Women Take the Lead at LEAD Symposium

By Joanna Sperapani
Elm Staff Writer

On Friday, Nov. 4, Washington College welcomed back several alumni for “LEAD: A Women’s Leadership Symposium,” hosted in the Gibson Center for the Arts. The event included three breakout sessions: Business, Government, and Alumnae with Graduate Degrees. LEAD was emceed by Dr. Christine Wade. Wade is a professor of political science and international studies, curator of Louis L. Goldstein ’35 Program in Public Affairs, and faculty advisor for the Peace and Conflict Studies Concentration and Latin American Studies Concentration.
Dr. Wade opened the event by remarking on the disadvantages that women face in leadership roles. “Did you know that study after study shows that the inclusion of women in leadership positions improves a range of outcomes in both the public and private sectors? But girls and young women are less likely to think of themselves as leaders, are less likely to be encouraged to enter leadership positions, and have fewer mentors who are women. Programs like LEAD and the Goldstein Program’s Training Ms. President are designed to help young women overcome these barriers,” she said.

President Bair and moderator Ann Horner spoke at the Presidential Forum about the challenges of being a woman in the workforce.

The event was organized by the Alumni House, who brought together a diverse group of successful WC alumni in many different fields, all of whom approached the panels with the goal of inspiring female leadership and confidence. The Business Panel included: Nicole Gravanga, Class of 1999, the advisor for Convercent and author of “MindSET Your Manners;” Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, Class of 1995, the publisher of The Daily Record; Kate Van Name, Class of 1991, the chief operating officer at Warrior Centric Health, and Janice Walker, Class of 1985, the vice resident of corporate communications for the United States Postal Service.
The Government Panel featured Minty Abraham Wade, Class of 2004, a member of the Bureau for Policy at USAID;  Hilary Badger, Class of  2014, who works at DC think tank The Center for American Progress; Latoya Gatewood-Young, Class of 2011, the compliance officer at Citi and commander support staff with the US Air Force Reserve, and Leah Singleton, Class of 2001, the Chief of Internal Affairs for a government agency in DC.
The Graduate Degrees Panel invited Dr. Sue Briggs, Class of 1978, the founding director of CIVIGUS at the College of Behavioral and Social Science at the University of Maryland; Lauren Brockmeyer, Class of 2006, Attorney at Oliver Family Law; Dr. Jean Carter, Class of 1973, a psychotherapist at Washington Psychological Center, PC, and Chris Owens, Class of 1973, an estate planning, estates, and trusts attorney.
The event offered female students a chance to establish ties with past shorewomen, and ask  myriad questions about life after graduation. The LEAD Symposium also created a rare chance to discuss the many issues that women face when they enter the workforce. The panels delved into issues such as sexism in the workplace and strategies for self-promotion when one is overlooked by male colleagues.
At the Government Panel, Minty Abraham Wade encouraged students to take risks in their career, and not to stick to the plan that they may have laid out for themselves. “Really make sure you are getting the most out of your opportunities…. You need to enjoy the journey and be flexible,” she said. Badger stressed the need for female mentors in the workplace, and the importance of making connections through one’s career. Several alumni mentioned the importance of internships and experiences that WC can offer students still in college.
After the breakout sessions, President Sheila Bair took part in the Presidential Forum, accompanied by moderator Ann Horner, a member of the WC Board of Visitors and Governors and graduate of the Class of 1980. President Bair spoke candidly about the challenges she faced throughout her career as she moved from school in a small town in Kansas to George W. Bush’s appointee to chair of the FDIC. There was also an allotted amount of time for students to ask President Bair questions about her experiences in the workforce, and the issues she has come across.
In response to a question on integrity, President Bair said, “I have found that as long as you have a moral code, and ask, ‘Am I doing this for the right reasons?’ you will find your way.”
Dr. Wade made closing remarks with the following statistics. She said, “In the United States, women represent about 47 percent of the labor force, but in 2014 only 5.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board members, and 26.4 percent of college presidents were women. In 2015, only 20  percent of members of the US Senate, 19 percent of representatives in US House, and 24 percent of delegates in state legislatures were women. Those numbers are even lower for women of color. Why is this? We know at least some of this stems from messages we receive as young girls. Women report that as children they were twice as likely to be taught the ‘lessons’ of being nice to others and respecting authority than they were to hear messages about sharing their opinions, making a difference in society, or being good leaders. But we are here today to show you that you can be a passionate, opinionated leader, and be nice to others. More and more studies show that confidence-building and networking are key to helping women overcome these deeply ingrained messages. Role models and mentors can help build confidence. In fact, just seeing women in leadership positions and having access to networking opportunities with female leaders increases the likelihood that women will see themselves as leaders. And that’s what this afternoon is all about.”
The LEAD Symposium was a successful opportunity for students to be exposed to the diverse options out there for graduates of WC, and network with several alumni. Most importantly, the event cast a light upon the need for women leaders, and the encouragement that women can receive through events such as these.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *