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Over 800 female alumni flooded Harvard Business School’s campus on Thursday and Friday to attend the W50 Summit, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of women’s admission to the school’s MBA program.
The program featured speeches from female leaders, including University President Drew G. Faust, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl K. Sandberg ’91, and former Time Inc. Chairman and CEO Anne S. Moore. Over the course of the two days attendees attended breakout sessions, movie screenings, and lunches with their fellow alumni.
In her speech Thursday morning, Faust emphasized the importance of allowing women to have the same access to education as men.
“We educate women because it is fair. We educate women also because it is smart. And finally, we educate women because it is transformative,” she said.
Faust brought up past and present women’s rights activists like Margaret Fuller, the first woman allowed to use a Harvard library, and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot for her work to promote the education of women, as examples of “pioneers” in the fight for female equality.
Sandberg, who spoke Friday afternoon, also championed a message of female empowerment. Echoing the message of the speech she delivered last Thursday in Sanders Theatre, Sandberg encouraged members of the audience to contemplate what they might be able to do if they did not fear failure.
Sandberg said she thinks the progress of women has stagnated over the past ten years. Women must do more to change their station and not wait for the world to progress around them, she said.
“The world changes with every woman who leans in,” she said.
Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, who delivered the opening and closing addresses at the conference, highlighted several developments regarding the continued push for women’s equality at the school.
According to Nohria, none of the buildings on the Business School’s campus have ever been named after a woman—a fact that will change this year with the opening of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center.
Nohria also announced the creation of a new faculty position entitled the Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration, intended to always be filled by “someone committed deeply to the advancement of women in leadership.” Robin J. Ely, a senior associate dean, will be the first person to hold this title.
Finally Nohria said that the Women’s Student Association, a group that “has done more for this cause than any of us could ever imagine,” has endowed an MBA fellowship to ensure that women from diverse backgrounds can have the opportunity to attend the Business School.
Women who attended the W50 summit said they appreciated the variety of events offered during the conference.
“This school has changed a lot in the past few years,” said Kristine Holland de Juniac, who graduated from the Business School in 1980. “I never really thought about how sexist it was back when I was a student here. But it was and it’s encouraging to see that they’re really making an effort to change it.”
—Staff writer Pooja Podugu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @PoojaPodugu.
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