Vision 2020 National Advisor Donna Shalala is President, University of Miami and former US Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Generations have come and gone since Lizzy Stanton added two crucial words to the most hallowed phrase in our shared history as Americans: “All men — and women — are created equal.”
Equality is not just a women’s issue – it is everyone’s challenge. Universities can and must continue to be models that support universal women’s equality. I spend a great deal of time with young people and that makes it easy to see the changes in their attitudes about the roles of gender in our nation and the world; today’s students don’t have the hang-ups their parents did at the same age. It’s encouraging to see young men with different attitudes than previous generations, and it gives me hope for the future.
Institutionally, new generations of university leaders are poised to engage the entire university community in evaluating the quality and quantity of opportunities for women.
We must commit to supporting the academic trajectories of women – from the time they enter as students through graduate school, post doc, and finally their first hire. By offering networking and leadership opportunities and professional mentoring, universities build a strong foundation on which women can develop their careers, while laying the groundwork for success for future generations.
I remember the unfair stings of my own experience as a young graduate student when I was told that women in higher education were a “bad investment.” I won’t ever forget how much women have sacrificed to claim their rightful place at the table, in academia and other arenas. We have taken big steps as a nation and a society, but we still have a long way to go. We must keep firmly in mind that we risk our claim to global leadership when we leave half the population hungry for long-overdue and necessary change.