Bryn Mawr Award

Official Portrait of Justice Sonia SotomayorTake the Lead prepares and propels women to reach leadership parity. In reaching that goal, it’s important for all women from diverse cultures and ethnicities have equal opportunities to fill these spaces. But as Catalyst reports, only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO women hold positions and another too-tiny percentage (a whopping 5.2 percent) hold Fortune 1000 CEO positions. How can this really be 2014 (nearly 2015) in America?While these stats do not make for much contentment, some recent announcements that highlight a couple of immensely brilliant, trailblazing women sure do.The Katharine Hepburn medal will be awarded to Justice Sotomayor at a gala event in Bryn Mawr College’s Goodhart Hall on April 17, 2015. Sotomayor will be awarded the college’s prestigious medal, which honors women who “change their worlds: those whose lives, work, and contributions embody the intelligence, drive, and independence of the four-time Oscar winner and her namesake mother, an early feminist activist,” according to Bryn Mawr College’s website. Those who are honored with his award are selected upon their contributions to two of two of the sectors in which Hepburn’s greatest passions lied – in both civic engagement and in the support of the arts.“As the first Hispanic and third female Supreme Court justice, Justice Sotomayor is truly a trailblazer,” said Bryn Mawr’s president, Kim Cassidy. “Her twenty-year commitment to the federal judiciary reveals her unwavering commitment both to public service and the importance of the legal system in our society and exemplifies the attributes deserving of the Hepburn Medal. Equally important, Justice Sotomayor’s many Jenny-Yang-3opinions from the bench, whether in the majority or expressing critical interests from a dissent, exhibit wisdom, an unflinching commitment to justice, and a fundamental dedication to real equality in our diverse society. In these and other ways, Justice Sotomayor truly embodies the Hepburn spirit.”Justice Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York, on June 25, 1954. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Princeton University in in 1976, their utmost academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law where she also held the position of editor of the Yale Law Journal.  Sotomayor was an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979-1984.Her experience continued as she mitigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt. Pavia & Harcourt hired her as an associate and she became partner in 1984 where she stayed for eight years. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York where she served for six years. Sotamayor was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998-2009. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role in August of the same year.According to CNN’s “Sotomayor Fast Facts,” Sotomayor was the third female Supreme Court justice and the first Hispanic. She was also the first Hispanic person to be appointed to the federal bench in New York. Sotomayor’s parents, immigrants from Puerto Rico, moved to New York in the 1940s.EEOCAs a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, I am elated that my alma mater recognizes women that are unafraid to hold positions that are normally, and more culturally accepted to be, held by their male peers. As a Hispanic woman (I am half Mexican), I am even more proud to see Justice Sotomayor honored in the way that she should be. While all women are still vastly underrepresented in an era that is moving forward in many other ways (especially in technology and media), minority women are represented even less so.But, moving back to positivity recognizes another step forward – President Obama has named Vice Chair Jenny R. Yang as Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as the first Asian-American chair.  The term expires on July 1, 2017. The senate confirmed Yang on April 25, 2013. The commission enforces federal laws that ensure workplace equality for all individuals.Debra L. Ness, president of National Partnership for Women & Families, has said of this appointment, “Yang is a wise, strong choice for this essential position; her track record of promoting fairness and equal opportunity in our workplaces is unsurpassed. As chair of the EEOC, Yang will have the chance to build on both the Commission’s powerful record, and her own proud history of protecting the rights of women and all workers.”Yang has led the review of the EEOC’s systemic program, which finds points of discrimination that have broad impact on an profession, industry company or geographic location. She has also represented the commission on the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.Just before becoming appointed to this position, Yang was a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, where she advocated for employees across the country in many difficult civil rights and employment actions. She served as a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division and Employment Litigation Section. She enforced federal laws that disallow employment by state and local government employers for five years.Yang was awarded her B.A. as a government major from Cornell University. She received her J.D. from New York University School of Law where she made two other memorable contributions – as a Root-Tilden public interest scholar and as an editor of the law review.As America is a culturally rich country with influences from around the world, and historically, a vivid melting pot of different ethnicities; as more women move into higher-level positions in government and other professional sectors, it is no surprise that they are varied in backgrounds. Having more women reach these levels in their professions is already a feat and that they are culturally varied is representative of how our country can slowly and surely become a true hot spot for equal opportunity for everyone.