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Ever heard the saying, “Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars?” Well, when it comes to earnings potential and executive-level advancement, men and women are truly worlds apart. Two Susquehanna women, inspired by a third, decided to address the issue head-on when they established the Women’s Leadership Initiative in 2017.

Their goal? Raise a total of $3 million to provide every female Susquehanna student with the co-curricular activities and career preparation she needs to thrive professionally.

Consider this: More than half of all managerial and professional occupations are held by women. Yet only about 5 percent serve as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

The inequity doesn’t stop at the corner office either. In fact, the proportion of women in the labor force who hold college degrees is outpacing that of men. Yet women only make about 80 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

Why? It could have something to do with disparity in the career-building opportunities available to undergraduate men and women.

Although women make up the majority of college students nationwide, men have more success with pre-professional experiences such as internships—particularly paid internships. And many undergraduate women do not have the financial security to pursuing more prevalent, unpaid internships. Similar roadblocks exist for female students seeking summer research experiences and artistic opportunities.

In their effort to raise $3 million, Signe S. Gates ’71, chair of SU’s Board of Trustees, and Dawn Grigg ’68 Mueller, board vice chair, have pledged $250,000 each year for the next four years as a $1 million challenge gift. To claim their gift, they are challenging other donors to raise $500,000 over each of the next four years, for an additional $2 million.

The initiative will create funding to:

  • Support a robust, four-year preparation plan for every female student-nearly 1,300-that includes career treks into major cities and job-shadowing experiences that connect them with SU alumni.
  • Provide opportunities for students to attend professional conferences and dive into summer research, internships or other experiential learning opportunities.

Gates and Mueller were inspired by SU alumna Janet Fowler ’68 Grey, who in 2015 created the Grey Women’s Leadership Fund to support experiential opportunities for female students in the Sigmund Weis School of Business.

The only woman in her class of chemistry majors at Susquehanna, Mueller went on to attend medical school and become a practicing physician and professor of medicine. She served as associate professor of pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine in Richmond, Va., and attending physician for the university health system’s neonatal intensive care unit for 20 years before her retirement in 1998.

An English major at Susquehanna, Gates used her liberal arts education to propel her into law school at the University of Michigan and eventually to Barnes Group Inc., where she served as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary until her retirement in 2010.

Gifts are needed at all levels. To find out how your gift can help our female students prepare for professional success, contact:

Kim Andretta

Assistant Vice President of Gift Planning