#MeToo movement makes way for more female graduation speakers

Graduation from any level of education is significant, but this year, there is added meaning to the ceremonies.

According to the Associated Press, 2018 marks a milestone in U.S. college graduation exercises, as “the majority of the nation’s top colleges are featuring women as their spring commencement speakers” for the first time in at least two decades. The impetus behind the change? AP reports that industry experts are crediting the swing toward female speaks to the #MeToo movement that has reignited the flame of female empowerment in the United States and around the world.

And the increase in female commencement speakers this year is significant; AP reports that this year, “women account for nearly 60 percent of the speakers at the 25 schools that have the largest endowments and traditionally carry the clout to draw big names to the lectern.” In previous years, however, AP says women accounted for a mere quarter of the speakers at those same schools over the past 19 years.

While AP says that while some universities said the #MeToo movement didn’t specifically shape their decisions, companies hired to find commencement speakers said that they’ve seen a major increase in requests for women that correlated with the timing of the the #MeToo movement’s inception and takeoff.

“There’s been a much bigger push to bring in white females, black females — anyone other than a white male,” said Richard Schelp, owner of Executive Speakers Bureau.

So just who are some of the women speaking at graduations this year? For starters, Sheryl Sandberg will do the honors of delivering a commencement address at MIT, according to AP, while Dartmouth will host Mindy Kaling. Not to mention Amal Clooney will descend upon Vanderbilt, while AP says Hillary Clinton will return to her alma mater and speak at Yale’s commencement.



Sandberg wants girls to keep an eye on leadership

Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t want girls to think that leadership roles are only for boys. That’s why in the January issue of National Geographic, the Facebook COO asserted that girls need to believe in the power of their potential.

According to The Cut, Sandberg had this to say on the importance of encouraging girls to pursue leadership positions both big and small:

“‘Raise your hand if you’re a girl in class,’ she said. ‘Run for class president. If you’re interested in it, be a leader. Don’t let the world tell you girls can’t lead.’ She added that imposing gender roles on children pigeonholes them from an early age: ‘From the moment they’re born, boys and girls are treated according to stereotypes. We tell little boys, ‘Don’t cry like a girl.’ Not helpful.'”

Interviewed separately for the same issue of NatGeoThe Cut reports that Gloria Steinem echoed Sandberg’s thoughts, saying that it’s important to raise children in a way that that puts them on a level playing field in the future.

“It’s important for girls not to internalize a sense of passivity or inferiority or second-classness, and for boys not to internalize a sense of having to be stronger or superior or in control.”

Amen to that.

Sandberg brings women together in new campaign

A new campaign from Facebook COO and Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg has one message for women of all ages and circumstances: Women are better when they work together.

According to the Huffington Post, the #LeanInTogether initiative was launched on Thursday, June 23 with the aim of celebrating “the power of women helping women.”

Parterning with AOL MAKERS, the Lean In organization launched a video called, “Together Women Can,” featuring successful women like Emma Watson, Kerry Washington and Abby Wambach to draw attention to the campaign. Showing just how women support each other on their journeys to success, each woman featured in the video thanks someone who has helped them become the powerful and prosperous women they are today.

Rachel Thomas, president of the Lean In organization , explained to the Huffington Post the impetus behind the initiative this way: “It’s important to shine a light on the huge number of women who encourage and help each other every day … There’s a stereotype that women don’t help women, but it’s just not true.”

The Huffington Post says Sandberg also commented on the importance of the women featured in the video, stating in a press release, “So many women are lending their voices to this campaign because they have benefited firsthand from the support of other women and know what a difference it can make.”

Reminding us that there are no bounds to what women can achieve when they work together, the women in the video say in unison, “Together we can get to equality. Together we can raise our voices. Together we can stand up to anything and anyone.”

And perhaps Sandberg sums it up best when she says, “When women lean in together we accomplish amazing things.”

To watch the ‘#LeanInTogether: Together Women Can…’ video, click here.