Book Celebrates 60 Years of Women at Georgetown McDonough
When Rita Zekas Sielicki (B’60) earned her degree from Georgetown University in 1960 she made history as the first woman to graduate from the newly formed School of Business Administration.
A new book, 60 Years of Alumnae: Memories, Milestones, and Momentum, commemorates the six decades that have followed, highlighting the experiences on the Hilltop and in the working world of Georgetown McDonough’s alumnae. Through interviews with graduates across programs from each decade, the alumnae paint a picture of the tremendous progress women have made in business and how their Georgetown experiences helped pave their way.
“We are proud to celebrate this tremendous milestone and the thousands of alumnae in our community,” said Paul Almeida, dean and William R. Berkley Chair. “This book documents just some of the many Hoya women courageous enough to be pioneers, to lead by example, and to be driven by a commitment to leave the world a better place than they found it.”
Memories, Milestones, and Momentum takes a candid look at what life was like for these women at Georgetown, as well as throughout their careers.
“It was important to us to create a history that captured both the struggles and accomplishments of our alumnae over the years,” said Michael O’Leary, senior associate dean for Executive Custom Programs and teaching professor of management. “It really is impressive how even our earliest graduates persevered despite tremendous societal barriers to pave the way for future generations.”
O’Leary, who spearheaded the project, worked with a team of student researchers led by Lydia Franz (C’21), Cady Stanton (C’20), and Andi Chin (C’19) to interview alumnae, as well as the early female faculty and administrators of the school.
The interviewers were surprised to observe that almost universally, the women felt supported on campus — even when there were just one or two female students at the entire school — and that each had very similar experiences in the working world over time.
“Through this collection of stories and the words of our alumnae, you can see broad shifts in how women navigated their professional lives,” he said. “You can clearly see how the women of each decade helped pave the way for the future, from the women in the 60s standing up to outright discrimination, to the women in the 80s finding more freedom to push boundaries, to our most recent graduates who are finding new ways to empower women in society.”
For example, Maurine Murtagh (B’68) entered the world of investment banking after graduation, only to discover that “they really did not know what to do with me.” As the first woman to ever be hired at her firm as a professional banker, she added that they were hesitant to take her to client meetings because “they weren’t really sure how that would go over.”
By the 1970s, the business world was more open to hiring women but was still adjusting to the changing professional dynamic. Lynn Tamburo (B’74) said, “I had plenty of job offers. Although they all wanted to hire women, I know from experience that many of the men I worked with who were more senior had no idea how to treat women in the workplace.”
By the 1980s, women had made a mark in the workplace and were finding ways to lift up those coming behind them. Two alumnae, Julie Kinch (B’82) and Lisa Cregan (C’81, MBA’83) discussed creating programs for women to advance their careers within their respective companies, Heineken USA and Morgan Stanley.
As the first woman general counsel and the only woman on the management team at Heineken at the time, Kinch said, “I had a platform and an obligation to help other women in the company. This is what first motivated me to start the women’s leadership group.”
It’s no surprise then that several alumnae from the 1990s discussed having women role models. When Dasha Smith (B’95) was hired by TIME in 2002, Ann Moore was the CEO, and there were women in several senior positions. “It set a foundation for me as far as seeing women in leadership roles,” she said. “Seeing women manage men; seeing women who brought other women up with them. It was a unique time.”
Graduates from the most recent decades still juggle work-life balance and empowering others to support diversity within their organizations. However, they also have found more opportunities for advancement than those who came before them, and they have an eye toward continued progress for future generations.
“I definitely think we have a long way to go, but I have already seen many changes that give me hope that progress will continue to be made and the inequalities in gender can be bridged,” said Miri Rosner-Zahler (GEMBA’17).
Fatema Dewji (B’10) added, “I really hope that things will change and young girls can grow up believing that they can do anything.”
Order your copy of Memories, Milestones, and Momentum.