Whitman Hosts Annual ‘Women in Leadership’ Symposium

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the Reid Ballroom, Whitman once again hosted three highly successful women leaders for a symposium on women in leadership that occurs every year. A room full of women of all ages, and a spattering of men, listened to the career paths of Aya Hamilton, Fidelma McGinn and alumna Deborah Streeter ’85 after an introduction from moderator alumna Colleen Willoughby ’55, another success in female leadership. After an overview and brief message from all three speakers, these women exchanged questions and answers with an engaged audience.

Hamilton is now the northwest region head for private wealth management at Goldman Sachs. She made a large shift from a childhood of ballet to a career in Wall Street, and has since worked for multiple organizations within the community, from Pacific Northwest Ballet to Evergreen Healthcare Foundation.

Streeter works with nonprofits to increase their effectiveness and develop their strengths. Identifying her ability to “think thoughtfully about people’s lives,” she began her career doing volunteer work. Streeter found a harmony in work and motherhood, recognizing that being intellectually stimulated aided her efforts as a mother as well. Now, she draws heavily on artistry in her workshops to spark people’s creativity and help them develop their nonprofits, stressing the benefits of a holistic approach.

McGinn began in Ireland working for Microsoft, and later moved to the United States and began to work in the nonprofit field. She was very involved with drama in her youth, and reflected that “this was a preview for my career”—she still works to put on a show and draw people in for the sake of getting donations for a good cause.

These three women, though having constructed notably different careers for themselves, shared a couple of important concepts in their presentations.

As sophomore Perry Anderson said, “The part that I thought was the most interesting … was the amount of overlap between each of their experiences in different parts of the business world.”

One of these was the interaction with the arts in their respective fields, often utilizing them to spur creativity and development. Another was involvement with the community, and contribution to philanthropic causes. A strong cause for success, it was posited, was the fact that they all “followed their hearts” when building a career path.

The question naturally arose—why women?

As Streeter explained, “women tend to be more nurturing … we have a responsibility to bring people up who don’t have so many advantages.”

Hamilton echoed this idea, saying that women are “better than men at seeing the broader situation… [they] don’t bring an ego.”

McGinn referenced an Africa proverb that says, essentially, “teach a man to read, you teach a man to read. Teach a woman, and you teach the village.”

Women, then, as they explained, not only had the opportunity but the responsibility to bring these things to the world through leadership.

As Whitman students posed questions for the speakers, leadership of women on campus came into light. Leadership from ASWC to the RA staff saw different patterns by students. A female ASWC senator related her observation of women’s ability to raise morale and spread positive energy as leaders. At the same time, the issue of the gender disparity in Whitman’s student body government was raised. Conversely, the involvement in residence life and organized community service is markedly dominated by females. The reflections of these women offered steps to addressing these problems on campus, such as actively seeking males to get involved, and being comfortable with having confidence, as women are often not.

The symposium ended with inspiration: a reminder of McGinn’s three steps to developing yourself in any ambition, “Show up, step up, and follow up,” and a powerful statement by Hamilton to the female population—”you’re better than you think you are.”




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