Women Moving Forward: Douglass College alumnae group to host women’s event open to all

Know this about the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College: When the college was formed in 1918, women did not yet have the right to vote in this country.

The point is not made to show how long the organization has lasted (though it’s notable in an era when others like it have gone out of existence) — or even how far women have come.

As the AADC celebrates the 100th anniversary of its first graduating class in 1923, and prepares for its next 100 years, Executive Director Valerie Anderson said organizations such as the AADC need to continue to exist to fight for more rights — and to protect women’s existing rights, many of which are coming under fire.

To mark the occasion, the group will hold an all-day event of speeches and panels March 18 at the Hilton East Brunswick Hotel & Executive Meeting Center.

For more information on the conference and ticket information, go to bit.ly/AADC-WMF2023.

Former President Barack Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett will give the keynote address.

Additional speakers will address a range of issues facing women today, including health care, wealth management, communications, politics and all aspects of the digital world.

Charlene Brown, Jeannine LaRue, Amy Mansue and Mary O’Dowd are among those presenting. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will speak about public service.

All women — regardless of whether they attended Douglass or Rutgers University — are invited. (There are nearly 40,000 alumnae of Douglass.)

Men not only are welcomed — they are encouraged to attend, Anderson said. Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway will speak, too.

ROI-NJ recently spoke with Anderson about the event. Here’s a look at the conversation, edited for space and clarity:

ROI-NJ: Tell us how this event came about?

Valerie Anderson: We wanted to celebrate our 100th anniversary and to celebrate women, that’s why we’re doing it during Women’s History Month.

ROI: AADC events typically are just for alumnae. Talk about the decision to open this event to everyone?

VA: Our vision is to have an event that creates a welcoming space for all women. We felt it was important to open this up to everyone, but we think it’s important for everyone to look back over the past 100 years to see how we’ve come a long way. But, yet, there’s also things that we still have struggles with. So, we wanted to create a space for all women to come together to learn and lift each other up, share our struggles and successes — our truths and our stories.

ROI: What is your hope for the takeaway?

VA: We want to educate, engage and connect women from all communities. We’re proud to have notable panelists from various sectors, including health care, law, politics, finances, education, tech and many other fields.

We wanted to bring together experts on areas that are affecting women today. We want attendees to take lessons learned back to their communities.

ROI: Talk about the theme: ‘Women Moving Forward.’

VA: Part of moving forward is not going back. We recognize that there have been some things that we’ve stepped back on, including the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. We want to show women that our voices matter, our rights matter — that we’re not an afterthought, and we won’t go back.

So, while there may be some things that are trying to take us back, we’re not going to. We’re going to keep moving forward. We want more career opportunities. We want more women in the C-suite. We want more inclusion in all aspects of life.

ROI: These issues impact women, but they are ‘women’s issues’? Talk about the impact of having Holloway, the Rutgers president, at the event?

VA: I think it speaks to the importance Rutgers always has placed on these issues — and about Holloway himself. While we need to support each other as women, our struggle is not just ours alone. Our struggle is everyone. Everyone is involved, needed and affected.

President Holloway and his wife are coming. He didn’t have to. He could have just sent his wife. He could have just sent a video message, but he’s coming. That means a lot.

He’s showing that these are issues that men need to be involved in. They need to know how they can help and how they’ve been affected by this. His coming is an endorsement and stamp of approval. It speaks to his leadership at Rutgers.

ROI: This is the first year of the event. What are your expectations — and do you think you will do it again?

VA: We don’t have an expectation of attendance, we’re just hoping to create an event with energy. We’re excited about this. We’re excited about our 100 years.

We’re one of the few alumni associations that exist, and we have a lot of notable alumni. The goal is to bring that energy, that excitement and that strength into this conference and then build on it.