Speakers Challenge Women to Innovate

Speakers Challenge
Colleen Seidelhuber Willoughby, Janis Wignall, Katya Matanovic, Megan Ferguson Clubb

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, build your own table.”

Those were the words of wisdom offered to Whitman women by Katya Matanovic, managing director of the Pomegranate Center in Seattle and one of the panelists in this year’s Women in Leadership Symposium. Rather than accepting the male-dominated culture of some businesses, she urged the almost entirely female audience to blaze their own trails in pursuit of their passions.

Women Ledership Audience members listen to Katya Matanovic speak at the Women in Leadership Symposium.

“Start over,” she said. “Make the kind of table you want. Maybe it doesn’t have any corners, maybe it’s purple, who knows? But it’s your table and you get to establish the balance of it. You don’t have to play by their rules. That’s the great thing about right now.”

For nearly 30 years, Colleen Seidelhuber Willoughby ’55 has hosted this symposium to bring outstanding women leaders in various professions to campus to inspire Whitman students. In addition to Matanovic, this year’s panelists included Megan Ferguson Clubb ’79, president and C.E.O. of Baker Boyer National Bank in Walla Walla, and molecular biologist Janis Wignall.

Willoughby graduated from Whitman with a degree in politics and speech and is an emerita trustee of the college. Speaking to a crowd of students in the Young Ballroom in the Reid Campus Center in October, she shared the three major differences she sees for women entering the work force today as opposed to 30 years ago: a greater expectation for civic engagement, the effects of technology and the advent of a global community.

“It’s important for women to be leaders in this community,” she said. “We want you all to be comfortable with your competence.”

Willoughby and Clubb, another Whitman alumna, also praised Whitman for the strides it has made and for providing opportunities like the symposium. Willoughby summed up her feelings toward her alma mater:

“Run, don’t walk, to get here!”

—Gillian Frew ’11