Julia Cox ’23
Former president of Planned Parenthood and two-time member of TIME magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World Cecile Richards has spent a large part of her life fighting for the rights of other women, making her the perfect first Scripps Presents speaker of the semester on Jan. 30. Joined by Spectrum One Radio’s Alex Cohen, Richards covered the tricky leadership expectations of women, the role of women in politics and the workforce, and how to achieve your goals.
As the daughter of a well-known former governor of Texas, the evening began with a question not about Richards herself, as one would expect, but about her mother. With the context of her mother’s legacy in electoral politics, the conversation soon directed itself towards the inspiring life of Richards. As co-founder of Supermajority, a political action group that works to get more women elected into office, Richards is passionate about female representation in politics. However, she emphasized that it’s not always easy for them to get there.
“The systems were never made to recruit women,” Richards said of her experience in politics. The lessons she learned while maneuvering this truth became candid advice for a small group of 5C students at Career Planning and Resources (CP&R) Career Conversations event. Sharing her experiences, her insight was greatly beneficial in showing her personal journey as a woman involved in politics.
“When asked about imposter syndrome, she relayed her experiences dealing with self-doubt and uncertainty,” Rena Childers PO ’20, president of Planned Parenthood at the Claremont Colleges, said.“Serving as the spokesperson for the national movement comes with a high degree of pressure. I was amazed by how straightforward she was about both her successes and her failures over the past few decades.”
For those who are wondering how to accomplish their goals as successfully as Richards, she has some advice.
“Start before you’re ready. Just go,” Richards said to women trying to move forward in the workforce. Comparing her experiences to those of most men, Richards contrasts the typical confidence of both parties while maneuvering for a job.
“I have never really had a man say to me, ‘I just don’t think I’m prepared for that,’” Richards said after stating the importance of refusing to wait for your own success. Emphasizing sticking to your beliefs and not caring how others perceive you, Richards doubles down on her belief that our generation appreciates authenticity in people despite ongoing negative stereotypes of female leaders as being either “bossy” or overly feminine. Richards insists confidence and tenacity is essential to succeed in the workplace, referring to her job at Planned Parenthood to prove her point. When she first heard of the opening at Planned Parenthood for the position she would one day have, Richards states being nervous and doubting she could ever do it. This struck a chord with many in the audience, showing that even successful women such as Richards are human and have lapses in confidence.
“I think I hold a lot of successful people on a pedestal and doubt that they have similar struggles to everyone else but the fact that this incredibly successful woman also experienced self-doubt made me realize that it is natural to doubt yourself but you just have to take the leap,” said Lily Mundell ’22. As a woman leader, Richards has advice for those wishing to follow in her footsteps.
“Do not hide your light,” Richards said to a student asking about the most effective leadership style as a woman “Do not try to conform. Be your own badass self,” Throughout her life Richards has proved herself as an inspiring and influential figure for women, and her positive effect was felt among students who came to hear her speak.
“I was left with a feeling of overwhelming optimism and excitement for the future,” said Childers. “Cecile Richards is truly a giant in the world of nongovernmental advocacy. Achieving even a portion of all she did during her time as President of PPFA would be an absolute feat.”
Image Credit: Scripps College