Honoring Women's History Month

Posted by Office of Diversity & Inclusion on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 at 10:01 AM PST

Dear Campus Community,  

The month of March brings a celebration of Women’s History Month. This year’s theme, Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories, honors women who—through their storytelling—confront barriers and reveal critical truths. The theme, which includes storytelling through print, movies, music, and social media, inspires us to reflect on recent groundbreaking women like Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian-identifying woman to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, the first transgender actress to win a Golden Globe. This theme also highlights how women’s stories can be transformative. Young women like Mahsa Amini, who inspired a revolution in Iran, and women and girls engaged in acts of resistance across the globe, connect us all in the struggle for freedom and human rights for women worldwide. Women like Kimberlé Crenshaw—a leading scholar of critical race theory—who through her #SayHerName campaign honors the stories of Black women and girls who have died by police and gender-based violence, reveal how deeply powerful and meaningful women’s stories can be. And even beyond traditional storytelling, this theme inspires us to see every woman’s pathbreaking journey as a living narrative. Women like Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and Astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann, the first Native American woman to visit space and conduct a spacewalk, remind us that every woman who persists despite discrimination, misogyny, and violence is living—and telling—her own story.

Aligned with this theme and in support of our commitment to pursuing inclusive excellence, we have invited two of our colleagues to share their stories and reflections on what Women’s History Month means to them. Guided by our LIFT SU principles, we recognize and appreciate that fostering inclusion means amplifying voices from a variety of perspectives, and we believe that hearing, acknowledging, and affirming the diverse experiences among us offers a path toward solidarity and common purpose. We offer deep gratitude to Shiny Abraham, Associate Professor and Fr. Wood Research Chair, and Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, Vice President for Mission Integration for sharing their stories and perspectives, and trust that you will receive their words with openness. 

Shiny Abraham, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor and Fr. Wood Research Chair  

As a woman of color in STEM, I welcome Women’s History Month this year with reflection, gratitude, and aspirations. As I reflect on my journey thus far, gratitude abounds for the trailblazers, those celebrated and those unheralded, who paved the path for women and people of color in this field. I am grateful for mentors and empathetic leaders who work tirelessly to advocate for inclusive and diverse STEM environments, both inside and outside the classroom. I am grateful for this campus community that has helped me grow in humility and mindfulness, while pursuing the shared goal of inclusive excellence. I am grateful for the sacrifices that my parents have had to make to let their daughter explore her passion for technology and education in a foreign land, thousands of miles away. 

Having spent my formative years in a conservative society with traditional gender roles, I have had to make a conscious effort to change my perceptions and challenge social norms. I have a long way to go, but I am grateful for the learning and growth. As a mom of two little girls, my experience makes me keenly aware of actions, both intentional and unintentional, that perpetuate gender stereotypes. As an educator, my experience makes me mindful of gender disparity in classroom participation and teamwork. While my experiences may be unique and limited, I know that I echo the sentiments of countless women in academia and the workforce who faced increased caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic, among other challenges.  

As I look to the future, I am optimistic about the potential for positive change in society and STEM fields. My aspiration is for every young girl and woman to be empowered to pursue their passions and to advocate for themselves and others, regardless of societal expectations or gender stereotypes. I hope to see increased representation in STEM fields and systemic changes that will create an inclusive STEM workforce. Above all, I hope to see a future where women across the globe enjoy equal access to fundamental human rights and freedom. 

Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, Ph.D. 
Vice President for Mission Integration  

On this Women’s History Month, I find myself reflecting on women and the Catholic Church.   

Women have always played a pivotal role in the history of the Church, from Mary, mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalen, apostle to the apostles, to the many lay women and women religious whose lives bear witness to faith through their lives, to mothers and grandmothers who are often the first to introduce children to faith. 

Often, when people think of women and the Catholic Church, denial of women’s ordination is what first comes to mind. This is a painful reality for those who feel called to the priesthood. What can get missed is the power and influence that women exercise in the Church and its many works. Consider Catholic higher education in the United States. The majority of Catholic colleges and universities in this country were founded by women religious to serve the underserved. Today, of the Jesuit colleges and universities in the country, eight are led by women. Mission integration work in the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities is led by a woman, Stephanie Russell. At SU, leadership of areas with distinct responsibility for the Jesuit Catholic character of the university are held by women, including: Andrea Fontana, Interim Director of Campus Ministry, Jeanette Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, Donna Teevan, Chair of Theology and Religious Studies, and Jennifer Tilghman-Havens, Executive Director of the Center for Jesuit Education. The work these women leaders do help shape how we understand what it means to be a Jesuit and Catholic university. 

It is tempting to focus on the ways that women are disempowered or excluded. In so doing, one can overlook the ways that women have agency and influence, the ways that women transform church and society. This is not to deny the need to continue to break down barriers and combat inequity. Instead, it is an invitation to women to lean into our agency and courageously bring the wisdom that comes from our experiences to every space we occupy and to celebrate those women who are doing so. 

Resources and Renewal to Inclusion  

To show support throughout Women’s History Month, please visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website to find inspiring Zoom backgrounds and other resources. We also encourage you to attend OMA’s Women’s History Month discussion on Redefining Feminism at 1:00 p.m. today in PAVL 180. If your school, college, or unit has a Women's History Month event planned and would like it highlighted on our events page, please send details to inclusion@seattleu.edu.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us promote the actualization of women in all ways, and reaffirm our commitment to work against ongoing sexism and violence against women.  Let us also fully embody the theme of March 8th's International Women’s Day — #EmbraceEquity — and continue our work towards creating a campus that is welcoming and inclusive for all. 


Eduardo M. Peñalver, President  

Natasha Martin, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion