With famous faces like Hillary Clinton, Amal Clooney and Ava DuVernay, almost six in 10 graduation speakers at the 25 largest-endowed schools will be female
The #MeToo-era commencement season boasts a greater degree of woman power.
A majority of top U.S. colleges will have women speak at their spring graduation ceremonies, the Associated Press reports, making almost six in 10 speakers at the 25 largest-endowed schools female. Over the past 19 years, in comparison, only a quarter of those schools’ speakers were women.
Notable women among the cadre of commencement speakers include Hillary Clinton (Yale University), Amal Clooney (Vanderbilt University) and Mindy Kaling (Dartmouth University, her alma mater). Director Ava DuVernay, speaking at Cornell University, will be the first woman of color in a decade to headline the school’s commencement. And beyond schools with the highest endowments, there’s Queen Latifah (Rutgers University-Newark) and Anita Hill (Rutgers University-Camden and later Wesleyan College).
The AP notes that the sudden demand on companies tasked with finding graduation speakers to select women coincides with the national reckoning on sexual misconduct that has swept across industries. While school officials told the AP their decisions weren’t overtly driven by #MeToo, some suggested students on selection committees may have had the movement in mind.
“There’s been a much bigger push to bring in white females, black females — anyone other than a white male,” Richard Schelp, owner of the Memphis-based Executive Speakers Bureau, told the AP. “We’re digging deep into our reservoir of resources.” Forty percent of recent requests to his bureau from schools and other groups have been for females.
Greater Talent Network CEO Don Epstein, who said the demand for female speakers had increased over the past year, predicted colleges were “just scratching the surface here.” “This is not a flash in the pan,” he told the AP. “This is a long-term issue that’s going to be around for a long time, until there’s real equality.”
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