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The Fletcher Alumnae Community Reflects on Women's History Month

The Fletcher School shines a light on its extraordinary alumnae.

What does Women's History Month mean to our alumnae community in 2021? What advice does our alumnae community have for current female Fletcher students? How does Fletcher set students up for success? To celebrate Women's History Month, we asked a group of our alumnae these questions.

Expand the accordions below to learn more about a just snapshot of our remarkable alumnae.

Christina Sass (F09), co-founder of Andela

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

As we work toward a future when women's contributions are obvious and equal, I welcome opportunities to highlight the incredible women on whose shoulders the rest of us currently stand. This year, RBG is of course on my mind. How long do we need Women's History Month and efforts like it? Until there are 9...

What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

Despite all the positive action and change we've seen in recent years, we are still operating in a work world governed by sexist systems. Know that and then operate strategically within that reality. Seek out and build merit based systems. Give your efforts to companies and organizations that are merit based. Be fierce advocates for each other and say yes to chances to help each other. 

What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher? 

Building Andela. We built the company from 0 to 2000+ international team members and put African tech talent on the map. Seeing our earliest developers now leading tech teams, starting companies, and going to world renowned business schools is incredibly fulfilling. 

How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

On my first day of orientation, I was sitting beside the deputy finance minister for South Korea. Imposter syndrome anyone? The Fletcher School leveled the playing field for me. It gave me confidence to aim MUCH higher and the network to help catapult my career forward.  

    Mariya Ilyas (F18), Foreign Service Officer at U.S. Department of State

    What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

    Women's History Month is an opportunity to celebrate female giants who have come before us and commemorate their legacies. It is also an opportunity to embrace our femininity and think about how we can pay it forward, how we can reflect on our own experiences and identify ways we help those who follow us.


    What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

    Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take classes that will expand your skill set and perspectives. Some of the best classes I took at Fletcher were the ones that challenged me the most and forced me to question my own biases.


    What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher?

    I would say my greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher is gaining proficiency in the beautiful yet difficult language of Arabic after eight months of training at the Foregin Service Institute, and receiving the Matilda W. Sinclaire Award for this achievement by the American Foreign Service Association. I use my language skills daily in my work as a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy Amman and enjoy engaging Jordanian audiences through the embassy's social media videos.

    How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

    Fletcher taught me to use the power of words and the pen to affect change. As a diplomat, these are my most valuable tools. Fletcher also taught me to keep steadfast to my values and draw on my background and experiences in every endeavor I undertake. 

    Harriet Cross (F19), British High Commissioner to Trinidad & Tobago

    What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

    History is all too often about men whether we’re talking about politics, science, literature or music. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to learn about the women who changed the world but also whose names are not known and who do not have statues built to remember them. It’s about giving them back their voices which were too often drowned out by the sound of men talking. It’s also an opportunity to hear from today’s women who are doing amazing things in so many important fields. 

    What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

    Don’t be afraid to compete, to take risks, or to fail. You must be your own cheerleader. Cherish and respect yourself as you cherish and respect your best friend. Don’t be a perfectionist, life’s too short for that. Be kind, kick ass, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not deserving of love or success. 

    What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher? 

    I’ve been promoted and now have an Ambassador rank in the British Diplomatic Service. Though I think dealing with the uncertainty and frustrations of COVID for the last 11 months comes a close second as a recent accomplishment.  

    How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

    Data-driven diplomacy is becoming increasingly important, and my studies at Fletcher gave me confidence that I could manage complex data and learn new skills (though I hope to never hear about the partial equilibrium model again). Because I completed my masters while working full-time it is evidence of my commitment to self-development and ability to manage a heavy workload effectively. 

    Vicki Assevero (F10), Founder & Chairman of Green Market Santa Cruz, and Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council

    What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

    Women's History Month calls me to reflect on the power of the feminine. It reminds me of the “hidden figures,” who have contributed so significantly to global progress and who are still sidelined by the patriarchy. From the feminine expressions of the Divine, to Dr. Patricia Bath, Marie Curie, Sonia Sotomayor or Soujourner Truth, we need to relearn herstory.

