Herstory at Penn
If there is any doubt that women are assuming greater leadership roles at Penn, one need look no farther than the office of university president and SAS alumna Judith Rodin, CW66. Behind her desk, seated on a pedestal, is a sculpture of a boy looking down at the flute he is holding in his hands. That is young Ben Franklin, says Rodin. Isnt it wonderful? Its called Franklin and His Whistle. Before being informed the artwork is Penns founder, a visitor to the presidents office could easily mistake it for the Pied Piper. Rodin is not only the first woman to be president of Penn, she is the first woman to head any Ivy League institution. Brown and Princeton have since followed, dancing to yet another tune first piped here.
Why is 125 Years of Women at Penn something to be celebrated?
Q. Tell me about your efforts as an undergraduate to unify the mens
and womens student government.
There were many women who felt they would lose position, that they would always be secretaries rather than presidents, as they had been in the Womens Student Government. I think that speaks to a kind of experience that women have had in many organizations.
It is interesting that next year the heads of three of the major student organizations at Penn will be women. Five years ago, that wasnt true, and women talked to me on this campus then about the fact that women werent getting elected to leadership roles. I hope this change is telling us that talented, capable people will riseand sometimes theyll be men and sometimes theyll be womenand as were a little less self-conscious about which is elected, I think that will be a good thing.
Q. What are the most important changes that have happened for women
in your lifetime?
Q. Do you see any obstacles that remain for women?
The second is that young women are really struggling with their multiple rolesmore than we did. To my generation, it was so clear that all these professional opportunities had opened, and we just charged in. I think young women now are looking at their mothers and saying, What were the costs of making those choices? When I meet with undergraduate women, thats what they want to talk about: Did I make the right choice? Why did I choose to have my child at the age I chose? I think this is a period when both men and women are asking themselves: What does it mean to have a fulfilling life? And how do career and family and relationships all play a part in that?
Q. How do you see the future for women at Penn?