“Just Do It” The Power of Women’s Leadership

Photo courtesy of Grecourt Gate | Pictured above (from left to right): Marian Wright Edelman, Farah Pandith ‘90, Soledad O’Brien, and Jane Harmon ‘66 during their discussion panel on women’s leadership.  

Dorean Collins '16 Contributing Writer

The Inauguration of Smith College’s 11th President, Kathleen McCartney, also known as K-Mac, took place on Saturday October 19. The day began with the ringing of the college bells, continued with panel discussions, and a bagpipe procession, that all lead to the installation of Kathleen McCartney.

One of the panel discussions was called “The Transformational Power of Women’s Leadership,” a conversation with Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Jane Harman ’66, director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former U.S Representative from California; Farah Pandith ’90, special representative to Muslim communities, U.S Department of State; and Julianna Smoot ’89, Democratic political adviser. The discussion was moderated by noted broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien.

Each panelist shared their story and discussed their love for leadership. From an education activist to a U.S Representative these women brought to the table a myriad of knowledge and advice to future women leaders. The theme throughout the discussion was finding your passion and pursuing it fearlessly. When reminiscing on her early career in activism, Edelman said, “I got so mad, so I knew I was doing my calling.” Pandith followed up on her statement and told the audience, “When you feel that passion inside of you...you know that’s your calling.” “Take the self-confidence you learned at Smith, look deep into yourself and just do it,” said Harman.

All educated at women’s colleges, the panelist believed that a women’s institution gave them the skills they needed to thrive in male-dominated fields. Whether they took on leadership positions on campus as SGA President, started or participated in “orgs”, did community outreach in neighboring towns, or studied abroad; these avenues gave them the opportunity to see what is possible in the world, and was an inspiration to seize it. The panelist mentioned that their road to success was accompanied with adversity, and when asked how they handled it, Harman ’66 said, “A lot of life is taking on the bad guys. You’re obviously fierce enough to do it, so do it.” The women reminded the audience that it is very important to follow your passion but just as important to help other women do the same. They all agreed that a large part of women’s leadership is creating a network where women can help one another succeed.

The discussion ended with a question from a member of the audience: how do you mobilize grassroots change? Farrah Pandith ’90 said, “This generation is not waiting for someone to tell them it’s okay to do something, this generation is a generation saying it’s time, it’s now, and I’m gonna do it.”