rice ’73

YaleWomen received the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors 2018 Excellence Award for Outstanding SIG Volunteer Engagement and Leadership: For the Shared Interest Group (SIG) that Best Demonstrates Leadership in Strategic Planning, Volunteer Recruitment, Financial Management, and Stewardship.

As one of the largest SIGs in the Yale alumni universe, YaleWomen continues to grow and thrive eight years after its formation in 2011.

This year, we hit a number of milestones.

What’s our secret? It’s you!

Next year, we will do even more… more webinars, more events, and more engagement opportunities. (Be on the lookout for a survey in the new year to help us continue to build toward shared interests.)

Interested in becoming a member of the YaleWomen Council? See the call for nominations….

 


What is your vision for the future?

As Yale women alums, we have both a shared responsibility and a shared desire to make a substantial difference in the world. YaleWomen is a community of women, built through our common experiences at Yale, that brings together our diverse perspectives and strengths to elevate opportunities for women around the world to make this difference.

YaleWomen set its vision as a future where parity is the norm. Working together, we are demonstrating that a community of strong, encouraging voices can effect the change we want to see: a future where women and men thrive equally in a collaborative society, rich in the diversity of people and ideas.

You are this change. Your gifts to YaleWomen are invested in the production of e-newsletters, social media posts, webinars, chapter events, and Award for Excellence celebrations that impact the lives of alums, both professionally and personally, from taking control of their careers to forming international bonds of sisterhood.

Your gifts thus far have propelled us to create more webinars, more events, and more engagement opportunities for YaleWomen alums across the world. We want to do more next year. And, with your financial support, we can make make our vision a reality.

YaleWomen is an all-volunteer organization. We do not charge dues, and we are not financially sustained by the University. We rely on the generosity of alums, like you, who share in this vision and want to help move it forward. Only by investing in the future now is this possible.

Please join us by making a charitable donation to YaleWomen today. You can donate online here or by sending a check to YaleWomen, Inc., 206 Elm Street, Box #2196, New Haven, CT 06520-2196. YaleWomen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law; they are not, however, credited as Yale reunion gifts. Your donation may qualify for your employer’s matching contributions plan and be recognized by donor-advised funds. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@yalewomen.org.

Our sincere thanks for your support and for making the work of YaleWomen, for women of Yale possible!

 


Women Break Record in the 2018 Midterm Elections

Image: The Class of 2018, Women’s Campaign School at Yale

On November 7, 2018, one hundred twenty-five women were elected to the US Congress, shattering the previous record. And this is just the beginning! Women, notably women of color, increased their representation at all levels of government – local, state, and federal. The Women’s Campaign School at Yale is proud that our graduates were a big part of this exciting new groundswell. We are grateful for your support, which helped make this possible.

As a non-partisan and issue-neutral non-profit, WCSYale is dedicated to creating a political pipeline for women on both sides of the aisle. At our one and five day trainings, we teach women the skills they need to successfully run for office, such as fundraising, targeting, scheduling, use of social media, outreach, and much more. For 25 years, we have been committed to this critical mission, and this year’s midterms show the astonishing results of our efforts.

For example, at the federal level, WCSYale alumna Kirsten Gillibrand of New York won re-election to the US Senate. Marsha Blackburn, a long-time faculty member of the School, won her Senate bid representing Tennessee, becoming the first woman elected to the US Senate in Tennessee’s history. In the House, alumna Lauren Underwood of Illinois became one of the youngest African-American women ever elected to Congress, as well as the first female representative for her district.

At the state and local levels, hundreds of women ran for office, many of whom were WCSYale alumnae. Winners include Democrat Jamie Scott, the youngest African-American woman to serve in the Arkansas House of Representatives, Holli Sullivan, returning Republican from the Indiana State House, and Sarah Godlewski, first-time candidate and now Wisconsin’s state Treasurer. Behind them were scores of alumnae supporting candidates in other roles, such as campaign management and field direction, which exemplifies how WCS alumnae are making a difference across the country, both at center stage and behind the scenes.

