By KATE ANGUS
On Sunday, 28 students, and 11 alumnae and local professionals gathered in Eben Holden for the Women’s Empowerment Fireside Chat, “Unapologetically You: Breaking Through, Taking Risks, and Being Authentic.”
This was the third annual event of its kind, as a part of Career Services Women’s Empowerment Initiative. The initiative was started in 2015 in an effort to examine issues specific to women in the workplace, leadership positions and the professional world.
Beth Larrabee, associate director of career services, organized the event. “Now more than ever it is essential to afford our young women an encouraging space to develop their views, find their voice and courage to lead”.
The event began with a speech from alumna Elly Tatum ’93, who is the editor-in-chief of the New York Amsterdam News, one of the first black newspapers in the country. Tatum was honored by Ebony magazine as one of the top women in marketing and communications in 2001, by Senator Hillary Clinton’s Second Annual African-American History Month Celebration in Lincoln Center in 2003, and has numerous other awards. She shared with us the story of her professional journey, starting with a life changing trip during her St. Lawrence years to Nairobi to help refugees. Her main advice to young women? “If there’s something you want to do, you will find a way to do it.”
The next speaker was Louisa Winthrop, a parent of a current SLU student. Winthrop is currently a Clinical Social Worker at YWCA Greenwich Domestic Abuse Services. She urged the young women in the room to tune into their “inner wise woman” to find the encouragement they need to follow their passions. She placed emphasis on the importance of defying the societal norm that “girls are raised to please others,” and that it’s important to foster a sense of “healthy selfishness” as a form of self-care.
The floor was then opened into a Q & A session, in which discussion ranged from overcoming the fear of failure to the women’s biggest role models, as well as how to foster greater female representation in professional settings. Tatum reminded the audience about the importance of supporting women around you in the professional world, saying “it’s okay to be the first, but don’t be the only, and don’t be the last”.
Finally, the event ended with a casual chat with the different professional mentors and alumnae around the room, including Emily Marquart, Kimberly Flint-Hamilton, Susan Hodgson, Angelilca Soto, Laura Brown, Katherine Penalo, Jordan Walker, Carmen Gendebien, Courtney Bish, Jill Breit, and Bailey Airnold. Conversations ranged from professional networking to more personal advice for self-care and empowerment.
Tyler Sene ’20, was inspired by the event stating that “the different perspectives of the female experience and the pieces of knowledge are something that I’ll take with me. It was interesting to see where the conversation went because we all had something in common about our upbringing just based on being a woman.”
Thelmo President R. Christopher DiMezzo ’18 also attended the event. In response, he said “I hope in the future there will be more men in attendance, as women’s empowerment is not just a women’s issue—men need to step up and do their part.”
Beth Larrabee reflects “that we had an exceptional group of professional women representing diverse experiences who helped accomplish our goals. Given the success over the past several years, we will continue these efforts in the future.” Those who were in attendance would agree that members of any gender would benefit greatly from the inspiring advice and networking opportunities available at future events like this one.
Despite the lack of male representation, those in attendance left with spirits high and lessons that will help them succeed for the rest of their lives.