Empowered Women Empower Women: UNH Women’s Leadership Conference


Women of all ages and backgrounds gathered in the Bucknall Theater at the University of New Haven to celebrate their womanhood with a theme surrounding “Women, Media and the Gender Lens” at the Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by the University.

Alicia Keys’ hit Girl on Fire welcomed Patricia Russo, director of the Yale Campaign School, to the stage as she started off the day of empowerment.

“This year is going to be the year of women,” Russo said, in reference to the revolution that has already sparked in support of power that women hold This was seen in January at the Women’s March on Washington, which many partnering marches and forums have stemmed from since.

“Let’s get ready to be big and bold,” Russo said. “Get ready to be seen. Who are yo not to be?”

Russo went on to talk about the responsibility that women hold in the world and the importance that now, more than ever, they take advantage of the power of opportunity they carry in the world.

“You are born to manifest glory in the world. It’s not just in some of us, but all of us,” she said. “You have a responsibility to share your glow with the world.”

Russo was followed by University alum and Board of Governors member, Carolyn Brehm. Brehm leads the Procter & Gamble Company’s government relations practitioners in key markets in the United States, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America where she works directly with the company’s foreign relations.

In Brehm’s address, she addressed P&G’s current promotions on equal representation, equal voice and the advancements they are implementing to empower women through their advertisements.

Brehm showed the advertisement for their campaign #LikeAGirl that was inspired to change the perspectives and attitudes toward the phrase “like a girl” and sparked a nerve in consumers. P&G added the gender biases to their citizenship platform and, as a company, both men and women have been supporting in spreading the notion of diversity and inclusion throughout the company.

“Feel free to join us in ending gender biases,” Brehm said. “Do it.”

Following Brehm was a panel filled with experts in the field that offered valuable insight on the issues that they see within the media and the grit that is required to stay afloat in the industry. The panel was moderated by Khalilah Brown-Dean, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University, and composed of Ann Nyberg, an anchor/reporter for WTNH-TV, Phoebe Sweet, the Vice President of Summer Strategies, Donnetrice Allison, University alum and an Associate Professor of Communication and African American Studies at Stockton University, and Susan Campbell, a distinguished lecturer at the University and a columnist for the Hartford Courant.

Nyberg talked about how the importance of education, especially in the current media cycle, to be able to interpret fact from fiction.
“Find the mainstream – find the truth,” Nyberg said.

Allison discussed how the media is tearing women down from a young age setting standards on how they should present themselves with unrealistic characteristics.

“My battle with the media is both personal and professional,” Allison said in reference to her ten-year-old daughter who grew up a confident young girl, but has recently turned victim, like many others, to the stigmas of perfection onset by the media.

Sweet encouraged women to continue the revolution toward women’s rights and stepping up to the plate to run for legislative seats in state and local government or getting involved through any means that they can.

“In order to stop the cycle we need more women to step up into leadership roles,” Sweet said. “We need to stay active, marching in January isn’t enough. Stay involved.”

Campbell explain the importance of the women’s perspective within the media.

“If they shut us down, they shut us up,” Campbell said. “We need more women’s voice because it is far too lonely.”

After a series of break off sessions, award winning reporter and executive producer of Latino USA, Maria Hinojosa ended the conference with a powerful keynote surrounding the theme of the day.

Hinojosa said she felt a responsibility to share her perspective being a Mexican-turned-American citizen, latina journalist, who also happens to be a “woman and flat chested,” which all happen to be “five things the President hates.”

With no real mentors who fit the similar category as Hinojosa in the industry, she was forced to be her own mentor as she trailblazer to future latina journalists.

She shared inspiring sermons from her time in the media industry to the hardships her and her family are faced with, being of Latino background in the United States, that touched the audience emotionally.

In an appropriate conclusion to the conference, Hinojosa left the crowd with the inspirational saying, “As you know, women don’t give up that easily.”