Like the movies show us, a line out the door usually indicates that whatever is going on inside is incredible. That was just the case this past Friday, when the Douglass Diversity and Inclusion Program held its very first Women’s Day at Douglass.
From the moment you stepped into Kathleen W. Ludwig Global Village Living Learning Center, you were welcomed by a community of ladies in purple shirts. The event, which which kicked off at noon, started off with an hour full of fun, girl power and Douglass-themed activities.
First up was a room full of female students tabling and repping their clubs. Among some of these clubs were Douglass D.I.V.A.S., Muslim Feminists for the Arts, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Her Campus.
Once you made it through the tabling, you were able to choose from an array of fun activities. There was a cookie-decorating room, where you could decorate the iconic Douglass pine tree, free headshots and a photo booth with props.
After the fun and games, it was show time with three speakers. First to speak was the fit and fabulous Sara Zayed, founder of the blog Posifitivy.
Zayed felt right at home at Douglass, as she is Douglass Residential College alumna herself. She graduated from Rutgers in 2016 with a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. Zayed started her health and lifestyle blog in 2015 as a creative outlet for her true passion: Health and wellness.
Zayed spoke passionately and candidly about her blog, but most of all, she spoke to us about the importance of knowing ourselves, what we believe in and always living by our values.
In addition, Zayed urged us to explore our interests, surround ourselves only with people who uplift us, find healthy ways to work through our self-doubt and negative emotions and lastly to “just do it.” Once you find what you want and love: Do it.
Up next was larger-than-life and self-proclaimed “professional re-inventor of life” Deborah J. Holiday, a Class of 1985 alumna. Holiday, who is a life empowerment coach and creator of #loveyourselfie, opened by saying: “You never grow out of your tiaras and crowns, you grow into them.”
Holiday, who had done extensive research on bullying in the early 2000s, came to the realization that the biggest bully and battle is in our brains. Since then, Holiday has dedicated her life to helping women realize that the image you see in the mirror is dictated by you, and not the mirror.
Closing the event was none other than President and CEO of Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA) Dr. Ivonne Díaz-Claisse.
Díaz-Claisse was born in Puerto Rico, and learned the significance of education at a young age. There was one problem, though. Díaz-Claisse, who wanted to be a mathematician, was often dissuaded by teachers and people who believed that girls will never be “good enough” at math.
It all changed when she met a mathematician in Puerto Rico. Through that experience, Díaz-Claisse was able to see that she could do it, and she did. Eventually, she ended up working for AT&T and getting her Ph.D. in Mathematics. Díaz-Claisse achieved her dreams.
But there was an event that changed the trajectory of her career forever. Based on her years of work at AT&T, Díaz-Claisse was asked to speak at a school in Newark. There, she realized that most of the kids looked like her, and when she asked a teacher how many were Latino and Latina, she was told 98 percent were.
“What have I been doing, when there is a sea of children who need role models like me, like I did with that mathematician in Puerto Rico?” she said. From there, HISPA was founded, which is an organization that has Latino and Latina professionals serve as role models for students in their communities.
“The important thing to reflect on is diversity and inclusion and to start looking at all of us like we are all the same because we are all different," Díaz-Claisse said.
In all, Douglass’ very first Women’s Day was a complete success. For three hours, you were able to be part of a community that wants to empower women to see their full potential and reach for the stars regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever obstacles may stand in their way. Douglass showed it knows how to celebrate International Women’s Day, and we can only hope that this event will become an annual occurrence.