Girl Up seminars bring diverse speakers for Women’s Day

The day included presentations from women across fields such as business, STEM, and law


Katy Pickens

Women’s day speaker Karen Tumburro answers audience questions

On Mar 5th, teachers were encouraged to bring their classes to the McGee Theater to listen to this year’s line-up of International Women’s Day speakers.

This event, created four years ago by Girl Up Club Head Celia Buckman, intends to empower future female professionals by showcasing women who have excelled in their fields. Speakers each period had audiences of 150-250 students, at times filling the McGee theater.

“Girl Up does a seminar every year that closely relates to International Women’s Day.” explained Girl Up Head senior Mady Drilling-Coren. “We bring in women from all different backgrounds and all different career paths to talk about their experiences being a woman, especially being female in a career dominated by men,” she continued.

Last Thursday’s speakers included presentations from STEM, healthcare, and the literary community leaders such as Allyson Haut, Jackie Koo, Catherine Tojana, Megan Drilling, Courtney O’Connor, Patty Riskind, Karen Tumburro, Jim Davis, Kimberly Gabriel, Ami Campbell, and Beth Drucker.

Seminar topics included what it is like to be a woman in architecture and construction, writing a young adult novel with empowering female characters, and women working in environmentalism on a local scale.

Eighth period speaker Ami Campbell was co-author for the book Love Let Go: Generosity For the Real World. She discussed the power of generosity, how students can make a difference in their daily lives, and specifically about how gender inequality worldwide extends beyond culture and into economies.

“[Gender equity] is not only a justice issue, it’s also an economic issue. Every one percentage point increase in girls’ education translates into a .37 percentage point increase in GDP. Gender gaps across education, employment and access to financial services and capital are estimated to cost the economy 15 percent of GDP,” Campbell said during her presentation.

“When we improve the prospects for women and girls, we improve the prospects for everyone.”

Second period speakers Catherine Tojaga, Jackie Coo, and Megan Drilling, all leaders in architecture and construction, discussed the challenges and rewards of working in a male-dominated field, while fourth period speaker Patty Riskind described her journey as an woman entrepreneur and business leader.

Riskind expressed the importance of discussing both women’s issues in the workplace and beyond and how she would have benefited from professional guidance in high school.

“I was excited to present at New Trier, because I feel like International Women’s Day is important,” Riskind explained. “I think it’s great the audience is both boys and girls because men need to be more aware of the issues women face in general. Even though I’m specifically coming at this from a business standpoint, I think it can apply across all facets of life.”

One change for the Seminar Day this year was that students had the option to opt-out of a talk their teachers brought their class to if their parents sign a slip excusing them. Students only needed to return the permission slip if their parents did not approve of them attending a seminar.

Principal Denise Dubravec said that while students have the option to not attend International Women’s Day, the school does support the event.

“The work the club is doing to promote and discuss women’s issues is important to our student body. It is one part of our school’s commitment to discussing gender and equity, highlighting women’s issues and accomplishments, and providing opportunities for girls and women in our curriculum and extracurricular activities,” stated Dubravec.

Dubravec also discussed that the nine-period seminar is technically a club-based function which is why they’ve started requiring parent permission.

“When students attend programs that are sponsored by clubs, this is outside of their class curriculum, we want their teachers and parents to be aware” said Dubravec.

“This practice allows for an opt-in or opt-out. Clubs will have a chance to coordinate with the school to continue to sponsor events such as these, but students will not face any penalty if they choose not to participate in an event that is outside of their class curriculum,” Dubravec added.

Though the event was technically outside the normal curriculum, many feel that the stories of empowerment, success, and learning that the speakers shared was meaningful. Riskind reinforced that she thought the seminars were beneficial for all students.

“That there needs to be an appreciation for how women help change the world and all the contributions they’re making. So, I think the day itself is really worthwhile,” said Riskind. “My understanding is that today New Trier has representatives both male and female from all different sectors and being able to bring that into the school is fantastic. It gives inside you wouldn’t traditionally get just sticking to the curriculum.”