"Does equality ask us to settle for less?" was the topic of a National Women's Hall of Fame forum at Roosevelt University Nov. 17.
The National Women's Hall of Fame is "the nation's oldest membership organization dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American women," according to its promotional material.
Charles Middleton, president of Roosevelt University, and Susan E. Henking, president of Shimer College provided words of welcome while Betty Bayer, professor of Women's Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and senior fellow at the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago introduced each panelist and served as the moderator for the evening's discussion.
Panelists were Carol L. Adams (president and CEO of DuSable Museum of African American History), Cecilia A Conrad (vice president of MacArthur Fellows Program and author of African-Americans in the U.S. Economy), Jill S. Tietjen (electrical engineer, CEO of Technically Speaking, president of the board of the National Women's Hall of Fame and author of Her Story: A Timeline of the Women who Changed America), Marjorie Jolles (associate professor and acting director of Women's and Gender Studies at Roosevelt University and author of Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style), and Deborah Siegel (author of Sisterhood Interrupted, midwest leader of the OpEd Project, founder of Girl W/Pen, co-founder of She Writes, TedX speaker and thought leadership coach).
Bayer told the more than 100 people gathered that this forum was inspired by her revisiting of the Declaration of Sentiments that was read at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the current national discussion about women's equality.
As for how the panel thinks about equality and liberation, Conrad noted that equality of opportunity is an important element of liberation. "This includes equal protection under the law ... but it isn't sufficient and it also includes some recognition that equality under the law may not create equality of opportunity based on the historical circumstances and statuses of those individuals," said Conrad.
"Liberation is when you are free from oppression," said Adams. Adams also noted that women still have to keep fighting to be equal.
"We miss an examination of whatever it is we want to be equal to. Is that a sameness that we want [as women]?" said Jolles.
"My vision for equality is one where women are not just visible they are also powerful [in all areas of the media] … . Voices change world views so they should be multiple and varied," said Siegel.
"Equality means for me that in engineering women's voices are heard and recognized and ... as for history it's very important that women's stories are told because women are largely absent from history books. College students can't name 20 American women throughout history that weren't First Ladies, celebrities or sports figures … . Until we tell women's stories and recognize and value women in our society then we aren't going to be a free and equal society," said Tietjen.
As for the issue of succession planning in the women's equality movement, Tietjen said it's important to make sure that women are nominated for awards. Jolles and Siegel said that cross-generational education and dialogue are vital. Adams shared that it's important to instill the value of taking risks, while Conrad noted that there is a need to educate and train feminist men.
A Q&A session followed the panel discussion.
The event was co-sponsored by Roosevelt University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Illinois Institute of Technology and Shimer College.
See www.greatwomen.org for more information .
The video playlist below contains multiple videos. Choose Playlist in the top left hand corner to watch videos out of order, if preferred.