By: Joshua Durando
The Trustees’ Council of Penn Women (TCPW) – an international network of Penn alumnae – awarded Janet Napolitano with the Beacon Award during the spring conference “Penn Women” Leading the Way”. The award, which is TCPW’s highest honor, is given in recognition of commitment to the advancement of women and gender equality. Ms. Napolitano is the 13th recipient of this prestigious award joining past winners Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Toni Morrison. Even taking a quick look at her credentials there is no question as to why.
Ms. Napolitano currently serves as President of the University of California system, the first woman to become the leader of the world’s largest university system. Her past accomplishments are just as impressive having served as the Governor of Arizona and the first female attorney general of the state, and as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. She is the first and only woman to hold the position to date.
In her speech Ms. Napolitano raised questions about the messages we are sending to women, and how we may be subtly steering them away from opportunities to lead. She tackled the word “bossy” as an example of how we identify executive leadership qualities in women as a negative, but celebrate them in men. Napolitano also noted the importance of “raising their hand”. She spoke about how if women are in the right place at the right time and you are ready, how vital it is that they not self-select out of leadership opportunities. Ms. Napolitano encouraged the women in the audience to take risks, and to teach younger generations of women to do the same.
Ms. Napolitano’s award was just one of the many celebrations of women that took place over the two days of the annual spring conference. Other highlights include: Panels “Women & Politics: Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders Today”, and “Then and Now: Penn Trailblazers Reflect”; a presentation by Wharton Professor Stewart Friedman titled “Leadership for the Total Person: The Impossible Dream?”; and presentations of TCPW’s athletic achievement, student leadership and Huber-Giles Memorial awards.
Although many of the messages throughout the conference are geared towards woman audience, and many of the anecdotes are based on experiences of overcoming the challenges of being a woman leader, I think there are lessons to be learned for everyone. As a male, I was enlightened by many of the stories, and inspired to take some of these lessons to hear to apply in my own life.
For more information on the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women, visit: http://www.alumni.upenn.edu/s/1587/gid2/index.aspx?sid=1587&gid=2&pgid=420