#HarvardHearsYou Summit for Gender Equity


#HarvardHearsYou Summit for Gender Equity

The First Gender Equity Summit Held in Memorial Church on April 2nd



On Tuesday, April 2nd the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Harvard University Title IX Office came together in Memorial Church to host the first #HarvardHearsYou Summit for Gender Equity. The program included talks, a celebrity panel, and candid discussion. On the celebrity panel were actress and activist Laverne Cox, fashion designer Christian Siriano and fashion blogger and body positive activist Nicolette Mason. Discussion topics included gender discrimination on university campuses, due process, and intersectional approaches to equity was encouraged.

The keynote was structured as a panel, moderated by social entrepreneur and “culture expert” Jess Weiner, CEO of Talk to Jess. The discussion spanned issues of trans visibility, body image and body positivity, gender representation in business, and other issues of equity.

Laverne Cox, best known for her role on the hit TV series Orange Is the New Black, is a high profile trans actress, producer, and activist, who spoke powerfully on how being a transgender woman has created difficulties in her career, but how it ended up being this aspect of her identity that granted her the role that launched her to stardom. In a key moment of the conversation, she summed up this change in the relationship between her identity and her career with a powerful quote, paraphrased from the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: “What gets in the way, becomes the way”.

Blogger Nicollete Mason spoke on issues of representation in the fashion industry, specifically of the 68% of American women who are above a size 14, and described her journey from frustrated consumer to industry insider, and the impact that she wants to have on the fashion industry as a whole.

Fashion designer Christian Siriano also brought an interesting perspective on equity to the table, as he was recently launched into the spotlight after designing a tuxedo gown that was worn on the Oscars red carpet by “Kinky Boots” actor Billy Porter. Androgynous and gender-bending fashion has been increasingly prevalent on red carpets and runways, and creative designers like Siriano have played a very interesting role in this development.

The Harvard Undergraduate Council advertised the event in a mass email to the student body after spring break, describing the event as an example of “student advocacy translat[ing] into positive outcomes for our student body. Moments like these only heighten our commitment to making Harvard a home for everyone”.


Evelyn Gray (evelyngray@college.harvard.edu) writes news for the Indy.