I Need a Hero
Friday, January 11, 2019 Photo Credit: The Weintraub Family and The New York Times
When I was an undergraduate student, a classmate in my American literature seminar asked the professor, “Is this an American lit class or a women’s lit class?” The first two novels we’d read were written by women. The professor responded by asking the class rather plainly, “If the first two novels we’d read were by men, would anyone be asking if this was a men’s literature class?” That professor was one of only two female instructors I had as an undergrad, and she was my hero.
Archer parent Geena Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, says, “If you can see it, you can be it,” a truism that guides us daily at Archer as we design curriculum and provide countless opportunities for our students to learn about and hear from a diverse range of courageous and powerful women. Two women who have inspired me, two women who will always be among my pantheon of “sheroes” are Dr. Bernice Sandler, “Godmother of Title IX,” and Roberta Weintraub, educational futurist, philanthropist, and Archer grandma. Both of these fearless change-agents passed away last week, and so I began 2019 thinking deeply about what it takes to leave a legacy of bravery and lasting impact.
Those of you who’ve come to an Archer Open House probably recall my referencing Dr. Sandler and her critically important research on the “Chilly Climate,” which identified and quantified the gender bias in co-educational settings. Her work revealed that we call on boys and men more, give them more praise for what they say, and interrupt them less. Dr. Sandler recognized the cumulative impact this bias has over the course of a girl’s schooling and its ultimate effect on her confidence. Dr. Sandler was among the first researchers to really investigate the confidence gap between women and men. Her advocacy for Title IX, which was the legislation in the 1970s that gave equal access to educational resources to girls and women in public schools and universities, is revered as the force behind U.S. women’s success in competitive athletics. In fact, the next time you see the U.S. women’s teams dominate at the Olympics, you can join me in thanking Dr. Bernice Sandler.
If you visit the Saban IDEAlab, you will notice a plaque that reads, “The Roberta Weintraub and Ira Krinsky Engineering Classroom.” A 14-year Los Angeles School Board member and four-time President, a proponent and founder of the magnet school program in L.A., founder of High Tech High L.A., and generous supporter of Archer’s STEM program, including the Archer RISE Award, Roberta was not only a force for educational innovation, she was an outspoken advocate for gender parity in educational leadership and opportunities for under-resourced and underserved student populations. But more than all that, to me Roberta was a friend and champion of Archer and my leadership. We sat together many times in my office, and when I confided that the opposition we faced as a school or the attacks I faced personally as a leader were taking a toll, her words were simple yet sustaining. “I believe in you. Archer’s mission is critical. You and your team are doing phenomenal work.” While the words themselves always lifted my spirits, it was Roberta’s presence that always recharged me - her boldness, her irreverence, her understanding of the courage it takes to be an outspoken, unflinching female leader. She had a bold way and a big heart, and I will miss her.
“Think about the young minds that will bring us the technology of tomorrow. Our future depends on them — and they, in turn, depend on us. To invest in their education. To fire their imaginations. To make sure they are able to fulfill their enormous potential. This is our mission: To open up the possibilities — and then to stand aside.” - Roberta Weintraub