    What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

    Contribute to making the wellbeing economy a reality. Make sure to have your own personal board of directors to help guide and encourage you.
     

    What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher? 

    Becoming a Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale and a Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council all in a virtual world of perma- pandemic. And of course a 10 year old social enterprise: Green Market Santa Cruz!
     

    How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

    I was part of a wonderfully diverse and talented group of classmates. The professors were thoughtful, and challenged and analyzed the global institutional status quo. Fletcher encouraged me to push to find new possibilities. In fact that is my modus operandi (MO). Neither pessimist nor optimist but “possibilist”! 

    Mimi Alemayehou (F98), Senior Vice President for Public Private Partnership at Mastercard

    What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

    It’s a time to celebrate and reflect on the important contributions women have made around the world. From Harriet Tubman to Marie Curie women have been at the forefront of leadership on the most topical issues of the day.

    What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

    Don’t let anyone direct what you should do next, go with your passion even if it does not look promising now. Seek out mentors that can guide you. Graduation does not mean you stop learning.  

    What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher?

    Personally, it’s having two healthy and happy children.  Professionally, it’s been the ability to work in development and contribute to impact that is measurable and visible, like building a power plant that provides access to electricity to millions of people. My paternal grandmother passed away without experiencing the luxury of electricity at home, and her village in Sidamo, Ethiopia has no power to this day. I think about that each day I turn the switch on.

    How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

    Fletcher gave me a solid education to chart my path in development while also providing something I was not expecting – cherished friends I can’t imagine my life without. Attending Fletcher has been one of the best investments I have made for myself.

    Victoria Esser (F99), Partner at Finsbury Glover Hering

    What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

    It is an important moment to reflect on and recognize the often under-represented contributions of women to our society. I hope we will evolve to a point when we don't need a Women's History or a Black History Month to ensure that those contributions are fully appreciated.

    What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

    The professional terrain has changed so much across sectors in just the past few years - women are in a much better position to call out when there is an issue of discrimination or otherwise in the workplace. In terms of advice, this applies for women and men - take the risks and seize the opportunities that excite you and where you will learn from people who are smarter than you. Be gracious.

    What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher? 

    Serving in the Obama Administration at both State and Treasury was an incredible experience - I felt like I was able to contribute in some small way to making our country a better place. Being a key part of the plans at Treasury to modernize our currency and have it reflect a more inclusive view of American leadership and democracy through the inclusion of a figure like Harriet Tubman was a highlight.

    How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

    Fletcher taught me to analyze a challenge in a holistic way - what are the legal, economic, societal, political and global dimensions to the problem? And to make sure that I considered all of those dimensions in formulating a strategy to address it.

    Emma Belcher (F04), President of Ploughshares Fund

    What does Women’s History Month mean to you? 

    Women’s History Month is an important time to elevate the accomplishments of women and their contributions to society that too often go unnoticed and unacknowledged. We'll have made real progress when we have no need to single out women’s achievements.

    What advice would you give to female students at Fletcher now?

    Foster the connections among yourselves and with other women's groups - they can be a huge source of strength and support. And don't hesitate to ask for advice from women who are established in their careers. Chances are that they themselves have benefited from the mentoring of women who've gone before them and will be keen to pay it forward.  

    What has been your greatest accomplishment since leaving Fletcher?

    I’m proud of my accomplishments working to help reduce the risk of nuclear weapons use. A common theme for me is building a life and career for myself that is meaningful, interesting, and that hasn't followed a traditional path. 

    How did Fletcher set you up for success in your career?

    Fletcher's multidisciplinary and flexible approach allowed me to tailor my study in a way that positioned me to pursue an interesting career in line with my interests. Studying International Security Studies, Conflict Resolution and Negotiation, and Southwest Asia and Islamic Civliization brought together my understanding of complex issues in a holistic way. Fletcher also connected me to inspiring and talented people who I still draw on and work with today. 

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