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What’s Up With Her Outburst?


Seems like I hit a nerve with my talk during Cap & Gown Convocation. My remarks asked the rhetorical question, “What’s up with her outburst?” paraphrasing several situations in which women who spoke up got put down with comments about their “outbursts.” Several students came up to me after the ceremony to tell me that they definitely have had experiences — usually at work — in which their attempts to make a strong statement have been disparaged, while male colleagues making similar statements have been praised as good leaders.

A young alumna, Ria Leilani Baldevia ’05, writes from Hawaii where she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Economics: (She gave me permission to quote her comments) “I love the article concerning the outburst and the voice of women in higher education. I value and appreciate the environment of Trinity more than ever now. My graduate group consists of 8 people, 4 women and 4 men (I will take my comprehensive exams in Economics this May 2007). It’s been a tricky balancing act since I’ve arrived. At the East West Center, the student fellows participate in the weekly Wednesday night seminar which is composed of a presentation and a Q&A section. And of course, those asking questions comprise mostly of men. And when women do ask questions, it’s with a soft tone voicing gentle issues that are far from rocking the boat. I am aware of the scenario, I hear the grumblings from my female colleagues, and now I am regaining my voice in the whole group. I was guilty of being quiet and observing too much without acting, when I know I am capable to do so. And I also have the Trinity background to remind me exactly how it was for your voice to be valued and how it WAS EXPECTED that you speak up. Cultivating opinions and expressing them in a contentious, aggressive manner was found to be admirable by my male colleagues. It was surprising to know that the gentleman across the table, who tore my argument apart (and vice versa), would come up to me and thank me for our conversation and exchange of ideas. It’s very refreshing to know that my student fellows find it refreshing and wholeheartedly appreciate the skills I garnered at Trinity.”

How about you? What is your experience with standing up and speaking out for the ideas and causes that are important to you? Please send me your comments by clicking on the envelope below, or send me a message at

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: