Pace Hosts First Women’s Leadership Conference

Emily Wolfrum, Editor-in-Chief

Pace hosted its first Women’s Leadership Conference, as part of Women’s Empowerment Week, on Fri. Feb. 27 in Gottesman Room.

 Four students opened the event with “PACE Talk” speeches modeled after TED Talks. Each offered a unique perspective on being a woman leader.

 Sophomore Nihal Al Qawasmi was the first to speak, beginning with her experience as a Palestinian Muslim woman, before commenting upon the larger issue of patriarchal societies.

 “Our whole image as women has been completely misrepresented and altered to fit the patriarchal agenda,” Al Qawasmi said. “Too quickly are women pushed aside, categorized, and told to be lesser, smaller versions of themselves. They are told they take up ‘too much space,’ and that they should be ‘quieter,’ ‘softer.’”

 Freshman Alexis Neuville was the youngest of the speakers. A Wisconsin native, Neuville spoke of the limited opportunities for girls in her hometown.

 “I realized the lack of women motivation, and I knew I had to do something about it,” she said. “Girls were simply pushed aside at a young age, and I wanted to change that.”

 In high school, she was involved in her local Smart Girls Group, and later adapted the organization for younger girls, promoting the motto of “becoming stronger, bolder, and smarter.”

“In today’s society, women don’t understand the importance of using their voice and being able to stand up for themselves,” Neuville said. “That was what I based my speech on: stand up, use your voice, and be strong, bold, and confident.”

 Like Neuville, senior Samantha Clarke used her speech to encourage individuals to speak up, offering advice for individuals to become a leader.

 In the final PACE Talk speech, graduate student Cristina Theriault recalled a quote from the movieMatilda: “It’s wonderful you feel so powerful. Many people don’t feel powerful at all.”

 Theriault noted that it was Matilda’s belief in her own abilities that made her powerful, rather than magic, as the film suggests. This lesson could be beneficial to all women.

 The speakers were brought together by Coordinator for Leadership Initiatives Jeff Domagala, who organized much of the event.

 Various sessions were held by Pace professors and staff. Each focused on the development of women as leaders, ranging from a personal conversation by Lubin professor Melissa Cardon on self-value to broad, global discussion about the “Glass Ceiling” by Rachel Simon, Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity.

 The event concluded with a “World Café” activity held by the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute (EFLI).

 EFLI is a leadership initiative in Westchester County that provides summer programs for young girls. Their goal is to “promote leadership…through self-empowerment, connection with others and activism in their communities,” according to its website.

 High school girls from EFLI were an active part of the conference, and led group discussions during the final activity.

 Participants were encouraged to address both problems facing women leadership and possible solutions.

 Most agreed that the negative stigma attached to feminism and lacking male representation for the cause were setbacks.

 However, through communities of like-minded and supportive individuals, participants believed that these problems could be improved. It was also suggested that Pace develop a women’s organization on campus to continue discussion of many of these ideas.

 Currently, Simon and Cornell Craig of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity are organizing a women’s group at Pace. An interest meeting will be held on Thur. March 5 at the Center for Unity and Equality in Kessel.

 “Having an initiative like this one is very important because the Pace community has never seen anything like it before,” Al Qawasmi said. “I think it shed light on a lot of areas regarding women’s issues, and it definitely sparked conversations and hopefully action.”