WOW, March 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012
Great Hall
8:30 A.M.

Thank you. Back in the olden days—when I was in college—there was a popular national advertising campaign for an airline which pictured a lovely, smiling flight attendant saying, I'm Suzy. Fly me. or I'm Nancy. Fly me. the airline painted the women's names on the noses of the planes and had the flight attendants wear fly me buttons on their uniforms.

In those days, women couldn't get their own credit cards: they had to have their husbands or fathers co-sign. They were barred from many private clubs. Help-wanted ads were segregated by gender. Indeed, getting a position in corporate America other than secretary was a struggle—if you've watched mad men, you know what I mean.

The handful of women who served in congress were largely filling in for husbands who had died in office. women did not attend military academies or Yale or Columbia. And in fact, only eight percent of women in the United States earned bachelor's degrees.

I think you can say we've come a long long way.

Today, women not only account for the majority of the total undergraduate population in this countrywhich is no surprise to students here at FITbut they also earn the majority of all college degrees. And that includes post-graduate degrees as well. Today, Yale and Columbia and West Point are co-ed.

Women politicians are no longer a novelty. They are mayors, governors, cabinet secretaries, congressional representatives, and even serious presidential contenders. They are doctors, lawyers, astronauts—and CEOs too. In fact, women are more likely than men today to work in professional and related occupations.

But consider this: Le Bron James earned $4 million in his first season in the NBA nine years ago. The top salary for women basketball players in the WNBA today is $105,000.

Now that disparity may be an extreme, but the fact is that today women still earn only 77 cents on the male dollar. They continue to be concentrated in a small number of traditionally female jobs, such as elementary school teachers, secretaries, and registered nurses. They remain a distinct minority on corporate boards and while progress is certainly ongoing, the glass ceiling is still intact.

You would think that in fashion—of all industries—women would glide easily to the top. But as in so many other fields, women in fashion continue to face gender-based hurdles in advancing their careers.

That is why I am so pleased to welcome all of you to women on women. It is here, at this symposium, that we will have an opportunity to hear the stories of some very accomplished and successful women—and a few good men, too. Each of them can serve as a role modeland from each, we can learnpick up good information or practical advice. From each, I am sure, we can be inspired. And put into perspective the arc of progress for women—which will help us to shape our futures.

And I am now delighted to introduce Jessica Weber, our keynote speaker. Ms. Weber is an award-winning graphic designer and entrepreneur who started her own very successful company—called Jessica Weber, Inc— over 25 years ago—a company that provides graphic design and strategic marketing and development support for both the corporate and non-profit world. She also serves on the advisory boards of numerous organizations, including Aid for AIDS, the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, the Fales Rare Book Library at NYU, the Japan Creators Association and the Martina Arroyo Foundation. And that's just a small sampling. Please join me in welcoming Ms. Weber.