October 28, students, faculty and alumnae gathered to celebrate the presence of women in Wharton’s undergraduate program for more than 50 years. In an event coordinated by Wharton Women members Alice Lee, W’12, Trisha Mantri, W’11, and Vice Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips, the attendees spanned generations, from the first graduating class to include women in 1958 to the freshman class of 2014.
Three of the School’s female pioneers reminisced over a photo of the original 16 women in 1954. They spoke of an environment in which wearing Bermuda shorts (then in style) resulted in dismissal from a final, and of a few professors who blamed their misunderstanding of a concept on gender.
A panel of Wharton alumnae, Ann Harrison, W’58, L’61, Virginia Hepner, W’79, Randi Brosterman, W’81, WG’88, Eliza Mosurick, W’01, and Elizabeth Schweitzer Miller, W’06, discussed their varying experiences at Wharton and the evolving attitudes towards women on campus.
Harrison had primarily positive interactions with faculty, but noted that the “boys” were less accepting. Hepner, highlighting female faculty, said: “Susan Wachter was our advisor and really important to us. She, Jean Andrus Crockett and Anita Phillips were extremely generous.” Wachter, the Richard B. Worley Professor of Financial Management, still teaches at Wharton today. Diane Krausz, W’77, also mentioned Wachter’s prominent role. She recalled: “Susan had us over for dinner, with her husband and baby daughter playing in the next room. She cooked a wonderful meal for us and talked theory. It was the first time I saw a woman have it all—with such success in her career and family life. It was incredible to see this in the ’70s.”
While it was clear that campus culture has changed dramatically—for the better—since 1954, work remains to be done.
Vice Dean Phillips noted that not long ago, a woman was told her salary would be less than that of her male coworkers and recruiting interviews with women were not taken seriously by top companies. Now, discrimination may be less obvious, but there is still statistical difference in wages and hiring rates. She pointed out: “Only 15 Fortune 500 CEOs are female today.” Dean Thomas S. Robertson also spoke about the need to continue efforts to equalize the field for women. “Here at Wharton,” he said, “we hope to prepare you with the knowledge and leadership that can withstand discrimination in the work force.”
This event served as a reminder to all in attendance, explained Vice Dean Phillips: “For undergraduates, to recognize that classes here were not always the same. And for alumnae, to see the path they have blazed.”