In 1991, Anita Hill became a household name across the United States when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during her time as his legal advisor. Though Thomas was eventually confirmed as a justice, Hill’s testimony sent shockwaves through the country—and brought discussions about sexual harassment, gender equality and more into the national spotlight.
This week, Hill came to Case Western Reserve University to speak on her work as an activist, lawyer and educator fighting for better workplace environments and bridging the gap of gender inequalities. Her talk, “Believing: The First Step to Change,” drew from her 2021 book Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence. It was the first in-person F. Joseph Callahan Distinguished Lecture since 2019, was part of the Think Forum series—and marked the kickoff of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women’s 20th anniversary celebration.
“The conversation … from the 1991 hearing [that has], in some ways, replayed since with the hearing with Christine Blasey Ford [on Justice Brett Kavanagh] as well as the hearing of Justice [Ketanji Brown] Jackson—those conversations have endured and built for now three decades, if you can believe it. Since 1991,” Hill said. “I know that even failed proceedings, especially, invite us to learn from victims, survivors; to take stock of our own behavior in what may be complicit in the problem they complain about; and finally to take a deep look at our culture and institutional structures that enable behavior that threatens our rights and our very existence.”
This message was an ideal kickoff to the center’s anniversary year, said Angela Clark-Taylor, executive director of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women.
“The first step toward working for gender equity is acknowledging that gender inequity exists and then understanding its connection to racism and all other forms of oppression,” Clark-Taylor said. “Anita Hill was the perfect speaker to kick off our 20th anniversary celebration because she has spent over 30 years as a scholar and advocate making the case that as a problem, gender violence is inextricably tied to other areas of discrimination and oppression, like racism and transphobia. Professor Hill demonstrates the impact gender violence has on every aspect of all our lives and demands that America see gender-based violence as a cultural and structural problem that we can change in community with each other.”
Hill’s talk was just the start of a year full of social, philanthropic, awards and advocacy events—concluding with a conference on Women in Philanthropy Oct. 18 featuring FedEx Custom Critical President and CEO Ramona Hood (MGT ’16)—to commemorate two decades of the center. Karen F. Kaler and CWRU trustee Jakki Nance (LAW ’92) are co-leading a committee of alumnae and supporters in planning the celebration.
Over the past two decades, the center has transformed into a community space at Case Western Reserve centered on connectivity, programming and research to empower women and advance gender equity. The Mather Center—one of the largest and most comprehensive university centers for women in the country—provides coaching, education and advocacy services for the CWRU community, leadership development of hundreds of faculty and staff members, mentoring of thousands of women in STEM, and seed funding for dozens of research and advocacy projects. Plus, Clark-Taylor said, the center has grown its national impact through HIGHER, a national conference series for women leaders in higher education, and by launching a research brief series and academic journal.
“This anniversary year, I am most looking forward to the opportunity to unite folks across the communities we serve,” Clark-Taylor said. “To bring students, staff, faculty, senior leadership, trustees, alumni, and community members together to learn more about gender equity in higher education through events like [Hill’s talk] are the only way we can continue to advance the Mather Center mission at CWRU and beyond.”
To learn more about the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women’s 20th anniversary celebration, visit case.edu/centerforwomen.