“You can't be what you can't see.”
—Marian Wright Edelman ’63 LLB, ’71 MAH, ’85 LLDH, President of the Children’s Defense Fund
During the past few months, with my eyes and ears glued to the 2016 Olympics and the presidential campaign, I have been struck by the number of times I’ve heard people speak of the increasing number of female role models for girls (and boys) who are widening the aperture of opportunity and possibility, of aspirations and self-expectations. And I’ve been thrilled. But I am mindful that in the light of progress there is still much work to be done—by women and men alike.
A decade-plus ago, Anna Quindlen wrote: “I once heard Claudia Kennedy, the first and only female three-star general in the Army, talk about the question of critical mass, of how many members of any group you need inside the tent to speak out, to speak up, to make changes, to raise hell. But maybe there's also a critical mass at which we think things are just dandy, when dandy is still a ways off. Is it 14 female members of the Senate? Is it two women on the Supreme Court? Is it one? There is now only a single woman on the Supreme Court. Imagine the world if homes, businesses, schools, had only one woman for every eight men.” Fast forward to 2016. In this first issue of the e-newsletter in YaleWomen’s new year, we tee up conversations about women in politics, in sports, and on corporate boards.
When we developed our strategic plan in 2011 we set a high bar for the expectation of outcomes: “We believe that if we work together we can enhance and enrich one another’s lives and also make a meaningful contribution at all levels of society and in every sphere of human activity. Acting as an organized community of Yale alums, we are committed to making a more just world by our dedicated efforts to embody and employ our shared values, and an alma mater enriched by our greater participation and contributions.” Coupled with the gender parity lens of our 50/50 Initiative, this is a tall order.
Last fall, as YaleWomen began the approach to this year’s fifth anniversary, the governing Council met in New York City to begin strategically planning the next five years for this all-volunteer organization. Outcomes included the two themes that inform and shape our work: Voice and Connectivity. Voice is the strengthening and use of our individual voices to ensure that women’s ideas and opinions are part of local, regional, and national discourses, be they political, media, public or supporting voice in careers and life. Connectivity happens when we create an inclusive and supportive community, both in person, at events such as the conferences, symposia, the YaleWomen Award for Excellence, and the educational, cultural, social and community-service events hosted by a growing number of chapters, and by gathering virtually, through webinars and conversations around issues on our Facebook page and in other social media. What one alum told us captures the essence of what brings Yale women together: “YaleWomen offers me what Yale University offered me as a student: opportunities to meet and connect with lots of interesting women in stimulating and inspiring conversations, women in different phases of their personal and professional lives with whom I have much in common, but otherwise would not have an opportunity to meet because our paths just don’t cross.”
For many of you—especially the graduates of the class of 2016 from both Yale College and the Graduate and Professional Schools—this might be the first issue of the quarterly e-newsletter you are receiving. We look forward to working with you and all Yale women alums as we Connect Women, Ignite Ideas, Transform the World!
—Susan Lennon ’85 MPPM, Chair, YaleWomen