In 1970, Colgate welcomed the inaugural first-year class of women. In March, the University held a special two-day event to honor the ambition of these women and to inspire the next generation to walk proudly in their footsteps. More than 100 students and 33 alumnae attended Empowering the Next Generation: A Weekend of Supporting Ambitions and Celebrating Achievement.
Mary Gay Scanlon ’80, who is a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania’s 5th District, delivered the keynote address. She cited the “fortitude, forged from the Colgate undergraduate experience,” as an influence that helped lead her to Congress. “The relationships you build here can certainly form a part of building your next chapter,” Scanlon said. “As you go forth, I would urge you to find your passion and cherish your connections, because that is ultimately going to help you get to where you want to be.”
That Saturday, alumnae hosted breakout panels, tackling topics such as “Stepping into Leadership Roles,” “Leaning into Underrepresented Careers,” and “#MeToo and Navigating Gender Dynamics in the Workplace.”
The discussions were punctuated by a lunch, featuring Carole Robinson ’83, P’18, Buzzfeed’s chief communications officer. Robinson spent the majority of her career working for MTV shortly after it was established. She emphasized the underrepresentation of women, particularly women of color, in leadership roles and the need to include men in conversations about altering underlying biases.
“I’ve been hearing that, in the #MeToo era, men have to be ‘so careful about how they engage with female colleagues now that the rules have changed,’” she said. “To be clear, none of the rules have changed. The rules are the same ones we learned in kindergarten: We keep our hands to ourselves and treat each other with respect.”
One of the last panels of the day, “#MeToo and Navigating Gender Dynamics in the Workplace,” proved particularly relevant given Robinson’s remarks. Alumnae shared deeply personal accounts of their experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace, demonstrating the ways in which they took action or what they wished they had done.
Caitlin Moore ’11, director of operations of Live Events WME, reflected on the necessity of speaking up and trusting one’s gut. “I think the way a lot of women react is to remain silent, so that you don’t make them angrier or cause them to lash out,” Moore said. “But then it dawned on me, I run this show — why am I being made to feel uncomfortable? And if I don’t speak up for myself, who will?”