This past fall TCPW bought the women’s track team new warm-up suits. The team captains met with the group to express their gratitude. “Here’s a group at the University at the top of their game,” DiStanislao says. “Knowing what they were doing in Penn athletics, helping to set the stage for their future lives, I think the alumnae felt a lot of joy and pride.”

TCPW has also sparked a greater sense of connection to Penn among its alumnae, according to Berkowitz. “Previously, it was men who headed up all their reunion classes. And women—their names had been changed if they got married—they weren’t even contacted. Now, all of a sudden they sometimes headed up the reunion class,” she says. “Now women give a lot of money to the University because they have a real tie.”

Berkowitz was the guiding force behind one signature TCPW initiative that fostered such ties—the highly successful Celebration of 125 Years of Women at Penn. In November 2001, 1,200 women came back to campus for events that included the dedication of the Women’s Walkway and the Class of 1949 Generational Bridge, panel discussions, and an alumnae book-signing party [“Gazetteer,” Jan|Feb 2002]. “They got to meet each other and see how women at Penn had been successful in their careers and lives, and it was an uplifting and eye-opening experience for everybody,” Berkowitz says.

More recently, TCPW has lobbied for more child-care options for Penn students and employees—an effort that led to the addition of 56 spaces at Penn Children’s Center. “It’s something that we think is important as they expand the campus,” says Susanna Lachs CW’74 ASC’76, who recently concluded a two-year term as TCPW’s chair.

TCPW also has worked to achieve a more diverse membership—in age, race, stage of career, geography—and it continues to offer new programs to meet the needs and interests of Penn women. The group has expanded its career-advice programming to the summer, with events planned in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

Undergraduates as well as young alumnae will have the chance to meet with TCPW members to talk about networking and moving from summer jobs to permanent jobs. “It’s just been an incredible expansion of our mission,” Lachs says.

For next fall the group is planning a program on women scientists at Penn. “It’s very difficult to manage lab work, grant work, patient work, and advance yourself in the department and raise your family,” Lachs says. “The women who have been able to do this and balance everything successfully really want to help us make an impact.”

She met with a small group of women scientists at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center to discuss the advancement of women in their field. One of them commented that “just knowing we were going to have this program was so meaningful to her,” Lachs says. “The dean stopped by all of us sitting around the table and told me, ‘These women never get together in one room. They’re always too busy.’”

The organization has already proven the power of getting women together in one room. “The importance of TCPW cannot be overstated in terms of the impact they have had on the University,” says Hoopes Wampler, assistant vice president of alumni relations. “They represent Penn at its best and are the leaders past, present, and future on which this institution thrives.”

“It’s my belief that this group is truly greater than the sum of its parts,” says incoming chair Marjorie Gordon Schaye CW’75. “It’s a team that’s unbeatable, and I am beyond thrilled and enormously humbled by the opportunity to be its chair.”

Schaye would like the group to raise more money for grants and continue to place more women in leadership positions at Penn, as well as improve child-care options for faculty, students, and staff. “In terms of gender equity, when you hire a female professor, you’ve got to be able to offer her the child care if she needs it,” Schaye says. She also hopes to make more people aware of the group’s presence on campus and to collaborate with the University to “continue to advocate for women and to continue to better the quality of their Penn experience.”

While celebrating what they’ve already accomplished, TCPW members are keeping an eye on the future of the organization. “We as alumnae look at the current students, and they knock our socks off,” Schaye says. “We can’t wait for these women to be part of TCPW, because they’re amazing.”

Susan Frith is a former Gazette associate editor and current freelance writer based in Florida.

July|Aug 08 Contents
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What Women Wanted, by Susan Frith
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Last modified 06/29/08