More than 200 Yale alumni, family, and friends gathered Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., for the YaleWomen Excellence Awards, an evening that was at times celebratory, sobering, and inspiring, and always thought-provoking and affirming of the power of women and the Yale community to effect positive social change.
“We don’t have to all be the same,” Anita Hill ’80 JD, one of the event’s three Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, said during the opening panel discussion. “We just need to believe in human dignity for all of us. Think openly, think boldly, think radically.”
The panel discussion, which featured Hill and fellow Lifetime Achievement honorees Catherine Lhamon '96 JD and Ann Olivarius '77, '86 JD/MBA, ranged in topic from sexual abuse and sexual harassment to the power of the #MeToo movement and the journey the women on stage took to their current positions as champions of equity. Moderated by distinguished journalist Joanne Lipman ’83, the talk was frequently interrupted by applause and calls of support from the capacity crowd.
The recurring theme was the power of all people to make a difference and to show that gender equity is a critical component of a just society.
“We have to judge this as a global issue of huge proportion,” Olivarius said.
That sense of urgency and shared purpose carried through the rest of the night, which included a cocktail reception and a dinner capped by the awards presentation. The Excellence Awards were presented by YaleWomen, a shared interest group under the umbrella of the Yale Alumni Association that strives to advance women's voices and perspectives.
“This event was indicative of the wide-reaching power and impact of shared interest groups,” said Mindy Marks ’00, director of shared interest groups for the YAA. “It provides more than an opportunity to engage with one another, but also a platform to impact our communities.”
In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Awards for Hill, Lhamon, and Olivarius, the inaugural Impact awards were given out to Araceli Campos '99, C'Ardiss Gardner Gleser '08, Kamala Lopez, Rebecca Reichmann Tavares '78, and Vera Wells '71 in recognition of their contributions to creating a vibrant, engaged community of alumni committed to advancing women's voices and perspectives. All eight women earning standing ovations from those in attendance.
“It was truly a remarkable evening, to have all these incredible women in one room and supported by such a strong Yale community,” said Susan Lennon, chair of YaleWomen. “There really are no words to describe the power of this conversation. The challenge now is where we go from here.”