Women’s History Month celebrates Women of Excellence with inspirational speaker

To crown a month of events highlighting women in science and medicine, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Inclusion and Equity hosted a talk by pioneering academic leader and Prairie View A&M President Ruth Simmons.

In opening remarks, Dr. Alicia Monroe, provost and senior vice president of academic and faculty affairs, introduced Simmons, who became the first African-American president of Brown University while Dr. Monroe served on the Brown faculty.

Monroe also recognized the 114 Baylor faculty, staff and trainees nominated by their peers as Women of Excellence. They stood for a round of applause and will receive certificates in their departments. See the complete list of honorees here.

In her talk, titled “Share the Vision: Facing the Future Together,” Simmons emphasized the continuing need for women role models and Women’s History Month.

“What women have done has been erased, ignored and not told,” she said. “We are revealing truths about what happened in the past. We are recognizing the fullness of history.”

Simmons, who grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward, made history when she became the first African-American woman to lead a major academic institution as president of Smith College.

Her local library inspired a passion for learning that earned her a doctorate in Romance literature from Harvard University and a stellar career in academia.

Despite the gains of the women’s movement, workplace bias, unequal pay and office harassment indicate that women’s equality is still a work in progress, Simmons said. “The future may not be as salutary as women of my generation hoped and expected.”

She called the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements part of a “new wave of emancipation.” In this social climate, “We owe it to those who came before us and those who will come after us to speak up in the face of bigotry and exploitation. Nobody – but nobody – gets a pass on speaking up,” she said.

“Never assume that your silence buys you personal advancement. It just makes you look complicit.”

Simmons’ speech capped inaugural Women’s History Month activities at the College that included a networking event and the Postdoctoral Association’s Women in Leadership seminar series.