Modeling for the Future

Suzanne Romero Dewey
Tennis champion Billie Jean King (39 Grand Slam titles) once said, “You have to see it to be it.” At that time she was mostly talking about girls being inspired by other women and girls in sports. That sentiment, however, has taken on greater meaning as women make strides in new firsts and in providing role models for the future.

Executive Director of the National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) Megan Murphy in a recent interview on the role of girls’ schools in the preparation of girls becoming “influential contributors and leaders” said, “There’s a robust global conversation around women playing a fuller role in society from boardrooms to government, from soccer fields to finance, from closing the gender pay gap to having a seat at the table. It is more important than ever to listen, foster, and amplify the voices of girls and young women.”

Emma Willard School holds at the core of its mission to help prepare girls to be leaders in a changing world. Emma Willard students are encouraged to inquire, speak their minds, apply critical thinking, value community, and to believe in the power of inclusion. They are encouraged to serve and shape the world.

When United States (US) Vice President-elect Kamala Harris became the first woman, first woman of color to be elected vice president she, like Billie Jean King, pointed to the value of modeling, saying, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

In this year where we mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution giving some but not all women the right to vote, there is a marking of evolution. Women, through their work, their example, and their determination over the years make such moments as a first woman vice president possible. These role models join a legion of leaders and citizens who honor and extend suffrage and civil rights.

In her interview, Megan Murphy elaborates, “The best role models for girls are the ones they see every day: at school...in the advanced calculus and physics courses, in the art studio, on the theatre stage, at swim practice...and on the robotics team….Girls need role models to help them become their best selves.”

The Emma community is rich with role models. They can be found in the residential halls, in Ninth Grade Seminar, coaching debate, sponsoring community engagement, offering movement sessions, encouraging wellness, and in the college counseling process. In addition to Kamala Harris's amazing accomplishment, 2020, a year all will remember for the pandemic, also offers a series of firsts for women and provides a panoply of role models:

  • Sarah McBride, who spoke at Emma in 2019, will become the nation’s first person to publicly identify as transgender to serve as a state senator (Delaware) 
  • Billie Eilish was the first female to win the four main Grammy categories in one year
  • Katie Sowers was the first woman to coach at the Super Bowl
  • Kim Ng is the first female and first Asian American general manager in Major League Baseball history
  • We’ve witnessed the successful completion of the first all-female space walk with astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir
  • And most recently, Emily Harrington became the first woman to free-climb El Capitan's Golden Gate Route in one day

Emma Willard School celebrates these strides and cherishes everyday and big deal role-modeling. As an educational organization committed to developing leaders and global citizens, Emma Willard School will continue to lead our students in developing the essential skills that will help them navigate a complex and often-fractured landscape in concert with a world where girls can see examples of their vision.

You go, girl!
    • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (United States Senate via Wikimedia Commons)

    • NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir prepare for a spacewalk (NASA/Bill Ingalls via Wikimedia Commons)

    • Emily Harrington scaling El Capitan (from a previous climb: Jon Glassberg, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Welcome to Emma Willard School, a private day and boarding high school for girls in Troy, NY, and a leader in girls' education for over 200 years.