Nine female representatives from a variety of undergraduate organizations met in Holden Chapel yesterday to talk about the challenges facing Harvard women pursuing leadership positions on campus.
Student panelists, ranging from the heads of student political groups to the former president of HUTV, commented on how they reached their current positions and their respective experiences as women in charge.
The discussion was moderated by Nannerl O. Keohane, a former president of Wellesley College and Duke University and a current Princeton professor.
The event grew partially out of a discussion about underrepresentation of women on the Undergraduate Council, which cosponsored the event with the Harvard College Women’s Center.
In last fall’s election of new freshman representatives to the UC, eleven of the twelve positions were filled by men.
“It is the single biggest problem for the UC right now,” said Bonnie Cao ’12, vice-president of the UC, who served as a panelist.
Keohane opened the event by describing the findings of a recent report she and several of her colleagues wrote on the achievement and leadership of female Princeton undergraduates.
The report concluded that there were subtle, but real differences between the ways in which men and women took advantage of extracurricular opportunities on campus.
In particular, women tended to do more work than men, undersell themselves, and fill roles with less visibility but greater impact.
“We want to make clear that both high profile jobs and jobs behind the scenes are important leadership positions,” said Keohane. “But we also wanted to point out the important advantages of high-profile jobs.”
In response to concerns over the lack of confidence among female students, Keohane suggested a number of possible solutions, including an increased focus on upperclassman mentors.
“The reason I got involved with the Dems was because the president, who was a woman, reached out to me when I was a freshman,” said Katie R. Zavadski ’13, the current Vice President of the Harvard College Democrats, who is also a Crimson editorial comper.
While they debated additional methods for dealing with the issue of gender imbalance, the panelists agreed on the benefits of holding a leadership positions and building strong communities.
“In high school I was a go-getter, but when I got to college I was very intimidated,” said Beverly E. Pozuelos ’12, the President of Latinas Unidas and a Crimson design editor. “Leadership helped me find my voice.”
“I would encourage the Harvard community and administration to take a close look at [Keohane’s] report,” said Ashley M. Fabrizio ’11, a former member of the UC who organized the panel. “We came to a lot of interesting suggestions that we could integrate at Harvard.”
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