Campus & Community

Inclusion & Impact: Honoring Change Makers Of Our Time

Gloria Steinem. Anne Jardim, and Thasunda Brown Duckett
Left to right: Gloria Steinem. Anne Jardim, and Thasunda Brown Duckett

We are proud that this year marks the 125th anniversary of Simmons University, an institution founded for equality and dedicated to furthering social justice and economic mobility. We are also celebrating 45 years of The Simmons Leadership Conference, an annual gathering that has a rich history of bringing together some of the most accomplished women leaders from all sectors to focus on driving change in the workforce–and in the world. We are excited to take the stage in just a few short weeks to address our in-person audience here in Boston and thousands of attendees tuning in virtually from around the world.

This gathering represents an important moment reminding us that those around us can play a critical role in our journey to becoming our best self. When we were working on our book Arrive and Thrive: 7 Impactful Practices for Women Navigating Leadership  with Janet Foutty, our fondest memories were interviewing leaders and hearing their individual stories of learning and growth. We asked top executives to identify which of the seven practices impacted their success the most. Reflecting back, one theme has become abundantly clear: we are surrounded by women leaders who are inspiring change makers–and their insights can have an important influence on us. It is their legacy that reminds each of us to consider what’s possible and take the next step towards creating a different future.

We are pausing to celebrate remarkable leaders from the Simmons University community whose steadfast commitment to equity are leaving an indelible impact, shaping a different world for the leaders of today and tomorrow. Today, we honor three such leaders, who, without a doubt, have helped other women thrive.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem, Writer & Feminist Activist

"When unique voices are united in a common cause, they make history."

Gloria Steinem is a world-renowned political activist, feminist organizer and journalist who has made history across the last several decades during her storied career as a spokesperson advocating for women’s rights and equity. Early in her career, she was a founder of New York and Ms. magazines, where she remained an editor for 15 years. Steinem has authored several books and co-founded numerous successful organizations focused on addressing women’s equality and empowering women and girls. She traveled around the country as an outspoken advocate, leading marches dedicated to the cause of women’s rights.

Steinem received an honorary Doctorate Human Justice degree from Simmons in 1973. During her Commencement address that year, she spoke about a variety of issues related to gender equity that are still relevant today. In that speech, Steinem discussed the “enormous courage” of women who dare to break glass ceilings, to be the “first in their field; to explore the outer edge.”

In 2013, Steinem received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. In 2019, she was awarded the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum. Steinem is a featured keynote speaker at the 2024 Simmons Leadership Conference, where she will join comedian and best selling author, Trevor Noah, on April 3 for a conversation about how to engage both men and women in closing the gender equity gap in leadership today.

Anne Jardim

Anne Jardim, Founder, Simmons University School of Business

"That ceiling isn't glass; it's a very dense layer of men."

Anne Jardim ‘13HD founded Simmons University School of Business in 1974 alongside Dr. Margaret Jennig ‘62. Together, they are responsible for launching the world’s first MBA program designed specifically for women. Today, it is known as the School of Management and boasts a network of thousands of alumni worldwide with the highly anticipated launch of a new Masters in Management degree program coming soon.

Jardim co-authored The Managerial Woman, a seminal book that explores the challenges faced by women in business. It features in-depth interviews with 25 women leaders who held executive positions in high profile industries, detailing their individual personal development journey to corporate success. The Managerial Woman continues to be highly regarded and sought after by executives across sectors more than 25 years after first being published.

Thasunda Brown Duckett

Thasunda Brown Duckett, President & CEO, TIAA

“Use your voice, raise your hand, and empower yourself.”

Thasunda Brown Duckett is the President and Chief Executive Officer of TIAA, a Fortune 100 provider of secure retirement and outcome-focused investment solutions to millions of people working in higher education, healthcare and other mission-driven organizations. Duckett is the fourth Black woman to ever lead a Fortune 500 company. She is a leadership luminary and trailblazer in the financial industry who is widely recognized for prioritizing financial inclusion and educational opportunities for underserved populations.

Prior to her role at TIAA, Duckett held several executive positions during her career at JP Morgan Chase, including CEO of the Consumer Bank and Auto Finance. She is widely recognized for prioritizing financial inclusion and educational opportunities for underserved populations. Duckett is the 2024 recipient of the Visionary Leader Award, given in honor of Simmons University’s eighth president, Helen G. Drinan. This award is given annually at the Simmons Leadership Conference to a leader who embodies the Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership’s mission to manifest equity in leadership and create a more inclusive workforce.

Inspiring a World of Thrivers

For far too long, women leaders have had to focus on survival. After all, women comprise less than a quarter of middle managers, and that number shrinks even further at each rung of the corporate ladder. Even women who rise all the way to CEO experience higher turnover than their male counterparts do. But surviving as a leader is the floor, not the ceiling. What really matters is how you care for and return to your best self, the vision you set, the teams you build, and the impact you make on your colleagues, your organization, and the world.

By normalizing discussions about women leaders — and our shared experiences — we can learn from one another and create workplaces that truly work for everyone and where women can thrive. We celebrate Gloria, Anne and Thasunda – all of whom have inspired positive impact and set a meaningful example for igniting a path to thriving for women the world over.

Publish Date


Lynn Perry Wooten, Susan MacKenty Brady