Spring Brunch 2013 – American Media’s Influence on Women and American Culture

Our spring event returned this year as a brunch featuring Jennifer Siebel Newsom as the keynote speaker and an all-star panel of two Stanford faculty members and two media professionals. Held on May 4 at the Stanford Faculty Club, the event focused on the under-representation of women in the media and positions of power.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom delivered a thought-provoking presentation on the influence of the American media on women and American culture. She spoke candidly about the different experiences that her son and daughter have had. While her daughter has received several invitations to her friends’ birthday parties where all of the girls wear tiaras, her son received a letter from the White House when he was born and a T-shirt with “Future President” on it. Jennifer stressed that gender parity is not about the achievements of individuals, but rather the experiences of the broader population. She concluded by encouraging all of us to demand a culture that does not bifurcate personal values from the business imperatives to drive revenue, that pursues true equality in wages and representation, and that embraces diversity, which yields innovations that fuels the economy.

Her thoughtful words were followed by a panel with Dr. Andrea Rees Davies, Kate Kelly, Beth Ashley, and Dr. Christine Min Wotipka (see short biographies on page 21). Dr. Davies spoke about the work of the Clayman Institute to educate girls and teach them in eighth grade how to negotiate for themselves. Kate Kelly, reporter with CBS 5, spoke about the shift over time toward interviewing women, but also needing more women behind the scenes in the newsroom to shape the stories that are told in the news. Beth Ashley spoke about her experience as one of the few female journalists in the 1950s and described a culture where women hid behind the names of their husbands. Dr. Wotipka spoke of her research on the achievements on women in science and shared that a long science tradition is actually inversely correlated with the number of women in a country who pursue science. She concluded, “When given opportunities, say yes.” This is exactly what she did when she accepted the position of Interim Director of the Program in Feminist Studies and recently became the permanent Director.

The Spring Brunch concluded with an old-fashioned tapping ceremony to welcome our newest Honorary members to Cap and Gown. Narrated by Alumnae Board Vice President Michelle Galloway, the ceremony included the Actives Board officers—Kristen Glass, Hannah Belitz and Jacquelyn Wong—donning gowns and meandering through the dining room before coming to a stop behind the panel still at the front of the room. While membership in Cap and Gown is awarded only to Stanford undergraduate women through leadership, community service, and academic achievement, Honorary membership can be conferred upon women faculty, faculty wives, and women actively involved in the Stanford community making valuable contributions to our organization. Our Active members choose honorary Cap and Gown members. Two of our panelists, Beth Ashley, ’47, and Kate Kelly, ’79, were tapped while they were students at Stanford. We were delighted to initiate keynote speaker, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, as well as our two other panelists, Dr. Andrea Davies and Dr. Christine Min Wotipka as honorary members.

Thank you to Kathryn Kilner, Shari Kuchenbecker, Susan Phillips and Carmen Sebro for chairing this event.