Cap and Gown opens membership to underclassmen

Oct. 24, 2016, 1:00 a.m.
(AMELIA LELAND/The Stanford Daily)
(AMELIA LELAND/The Stanford Daily)

Cap and Gown, Stanford’s women’s leadership organization, will open membership to underclassmen for the first time in the group’s 112-year history this fall. The group announced its new membership policy Thursday at its first event of the year, which highlighted student leaders and welcomed prospective members.

By extending membership to all interested undergraduates and removing its selective application process, Cap and Gown hopes to transition from a pre-professional network to a strong community of mentors and friends.

Lauren Newby ’16, a member of Cap and Gown who helped found Students Supporting Body Positivity (SSPB), looks forward to opening the doors to the learning opportunities that the group offers.

“Cap and Gown is as much about growing leadership and learning from other leaders as it is about being a leader yourself,” Newby said. “You don’t need to have any specific qualifications to want to learn from others.”

Cap and Gown connects student leaders with a vast network of over 2,000 alumni, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor ’50, in order to foster and celebrate women’s leadership in the community. The group holds quarterly alumni events like Winter Welcome, which featured Condoleezza Rice as a speaker in 2013.

Members say that the group provides a valuable space for women to share their unique experiences and challenges.

“It’s important to have a community of role models, supporters, advocates and sounding boards,” said Maya Israni ’16, a member of Cap and Gown and the director of sponsorship for She++, a group that aims to empower women and minorities in tech. “I think that we need to be each other’s strongest supporters.”

According to Israni, support from other women is especially valuable in the tech industry. Although computer science is the most popular major among women at Stanford as of 2015, only 30 percent of those majoring in computer science are women. The numbers for professional leadership roles are starker: Just nine percent of executive officers in Silicon Valley are women, according to a report by law firm Fenwick & West.

“There are microaggressions that happen every day, even on Stanford’s campus,” Israni said. “And to me it’s been very powerful to have a community with which to share that.”

Shelby Mynhier ’16, a Cap and Gown member and the director of Jam Pac’d, an all women’s hip-hop dance group, emphasized the importance of noticing and responding to gender-based discrimination.

“I think we should all change unhealthy environments, and I think that starts with resilience and hard work,” Mynhier said. “It’s about stepping up and being a leader, regardless of what other people say you can or should do.”

Ariel Leong ’20, a prospective member of Cap and Gown, said the women who spoke at the group’s inaugural event inspired her to face her own challenges by demonstrating that a leader does not have to fit a specific mold.

“I didn’t think I could be a leader because I consider myself kind of a shy person,” said Leong, “but what they said made me think maybe I could.”


Contact Zoe Sayler at zoeneile ‘at’

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