November 01, 2017

Update: We’ve met our goal three years ahead of schedule

Inspired by a financial challenge from members of the Board of Trustees, Susquehanna University has launched the Women’s Leadership Initiative.

In an effort to raise $3 million, funding is structured as a four-year challenge. Signe S. Gates ’71, chair of the Board of Trustees, and Dawn (Grigg) Mueller ’68, board vice chair, have pledged $250,000 each year for the next four years-a $1 million challenge gift. To claim their generous challenge, other donors must contribute $500,000 each year for the next four years, for an additional $2 million. All challenge-eligible gifts will support Women’s Leadership Initiative programs.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative will

  • Provide every female student with up to two university-supported, professional opportunities during her four years at Susquehanna. Many non-business fields do not offer paid internships or positions. Eliminating financial barriers will place Susquehanna women in work-related environments earlier, creating opportunities for them to gain experience, build connections with professionals and position themselves for future success.
  • Support a robust, four-year preparation plan for every female student that includes up to two funded opportunities for conference and workshop participation, career treks into major cities, job shadowing experiences to connect with alumni, and the chance to gain skills in areas like public speaking, personal financial planning and work/life balance. Building competency in these areas will make Susquehanna women more competitive for highly sought roles and more productive in those roles from the start.
  • Create meaningful connections with at least five alumni, per student, by graduation. Whether by academic program, co-curricular activity, industry or other affiliation, Susquehanna will foster stronger connections between students and alumni that benefit all.

Gates and Mueller credit a 2015 pledge from Susquehanna alumna Janet Fowler Grey as the inspiration for their challenge. Grey’s pledge created the Grey Women’s Leadership Fund, which supports experiential opportunities for female students in the Sigmund Weis School of Business.

“I became very intrigued with it,” Mueller said. “We’re taking Janet’s initial idea with regard to leadership and trying to expand that, so we’re able to have ways for women who are not in the business school to have these same professional experiences.”

Gates, retired senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Barnes Group Inc., said she and Mueller, retired physician and faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, have both had the experience of being “the only women in the room who can influence an organization.”

“We hope that by supporting the Women’s Leadership Initiative, we, as Susquehanna women graduates who have been in successful leadership positions, inspire current students and offer encouragement to them as to what a Susquehanna woman might achieve,” Gates said, “and we want to put some financial support behind that encouragement.”

The Women’s Leadership Initiative will build upon the university’s ongoing efforts, such as the Sigmund Weis School of Business’ Women’s Symposium, to address Susquehanna’s role in promoting women into positions of professional leadership.

“For three decades, women have been enrolling in college at higher rates than men and exceeding men in overall educational attainment. Yet across all industries, women represent less than 50 percent of leadership roles and are paid only 74 cents on the dollar compared to men,” said President Jonathan D. Green. “Through the Women’s Leadership Initiative, Susquehanna will address its role in this societal disparity.”