On Tuesday, January 31, the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement and the Office of Student Affairs hosted Emmy-award winning actress America Ferrera to kick off its Women’s Leadership Initiative. The university community listened to her discuss how race and class have affected her career and level of success.
Carol Hardy-Fanta, director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and graduate program director of the Women in Politics and Public Policy graduate certificate program, gave the opening remarks at the event. Hardy-Fanta explained that women make up 60 percent of the student body at UMass Boston and are not only leaders on campus, but also in our communities as advocates and activists.
Hardy-Fanta’s remarks set the stage for a more academic perspective on women’s leadership. “Around the world, women are the force for change—leaders for peace in war-torn countries, educational and environmental activists, presidents and prime ministers. So this launch of the Women’s Leadership Initiative couldn’t come at a better time—to recognize all of you for the leaders you are today and to provide you with programming and mentors so you will be the leaders of the future!”
Ferrera shared some personal stories with the audience about her naiveté of the world as she entered college as a straight-A student from Los Angeles enrolling at the University of Southern California to study international relations. At age 18, and already an accomplished actress, Ferrera came to realize the “brutal truth of the inequalities” that she “had no idea of” until attending college.
Ferrera noted the importance of education in her life, calling it the route to her own self-awareness. She not only urged the students to complete their degrees but she also called for them to exercise their right to vote.
After Ferrera’s speech, Hardy-Fanta returned to the stage to moderate several questions posed to Ferrera on women’s self-image and self-esteem as well as women’s leadership and empowerment.
As an artist ambassador for Save the Children, Ferrera spoke of the importance of social justice in her advocacy work. She also spoke about her fundraising efforts to build a school in Mali.
In closing, she called for men to become more educated on women’s issues and to promote women’s leadership in the workplace.
America Ferrera is best known for her leading roles in the popular television series Ugly Betty and movies, including Real Women Have Curves (2002), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), and Our Family Wedding (2010).