I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of hanging out with some pretty amazing women in the last several days.
Last Thursday, at a press briefing and luncheon, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation released their new study on the condition and status of women and girls in the Washington region. What is especially terrific about Portrait Project 2010 is the fact that Trinity faculty and students participated in some of the field interviews for this report, and some of the quotes from the work of Trinity students appear in the report. Many thanks to Dr. Roxana Moayedi for organizing Trinity’s participation in this project, and to Dr. Jamey Piland, Dr. Debbie Harris-O’Brien, Dr. Carlota Ocampo and Dr. Liza Child for your participation and leadership, as well as thanks to all students who participated in the focus group interviews.
You can download the entire report by clicking Portrait Project 2010. In addition to seeing the Trinity quotes, the reports includes a great deal of vital data that affects our work in women’s education at Trinity. I urge everyone to take the time to read this report and think about effective ways for Trinity to respond to the challenges presented. More on this in the days to come on this blog….
Thanks also to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation for including Trinity in this project, and for supporting this and other initiatives at Trinity. With more than 1,000 people packing the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt for the luncheon, including members of the White House Council on Women and other significant advocacy and policy leaders, its become clear that the work of WAWF has significant impact on women and organizations in this region, and we are so pleased to be a partner with this important organization.
Then, on Friday, I headed to Montreal to take part in the annual gala of the International Women’s Forum where I was pleased for Trinity’s sake that I got to be part of a group of seven leaders honored as “Women Who Make a Difference.” The 1,200+ people packing the ballroom at the Montreal Convention center were a real tribute to the growth of this organization that seeks to use the leverage of women who are CEO’s or other senior leaders in cities around the world to focus attention on critical issues. This year’s IWF conference, for example, examined issues of water and environmental concerns for women around the globe. Like WAWF, here was another group of incredibly talented and committed women leaders coming together to talk about ways we can address vital issues for the future health of our communities and families. The evening also featured inductions into the International Women’s Hall of Fame for several notable women leaders including the Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court Beverly McLachlin and Canadian Astronaut Julie Payette, among others.
On my way back from Montreal, I stopped in Philadelphia for a different sort of gala — the Sisters of Mercy have been in Philadelphia for 150 years, and tonight, 2,500 of their top fans, former students and current families packed the very ritzy Kimmel Center in Center City for a celebratory show. More than 600 children and adults participated in the well-orchestrated montage of scenes from the history of the RSM’s, accompanied by choirs and musicians from the various Mercy schools and other ministries. Long before I met the Sisters of Notre Dame in college, I had been influenced by the Sisters of Mercy in grade school and high school. These amazing women built one of the greatest healthcare systems in the country — Mercy Healthcare is everywhere — and their network of schools and colleges is impressive. Like many religious orders of women, their numbers of professed religious are dwindling, but from what I could see tonight at the Kimmel Center, the future of their ministries in partnership with lay leaders is very bright.
From the powerful tables of women gathered at lunch in Washington, to the impressive roll call of international women of achievement in Montreal, to the remarkable scene of nearly 3000 people standing at Kimmel Center singing a special Mercy song led by a small nun with a large baton, these amazing women are a powerful force for good in a world that, still, in too many places, inhibits the ability of women and children to thrive. While each of these large groups of women had a very different style, they shared a common agenda: to use their special gifts — money, talent, time, passion, commitment, secular and spiritual force — to improve the lives of other women and girls through education, health care, advocacy for better services and policies, and effective role modeling.
Whether a religious sister teaching in a parish grade school, an international financier, a wealthy philanthropist or a space shuttle commander, these women all know and understand that they have a deep responsibility to blaze trails, to do what we can right now to improve conditions, and to inspire new generations of rising leaders to take up our work. The latter issue may well be our deepest concern — will there be enough women of talent and commitment to take up this work in the future? We have reason to be hopeful, but we must never relent in our sense of responsibility to “lift as we climb.”