Education Panel Discussion – Vision 2020 #V2020Ed

Right now the room’s empty but soon it will be filled with delegates from the 50 States and District of Columbia waiting to listen to and question the Education Panelists that are part of Vision 2020:An American Conversation about Women and Leadership.

Panelists are:

  1. Margarita Calderon, Ph.D. – Professor Emerita and Senior Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Education
  2. Rebecca Chopp, Ph.D. – President, Swarthmore College
  3. Roger Lenecka – Principal, R&R Education Consultants

The moderators, for what will surely be a lively conversation, are Lisa Nutter, President, Philadelphia Academies, Inc. and Azsherae Gary, Bryn Mawr College Class of 2011.

The noise level is rising as delegates, ambassadors and guests take their seats. It’s pure energy with a focus on the same cause – shaping the future of women’s leadership in the next decade.

The backdrop for the panel is a screen saying: EQUALITY is a measure of our democracy.

The conversation begins:

Moderator – The 3 touch-points for this discussion are:

1. How do we get more women in top leadership positions?

2. What have been the opportunity trends for women and how have the trends changed?

3. What’s the role education has played and will play in women’s career choices?

Lehecka said that when he was growing up women were denied admission to Ivy League colleges because the Ivy’s were preparing students for leadership roles and women weren’t going to be leaders. Now 57% of undergrads are women and their numbers dominate so although things have changed we need to be aware that those percentages are not assured to continue. History shows that the numbers of women in higher education has not been a steady upward trend. It has increased, decreased and increased again.

Chopp said that in late 40s and 50s there were culture changes and a context that affected women in leadership:

  • The pill – probably the single biggest factor of changing women’s opportunities
  • The changing definition of what constitutes a family
  • Women went to work in massive numbers because money/income was needed by families
  • Women did not have mentors in that era but I went to college and that was the door for me to step forward in life
  • We need to mentor women more and more – it’s needed for an increased number of women step forward

Calderon said Latinos and Hispanics are the fastest growing group in U.S but they represent only .003 % of leaders in higher ed. We need to support this group in the education field, particular in technology and leadership positions. She wants to see rigorous efforts made to support Latina women in education.

Moderator – Expectations are sometimes obstacles in our culture for women. What do you see as the obstacles?

Lehecka -There is still an under representation of women in science and engineering and, particularly, in physical science. Because these are male fields, mentors are lacking and this is an obstacle. My own daughters have said “I hate math. I hate science.” and yet they have some of my genes and math and science is not hard for them. So girls are still getting the wrong message about math and science in public education.

Calderon – there are mixed messages given to women: we no longer offer courses with Feminist in the title as if advocacy and help is no longer needed. There is no longer a clear voice of activism. Women are told they should be wonder women and do it all now that they have supposed attained equality.

Chopp -Women are not encouraged to think of rigorous science research as important and they are left behind in research.

Moderator Nutter – As a mother, what do I tell daughter to put in her toolkit for the future?

Chopp – Women need to assume responsibility and step forward. It seems to be hard for them to make tough decisions such as addressing conflict, firing people. They’re great at soft skills, which is wonderful but they need to step forward and make tough decisions.

Question from a woman from the University of MD – it’s easy to get women as faculty but hard to get them tenure, esp. if leave  to care for children for a couple of yrs.

Chopp – We’re expected to raise kids and write 2 books as requirement for advancement. Then we often are for caring elderly parents. WE NEED FAMILY FRIENDLY systems. Our structure is outdated.

Lehecka – access to higher ed has improved for women has but came not because enlightenment but because of outside events that drove institutions to be more fair. Men must play a different role in families.

Calderon – The Latino economy is dominated by mucho macho Latino males and Latina women have difficulty finding mentors so need support system at University. Students should walk out of advanced degrees programs with 4 solid publications. It would help them down the road when they have families and are required to have publications for tenure.

Chopp – Creativity, collaboration in diverse teams, innovative and critical thinking skills are needed in k-12 and think a liberal arts education is more important vs biz education in undergrad where students flock to learn biz skills rather that these other skills that learn in liberal arts.

Delegate agreed, her Liberal Arts degree has informed her entrepreneurship dramatically and the structures and form of biz can be learned later.

Chopp – we ought to be marching in the streets about k-12 education, it’s in trouble. Deep trouble.

Lehecka – The growth in the number of women in colleges comes from black and Latino communities where percentage of women going into higher ed are much greater than blacks and Latinos. As affirmative action race-conscious admissions are slashed it will hurt women’s advancement.

Calderon – new policies and funding have strings mandating more rigorous instruction

Develop a framework and structure to help children at risk to become leaders – layered mentoring program – easier in charter schools because of more freedom than in public schools.

Comment – There is a confidence differential between women and men – actually that starts as girls and boys. Transcends socio-economic status. Want to see us develop a culture of sisterhood to help each other with this.

Comment – need to increase safety for women on campuses and change the attitude toward sexual assault. Follow-up Comment – violence against women is epidemic.

Comment – We need year round school – for families and women to be able to continue working. Children also need – idle time is the devil’s workshop. How do we accomplish this?

Comment – Two crimes I see: (1) Early childhood education is needed for every student in this country and we don’t have a system for that. (2) The cost of higher education – it gets harder to see ROI and harder to imagine paying off the debt.

Comment – There’s a paradox – women are majority of undergrads, and a majority in many areas now but there’s a clog in the pipeline. Women are not moving into leadership positions. How can education help women know there are gender issues and how to deal with them?

Calderon – we need to increase rigor in all levels of education and that’s what I’d like to see Vision 2020 address: ways to increase rigor.

Top objectives that you see for education for women

Calderon – we need to increase rigor in all levels of education and that’s what I’d like to see Vision 2020 address: ways to increase rigor.

2. Graduate students need support – there are so many ADD’s out there.


Increase funding to schools

Create family friendly policies

Expose girls to extracurricular activities


Young girls ought to be taught more seriously in math and science

You can focus on top leaders but we still need to help all levels of women and men.



About equalityinsight

Vision 2020 is a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality. Join Vision 2020 today!
This entry was posted in Vision 2020 News, Women's Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Education Panel Discussion – Vision 2020 #V2020Ed

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