While the high-profile races were extremely important, women who ran for their local offices to effect real change for their communities were the unsung heroes of the midterm elections. WCSYale alumnae Sabrina Javellana and Jane Bolin, both newly-elected commissioners for their respective cities in Florida, saw an opportunity to make their districts better places and took it. Both are stellar examples of this trend. The local level is also where many women get their start in politics, honing their skills before they move to higher positions. WCSYale trains not only high-profile candidates, but also these exceptional women, who want to serve their communities as elected officials and need the tools to make it happen.

WCSYale’s reach extends far beyond the borders of the US. I recently traveled to Edinburgh and Durham in the United Kingdom to run one-day intensives, working with over 1,000 women. Each year, roughly 10% of our five-day training cohort joins us from abroad.

WCSYale prepares women of every age, race, political affiliation, socio-economic status, and background to run for office. The 2018 mid-term elections were a great start to a new trend. Let’s work together toward our shared goal of gender parity in elected leadership in our nation and our world and continue this surge in representation into 2019 and 2020. To learn more about the work we do year-round to accomplish this goal, visit our website.  

For more on women in politics, watch the YaleWomen webinar on “Women in Politics”.

- Patricia Russo, Executive Director, Women’s Campaign School at Yale


Kavanaugh Hearing Prompts an Apology Decades Later

Image: Sara Romeyn ’91

Recently, a message from a former Yale classmate popped up on Facebook. All of a sudden, it was 1990 again. I was a senior at Yale, fighting to be heard on a campus that had decided to allow women to enroll merely 20 years ago, a campus that was still dominated by “Old Blue” culture. During my time on campus, portraits and statues of white men loomed large while tenured female professors were few and far between. Many young women, myself included, felt like interlopers.

Nowhere was white male privilege more evident than on Lake Place, the home of Yale’s fraternity row. I never attended a fraternity party and was warned by fellow female friends to stay away from Delta Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, or SAE.

The message from my male classmate read, “With the ongoing SCOTUS mess, I was reminded of an article you wrote in 1990 or so about rape culture in fraternities. It’s what started our feud in the YDN. I’d like to read again what you wrote — as it seems you were right. While I was not personally aware of any specific incidents of sexual assault, what’s being discussed at the confirmation hearing was highly possible, as I was privy to the drunkenness and misogynistic culture on frat row.”

The “SCOTUS mess,” or Kavanaugh hearings, brought back a flood of memories for me as well, as I had recently searched for that same editorial in Yale’s digital archives. My column was a response to rush posters for SAE, juvenile flyers with slogans such as “don’t be a girly man” and magazine photos of half-naked women pulled from liquor or car advertisements. One poster included a timeline of the history of the bikini. I wrote in response, “I believe that they [the posters] perpetuate and promote negative and harmful stereotypes of women and men, and are offensive to women and men, and degrade rather than enhance the image of your organization.” I cited studies about the prevalence of sexual assaults at fraternities and suggested that “while I do not have statistics on assault or rapes at your fraternity…the tone of your posters makes it clear that the mood is right for such an event.”

My editorial, signed by 22 other women, ignited a battle in the News’ pages with a fraternity member who happened to be a cartoonist for the Yale Daily News. For months after, he drew me in an unflattering light and made inappropriate jokes at my expense. At the time, I was a staff columnist who frequently wrote about feminist issues — the shortage of tampon machines in women’s bathrooms (it was more common to find urinals), the role of women in the military, eating disorders and other topics, each time triggering a backlash in his various cartoons.

During that time, my column was part of my identity as a visible feminist leader on campus. For four years, I found a home at the Yale Women’s Center, took Women’s Studies classes, organized pro-choice marches, sexual assault speak-outs and “Take Back the Night” rallies. I spearheaded events to recognize the 20th anniversary of undergraduate coeducation at Yale and dedicated a research paper for my American Studies Seminar to the coeducation process. I met Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86 and shared my research. Lin had just been commissioned to design a memorial to honor the presence of women at Yale, now known as the Women’s Table.

