Building a strong network for women over time
Associate Alumnae of Douglass College celebrating 100 years educating, engaging and empowering women During Women’s History Month.
We reflect on how far we’ve come and what work is still needed to ensure women’s equity in education, the workplace and in all facets of our communities.
While men have long had networks to help them get ahead in their careers, a recent LinkedIn study about the “gender network gap” suggested that women are 28% less likely than men to have a strong network of career and business connections.
The Associate Alumnae of Douglass College (AADC), formed initially from the 43 women of the first graduating class of the New Jersey College for Women in 1922, now Douglass Residential College at Rutgers, has provided every Douglass College graduate with a strong network, graduate study fellowships, mentoring, business connections and more.
This first class pledged their financial support and commitment to their alma mater with the foresight of creating a supportive community to help all women achieve their career and educational goals at a time when women were not treated equally and had only just earned the right to vote.
Today, while women have many more choices, they also have more and different challenges than ever before. More than ever, alumnae associations, like the AADC, have shown their value as life-long support systems for female graduates as they progress throughout their education and careers.
Like every group that has had to evolve with the times, the 39,000 member-strong AADC has added online virtual alumnae-led programs, volunteer opportunities and access to personal and professional development and networking events, which have opened the door for far-flung alumnae to connect regularly, despite a worldwide pandemic.
To address the future needs of today’s women, AADC hosted an in-person inaugural Women Moving Forward Conference on March 18 that not only celebrated the association’s 100th anniversary during Women’s History Month, but also inspired, educated and connected women of diverse backgrounds and experiences as they addressed relevant and timely topics: art, women and finance, cybersecurity and digital trust, health care after a pandemic, history, law, politics and public service.
In a notable first, former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno led a fireside chat on the role of women in public service, while Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway delivered remarks, and women and girls’ advocate Valerie Jarrett, author of “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward” and CEO of the Obama Foundation, delivered the keynote address.
Women’s organizations like AADC continue to deliver generational support, fellowships for graduate study, a nurturing environment for professional and personal development and programming with both in-person and online access to meet women where they are. With this vision in mind, AADC and similar organizations can look to a bright future for women’s leadership.