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Monday, February 12, 2007Progress
Photo by Tony Rinaldo
Hooray for progress in America. Today marks a milestone. Harvard announced yesterday that Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust will be their 28th President. To see the full story, visit: http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/02.15/99-president.html
Not only is this exciting news for a recent alum, but I am thrilled that our oldest American institution of higher learning is reflecting a change in the nation. The last one hundred years (give or take a generation or two) have been an extraordinary time for women in America. Specifically, the rise of women in the professional workplace has continued to increase exponentially over the past 30 years.
Women now have a stake in the White House; the number of women in fields such as medicine, science, politics, and education, are greater than ever; women’s earnings in the workplace continue to rise (although some of us would contend “not enough!”); more women are attending college and earning advanced degrees than ever before (women outnumber men, in most liberal arts colleges and universities); well-respected women are in the forefront of our media - Oprah and Katie Couric have become household names. Slowly, the glass ceiling is beginning to shatter and new opportunities for leadership are emerging.
We women have had much to celebrate – and the celebration continues with the designation of Dr. Faust. Not only is this a symbolic new hire for women, but one for the University as a whole. Since its founding in 1636, Harvard has been part of the “old boys club” of sorts. It has been stereotyped as an institution for rich, white, boys (which, in all fairness, it was for a few hundred years). Recently, however, the University has made a number of changes and initiatives to promote a culture of diversity. Perhaps this new appointment of a female President may be politically motivated, but it cannot be argued that it is symbolic. Many of you remember the trouble that Larry Summers (former Harvard President) got himself into by suggesting that women in science did not have the same “smarts” as men. (That’s another topic of conversation that I could get into – and at length – but have purposefully averted.) As one of the leading institutions for science and research, Harvard University has put a woman at the helm.
The Higher Education community now has a number of female presidents guiding the paths toward progress. I have no doubt that Dr. Faust’s leadership and ability will be under a microscope during her tenure as President. It is my hope, however, that it will not become a gender issue – but rather, an opportunity to discuss different types of leadership and collaboration.
This is a great, great day; and I say, HOORAY!