YaleWomen and Women Faculty Forum unite to examine gender rules

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Hundreds of Yale women graduates, faculty, and students gathered for the "Gender Rules" conversation. (Photo by Amy Wong)

Nearly 300 Yale alumni, faculty, students, staff, and friends gathered on Nov. 1 for a day-long conversation titled “Gender Rules,” about gender diversity and access, outcome, and equality.

The meeting was convened by YaleWomen, the shared interest group for all Yale women alums that operates under the auspices of the Association of Yale Alumni, and the Yale Women Faculty Forum (WFF).

The two groups have taken root on campus and among the extended Yale community of alumni. The WFF was established in 2001 during university’s tercentennial year to highlight the presence of women at Yale and the accomplishments of Yale alumnae. YaleWomen was formed following the 2010 celebration of 40 years of co-education in Yale College, and has been the fastest growing group in the Yale alumni network.

The 2014 conference, the first major event undertaken jointly by the two groups, fulfilled the aspirations for “a way to tap into the talents of the women represented by a Yale women’s network of both faculty and graduates” that were voiced in 2001 at the WFF’s inaugural conference titled “Gender Matters,” by Linda Koch Lorimer ’77 J.D., then the vice president and secretary of the university and now vice president for global and strategic initiatives, and one of the moderators of the 2014 event. Lorimer in 2001 asked, “Could we imagine a ‘new sisters’ connection,’ one that had such a robust inventory of the resources Yale women represent (our experiences, talents and interests) that we could call upon one another to help address the larger issues facing our society?”

The sessions at this year’s “Gender Rules” conversation both celebrated gains that have been made in gender diversity — on campus and in the broader society — and candidly examined areas where equality has not yet been achieved in the academy, in the corporate world, and in the public sector. Speakers also shared strategies to improve access and outcomes, in keeping with the organizers’ goal not only to expose problems but also to propose solutions.

Opened by YaleWomen Chair Laura Grondin ’85 and Professor Paula Kavathas, chair of the WFF, the day closed with a conversation on diversity at Yale with President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. and Provost Benjamin Polak, who stated, “An excellent faculty is a diverse faculty.” Catherine Hill ’85 Ph.D., president of Vassar College and a trustee of Yale, moderated one session. Hill was one of two Yale alumnae college presidents to return to campus as conference presenters, along with Kathleen McCartney ’82 Ph.D., president of Smith College. Alumnae and friends on the faculty of the University of California-Davis, Rutgers, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Yeshiva, and The New School also gave presentations, along with leaders from eBay and the Ms. Foundation for Women, and Yale faculty from the Schools of Law, Management, and Medicine, and the Departments of American Studies, Anthropology, History of Art, Political Science, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Miko McGinty ’93, ’98 M.F.A. was among the many participants who expressed enthusiasm for the event on social media, as she tweeted, “A great discussion today about women in leadership roles and the best examples before us! Inspiring.”  She and many other participants captured the highlights of the conversation throughout the day on Twitter, and readers can see the full account of the event by reading the Storify digest by YaleWomen online here.

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