Celebrating 20 years of “a new paradigm” for Penn.
By Susan Frith

Carol Blum Einiger CW’70 was pretty skeptical when Al Shoemaker W’60 Hon’95 called her into his office two decades ago with a “great idea.” The chair of Penn’s board of trustees wanted to form an organization of high-profile alumnae—sort of an old girls’ network to match the old boys’ network that had always benefited undergraduate men. Would she be its first chair?

Her plate was already full with work and family. (Einiger was a managing director at the investment firm First Boston, making her the only woman out of about 150 in that position.) And this wasn’t the typical pursuit of a successful woman in a male-dominated field.

“Even just 20 years ago, there were plenty of really nice guys who simply didn’t believe that women were capable of covering important clients, of doing the important work,” Einiger recalls. “The women I knew who had moved ahead in their careers were not the women who joined women’s groups. Who had time? You got ahead by working hard and blending in, becoming a strong member of the team.”

But Shoemaker persisted and Einiger said yes.

By not blending in, the Trustees’ Council of Penn Women has helped to change the face of Penn. Since TCPW’s founding 20 years ago, its members have donated more than $173 million to the University, added 29 women to the board of trustees and 71 to the boards of overseers, and given out more than half a million dollars in grants. The group has organized career dinners, adopted women’s athletic teams, and brought well-known speakers to campus. It has pushed Penn to hire and promote women faculty, staff, and administrators.

“This is a great milestone for a wonderful group,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann. “The Trustees’ Council of Penn Women has been a model—at Penn and around the country—for informed advocacy in an academic institution. Because of its work, women are well represented at every level throughout the University, and their voices are heard.”

First those voices had to get organized. “We really didn’t know what it was we had been asked to do, only that as Penn women we were going to be part of building a new paradigm that would engage and empower women, which is exactly what happened,” recalls Elsie Sterling Howard CW’68, a founding member and past TCPW chair.

She credits Shoemaker and Penn’s president at the time, Dr. Sheldon Hackney Hon’93, now the Boies Professor of U.S. History, for recognizing that women had been overlooked as leaders and “were being under-mobilized in terms of Penn’s financial support.”

Shoemaker says he didn’t have a particular agenda. “We had this pool of talented young women, and I thought, ‘What a good idea if we could empower that emerging group of young executives to create an organization that would support various women’s activities.’”

Classmates who hadn’t seen each other in years came together for that first meeting, says Howard, and they got a re-education. Civil-rights attorney Gloria Allred CW’63 addressed the group. When the topic of creating a video to promote Penn women’s athletics arose, Howard recalls, Allred said, “‘You’ve hired a female videographer, of course?’

“There was silence in the room, and that was the moment that we knew what we had to do at TCPW was to champion women for women’s sake,” Howard adds. “Out of that powerful question came all of the initiatives that we have built up over the past two decades.”

One of TCPW’s first actions was to organize an annual career dinner and networking event where undergraduate women could make face-to-face connections with alumnae in their fields of interest and draw inspiration from speakers like NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell CW’67 [“Talking Back, Getting Hitched, Speaking Out,” Nov|Dec 2005] and DreamWorks Studios CEO Stacey Snider C’82, who was the featured speaker at the TCPW fall conference back in October.

“These women and other TCPW members have inspired our women students to aim high as they plan their own careers,” says Patricia Rose, director of career services at Penn.

TCPW also began a mentoring program that would allow Penn juniors to shadow members at work.

Like other women of her generation, Einiger did not have these kinds of role models. “When I was growing up, we never discussed my career around the dinner table,” she says. “What was discussed for me was a job—and I came from a very progressive, highly educated, supportive family. My father was a doctor. My mother was College for Women Class of ’40. Then she became a fantastic wife and mother.

“I believe she was the first woman permitted to take economics classes at Wharton,” Einiger continues. “When I was a child, I remember bragging that my mom had majored in home economics at Penn!”

Einiger gradually found her own way, leaving a “boring” first job as a fact-checker at Vogue to join Goldman Sachs, and later going to business school at Columbia. She now runs her own investment firm, Post Rock Advisors, LLC.

Today Penn women can conveniently download podcasts of successful alumnae’s advice on such topics as changing careers and workplace diversity at TCPW’s website, www.alumni.upenn.edu/groups/tcpw.

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