Buzzing with the excitement of their upcoming Thanksgiving break, Chapin’s Upper School students filed eagerly into the Assembly Room and were greeted by an impressive group of women seated on the stage: journalist Katie Couric; US District Court Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall; CEO and co-founder of Ellevest Sallie Krawcheck; Academy Award-winning actor Julianne Moore; and MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace.
Organized by Class 11 Supervisor and Upper School Arts Integrator Sarah Rutledge and Director of Community Life and Diversity Erica Corbin, these extraordinarily successful panelists were gathered at 100 East End to offer heartfelt advice and inspiring stories as women working in male-dominated fields.
Throughout their time together, the panel moderator Ms. Corbin, and later the students, asked the guests many thought-provoking questions, from how to affect change to what to do when a man talks over you. This conversation among such strong and distinguished women was an important one, likely leaving those in attendance feeling more empowered to tackle the adversity and challenges in their own lives.
The loss of her husband to colorectal cancer in 1998 was the impetus for Ms. Couric to create change. In addition to getting a colonoscopy live on The Today Show, she co-founded the nonprofit organization Stand Up To Cancer. The journalist encouraged our students to think about the causes that are meaningful to them and take action. Whether talking with friends and family, building awareness on social media, or taking to the streets in protest, Ms. Couric reminded everyone just how many different ways there are to play a significant role.
After sharing her journey to becoming a judge, Ms. Hall counseled the students to always stand up for themselves and for other women in the face of discrimination, and to use empowering “self-talk” (ex: telling yourself to never ask permission to speak in a meeting) when facing self-doubt. Ms. Hall expressed her dismay, as well, at women’s tendency to strive for perfection, and, in doing so, denying themselves the right to speak their minds. She shared some of her favorite words of wisdom, too: “It is better to be brave than to be perfect.”
Ms. Krawcheck noted her struggles with discrimination as a woman in finance, but this left her more driven than deterred. She explained that choosing different strategies than those of men on Wall Street has ultimately helped her company to stand out. She urged the students to draw on their power to demand a more equal workplace, to find their allies (both male and female), and to amplify and support their female coworkers and friends.
Born into a military family, Ms. Moore’s constant as she moved from place to place was drama club. She shared her experience observing the growing gender disparity in the acting world as she moved from her high school club to the college drama department and, eventually, to professional film sets, where her frustration grew over the lack of leading roles for women. The actor also discussed the impact Time’s Up* has had in creating a strong network of women beyond Hollywood and across industries, enabling them to support and uplift one another. Ms. Moore advised our students to turn to each other for help, to ensure everyone has a seat at the table, and to choose life partners who will act as teammates in all aspects of their lives.
Furthermore, Ms. Wallace explained how she made the move from politics to television and noted how important remaining open to new opportunities has been throughout her career. She encouraged the students to remember that they have the power to create change through the choices they make… from their purchases and media consumption to their votes at the polls.
The audience would have loved for this thoughtful, candid and moving conversation to continue on for far longer. It was, however, certainly one these Upper School students will remember as they go out and make their marks on the world.
*Time’s Up is a movement against sexual harassment founded by Hollywood actors in response to the “Harvey Weinstein effect” and #MeToo.