Throughout my senior year, my feud with the cartoonist continued. Other women submitted letters to the editor asking the News to pull his cartoons. It wasn’t until graduation in May of 1991 that this battle came to an end. I have had little contact with this classmate since.

A few weeks ago, I returned to Yale for Family Weekend to visit my son, a first year. On Saturday, October 6, as the final confirmation vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 was taking place, I sought out Lin’s Women’s Table. Students had organized a vigil for survivors of sexual assault, covering the table with fresh flowers and surrounding it with chalk slogans that read “We Believe Survivors” and “We Love You.” Passersby added notes of support, completing the scene. I spent about half an hour there, helping with the chalk messages and speaking quietly with students. The vigil provided a sense of healing and closure as I reflected upon my own experiences as a young woman at Yale, experiences that were both private and public.

On the way home, I responded to my classmate and shared my original article regarding the SAE advertisements with him via Facebook messenger. I asked simply, “are you apologizing for the ways in which you publicly lampooned me in your cartoons?”

He said, “Yes, that’s an apology.”

Would that Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez ’87 and all survivors receive the same.

Sara Romeyn, PhD, graduated from Yale College in 1991. She currently resides in Potomac, Maryland where she is a teacher and administrator at an independent school. Contact her at sararomeyn@yahoo.com.

Sara Romeyn’s editorial was previously published in the October 24, 2018 issue of the Yale Daily News.  


YaleWomen Boston Brings Women and Men Together in Conversation About Women in Science, Physics and Black Holes

What does a scientist look like? A physicist, to be precise?

Like this!

Image: Professor Meg Urry and Tamar Mentzler ’97


On November 5th, YaleWomen Boston hosted Professor Meg Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale and Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, in a conversation about women in science and black holes. Professor Urry is known for her efforts to increase the number of women in the physical sciences and was recognized for this work as a recipient of the 2010 Women in Space Science Award from the Adler Planetarium.

Dr. Tamar Mentzler ’97 BS Yale College, a PhD research scientist at Harvard, organized the event through a synergistic partnership with MIT’s Astrophysics Department and Graduate Women in Physics, a group formed to foster community among women in the department.  Mentzler was able to hold the event at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research thanks to this partnership.

More than thirty people attended, including a number of Professor Urry’s former Yale students, both women and men, as well as Yale women alums from across the sciences, and Yale women alums with non-science backgrounds.  Participants spanned class years, including a member of the class of 1971, the first class of women to graduate from Yale College. For some attendees, this was their first YaleWomen event. 

This Women in STEM event, which goes hand in glove with the themes of Connectivity, Voice, and Parity that drive YaleWomen’s work, struck a chord not only with women, but with several Yale men alums who attended, one with his young daughter. Another was drawn to the event because he is responsible for overseeing science departments and wants to ensure equitable practices.  

For Tamar, whose work has included building a community of women to take actions to redress the imbalance of women in science, coming to a deeper appreciation of the relevance of this topic to men and the importance of engaging them in YaleWomen’s work around Women in STEM was an unexpected outcome. As the date of the event approached, Tamar said, "I confess that as a physicist who is often the sole woman in many professional settings, I had a knee-jerk reaction to exclude men…(thinking about men who were interested in attending) has helped me think more critically about my stance…this is a conversation worth having." She noted the role men can play in addressing both a lack of awareness and implicit bias, as well as in creating circumstances, norms, and communities that are supportive of women.  

YaleWomen Boston hopes this will become an annual event, something Professor Urry supports. Tamar noted that one of Professor Urry’s many strengths is speaking to the issue of the scientific imbalance in gender and race. For future events, Tamar said she will “advertise more explicitly to men.  I think including men is crucial to realizing real change, and I believe there are men who are curious and care and might have attended if they were aware of the event.”

(This piece posted in the YaleWomen Facebook Group on March 16, 2018, noted that children’s stereotypes change as women’s and men’s roles change in society, and, as a result, they are more likely to draw a woman when asked to draw a scientist.)



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