Task Force Mulls Boosting Women's Participation

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

More than 50 alumnae attended a breakfast at Le Meridien Hotel in Boston on Sept. 25 to discuss ways to increase participation by women in giving and alumni volunteer programs.

In his introductory remarks, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, said Boston College would reach out to its alumnae.

"Boston College strives to listen," he said. "We want to hear what you've experienced in your life since you've graduated, how your talents have been tapped.

"BC is a place that's alive, that's vibrant, and that wants to keep graduating individuals who have an impact on society," said Fr. Leahy. "We need your involvement, your assistance, your ideas."

Though 53 percent of BC's current undergraduates - and 48 percent of its alumni - are women, alumnae at the "Women and Philanthropy at Boston College" breakfast heard that women are less well represented among the ranks of donors and top volunteers.

"Our concern is that despite our increasing numbers, we aren't yet as prevalent as volunteers or donors," said Trustee Mary Steele Guilfoile '76.

Added Trustee Susan Gianinno '70, "It's time we reappraised how we reach out to women as donors and volunteers. This is absolutely critical to the future success of the University." She went on to call the breakfast meeting "an historic event" marking the start of public activities by the Task Force on Women and Boston College.

Guilfoile and Gianinno co-chair the task force, a special panel of selected alumni and women trustees that was commissioned in 1995 to gauge women's involvement in the life of the University. Gianinno outlined the findings of a 1996 survey done of 350 alumnae, two-thirds of them donors.

The study suggested that BC alumni want to be involved in the "mainstream of activity at the University" and don't want separate programs targeted at them as women, Gianinno said.

Guilfoile described four sub-committees that have been formed by the task force to work more closely on certain areas of alumnae affairs.

The Communications/Research sub-committee will review BC communications to ensure that the "co-ed profile" accurately reflects the constituents of the University.

The Development sub-committee has launched several projects to test methods of increasing women's participation and donation rates.

The BC Roundtable sub-committee will develop alumni presentations, in cities such as New York and Washington, DC, aimed at raising the professional and academic profile of the University.

The BC Connections sub-committee will design a pilot mentoring project that will offer alumnae guidance to up to 50 undergraduate women.

The breakfast meeting culminated with conversations among the audience members centering on their experiences with philanthropy throughout their lives and in relation to BC.

The lively discussions focused on how the participants learned to make contributions and their best and worst experiences in that area. Comments reinforced the direction the task force has taken.

"Our initial focus is getting women involved. Participation is the key," Guilfoile said.

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