Teresa C. Younger addressed a crowd of 220 higher education leaders at the ACE2019 Women’s Leadership Dinner Saturday night, stressing the importance of “being the kind of woman.”
“Be the kind of woman who when your feet hit the floor in the morning, the devil says, ‘Oh shit, she’s up,’” she said to laughs and applause from the audience gathered in the Liberty Ballroom at the Downtown Philadelphia Marriott. “I strive every single day to be that kind of woman. And after meeting some of you in this room, I think you do, too.”
Younger, president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women—the first and oldest women’s foundation in the country—said that when we put our feet on the ground in the morning, we are walking the path that our ancestors paved before us.
“I stand in the shade of trees I did not plant. I walk down paths that I did not lay. I drink from wells that I did not dig. I now have a responsibility to water those trees, to maintain those paths, and to dig more wells. And that is the work that each of us do on a daily basis. We stand on a daily basis on the shoulders of those who came before us, and it is amazing that we get to do that,” she said
Younger explained the work of the Ms. Foundation, citing a startling statistic that less than 7 percent of the philanthropic dollars in United States go to women and girls.
She described walking into the 26-story office building where the Ms. Foundation was located in Brooklyn for the first time and seeing its mission written on its walls: “We believe in a just and safe world where power and possibility are not limited by gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or age. We believe that equity and inclusion are the cornerstones of a true democracy in which truth, worth, and dignity are valued in every person.”
As she sits at the critical intersections of gender and race in the philanthropic space, Younger told participants that after her 56,000-mile listening tour when she first became president and CEO, she realized that the foundation needed to redefine feminism. She invited dinner guests to view the foundation’s website to learn how Ms. is redefining it—as social, political, and economic equality of all genders.
“Feminism is not a definition of who you are, but a value of what we need,” she said.
Younger went on to explain that by redefining feminism, it becomes more inclusive and invites all to sit at the table. This became evident during the Q&A after her remarks, when a man stepped to the microphone to ask the question, “What do you think the role of the man is in this situation?”
“I believe in full gender equity. Not equality, but equity,” she responded. “I think we need to have men right along side us.” She also called for a reexamination of the definition of masculinity and emphasized the importance of recognizing the duality of men in this conversation.
When Younger was asked about what has motivated her path and vision, she said, “I was a Girl Scout.”
She said she believes in the sisterhood and the common values emphasized by the organization—and considers herself a lifelong Girl Scout as she strives to change the world and leave it better than she found it.
At a reception before the Women’s Leadership Dinner, Carol A. Leary was awarded the 2019 Donna Shavlik Award. Leary, president of Bay Path University in Massachusetts and author of Achieving the Dream: A How-to Guide for Adult Women Seeking a College Degree. The ACE Women’s Network – Ohio (ACE WNO) received the State Networm Award. Click here for full details.