On Thursday, February 28, alumni, parents, students, and faculty from The Claremont Colleges gathered in Scripps College’s Hampton Room for the fourth annual Laspa Leadership Summit. Organized by the Laspa Center for Leadership, the summit was established to promote active dialogue about the nature of women’s leadership in the 21st century.
Scripps alumna and California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson ’71 (second from left) kicked off the event with a keynote speech dedicated to this year’s theme, Unity in Leadership, and the challenges women in leadership positions have overcome over the past few decades. Following the presentation, architect Poonam Sharma ’95 (far right), Scripps parent and biotech consultant Tien Bui P’20 (second from right), and research analyst Dr. Elsa Macias (far right) spoke on a panel facilitated by Senator Jackson.
Senator Jackson’s keynote touched on the statewide gender equity bill she authored, which was signed into law in 2018. “I did legislation that now requires companies that are publicly traded in California to add women to their corporate boards. Right now, women make up about 16 percent of the board seats of these companies here in California. Research shows that we need women on corporate boards in significant numbers—we call that ‘critical mass.’ It is that momentum that we need to build. There’s so much we can do when we come together.”
A panel discussion followed Senator Jackson’s keynote speech, generating a dialogue about delegating responsibilities, balancing work with non-professional commitments, and the state of women’s leadership in 2019.
Tien Bui P ’20 is cofounder and principal at Biozen Consulting, an independent firm that assists emerging life-sciences companies and biopharma in bringing innovative therapeutics and technologies to market. She encouraged women in executive and leadership positions to “trust in your instincts, trust in what you know, and believe in yourself” when navigating challenges in male-dominate fields. Bui also serves as a volunteer board member for the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, an organization that focuses on supporting members of the Asian community who are at risk for HIV.
Poonam Sharma ’95 also paved her own way in a male-dominated field, cofounding LOC Architects, an architecture firm based in downtown Los Angeles. Her position requires her to delegate power and collaborate with many types of people, from clients to engineers. “I came from Scripps, where women were very empowered, and I felt like I could do anything. And I did,” she said.
Dr. Elsa Macias is an independent consultant who uses her skills in information technology policy and education to help serve Latinx communities. Her work centers on educational program assessment and curriculum development within K–16 schools. “We are superwomen, and that’s a difficult lesson to unlearn! We really need to know when to reach out and say, ‘I need help,’” Macias said.
After the panel, attendees got the opportunity to network with each other and with panelists. “Senator Jackson and all of our panelists are such successful and admirable leaders, and it was an honor to be able to speak with them,” said Krithika Rao ’19, a Scholar in Action at the Laspa Center.