Celebrating Women at Yale

November 4, 2013

Earlier this semester, I noted a piece in YaleNews about a book, Blazing the Trail: Essays by Leading Women in Science, co-edited by one of our physics graduate students, Emma Ideal. Her goal is to inspire women to pursue and succeed in scientific careers. Although we have more to do to recruit and advance women among our science faculty, Yale has come a long way in the past ten years or so. A recent article in The New York Times Magazine points out the challenges women face, but also presents some incredible role models–at Yale–with profiles of Professors Meg Urry, Bonnie Fleming, and Jo Handelsman. Here on campus, the ongoing and important work of a number of organizations, such as the Yale Women Faculty Forum and the Yale Women’s Center, has done a great deal to highlight the presence of women at the university, to advocate for women’s issues, and to promote the accomplishments of Yale women–faculty, students, staff, and alumnae. In the broader Yale community, YaleWomen, an AYA-sponsored shared interest group for women graduates, is also working to advance women’s voices and perspectives around the world.

Women all over our campus are powerful mentors, brilliant researchers, and gifted teachers. Tonight, for example, colleagues will gather to celebrate Yale’s newest endowed professorship, the Norma Weinberg Spungen and Joan Lebson Bildner Professorship in Women’s Health Research, and the first incumbent in that chair, Carolyn Mazure. Carolyn founded Women’s Health Research at Yale, and since 1998 it has provided more than $4.5 million in seed funding to Yale researchers. Women’s health is not just important for women, but for all of us, and research in this area at Yale has led to new understandings of the impact of gender on a wide array of health conditions. Carolyn was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009, and later this week, Linda Lorimer, vice president for global and strategic initiatives, is being similarly honored. Professor Joan Steitz, internationally known for her pioneering work with RNA, and who was named a Grand Medal winner by the French Academy of Sciences earlier this year, is also a member of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, as are many other women with whom Yale can proudly claim an affiliation.

For Yale to be the best it can be, we have to have the best and brightest people–women and men–working, studying, and teaching on campus. I am grateful for the leadership of all those who are advocating for women in faculty ranks, among our staff, and in the student body.