She Opened the Door 2020

February 10, 2020

On February 9, nearly 600 alumnae and students came together for She Opened the Door 2020, a day of inspiring programming that celebrated 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

The event featured keynotes by Nobel Laureate Leymah GboweeCNN's Christiane Amanpour P: '23CC and Poppy Harlow '05CC, and New York Attorney General Letitia James SIPA. Topics of the day's six other sessions spanned journalism through a woman's lens, lessons in leadership, and social justice. 

The morning kicked off with a look at 100 years of women's history by Barnard College Professor Erika Kitzmiller, an expert on historical and contemporary practices that contribute to inequality. In her keynote address that followed, Gbowee shared eye-opening tales from fighting for peace across the globe. 

In an inspiring start to the lunch programming, James, the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New York and the first woman to be elected attorney general, shared her journey through public service. Amanpour and Harlow took over for an in-depth conversation about their careers, women as foreign correspondents, the definition of objectivity, and the importance of facts.

She Opened the Door 2020 was organized by the She Opened the Door Task Force, a committee within the broader Alumnae Leadership Group and co-chaired by Francine Glick '77BC and Ana Rodriguez '86SEAS, '88SEAS

The event is the sixteenth out of the She Opened the Door initiative, which aims to enlighten, educate, elevate, and to empower Columbia women across the University. The series kicked off in February 2018 with a historic conference that featured Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg '59LAW and attracted more than 1,000 participants.

New this year, the initiative integrated a fundraising component, Open the Door, which allows members of the Columbia community to honor someone who opened the door for them—personally or professionally—by making a gift in their name to a Columbia school, program, or cause that matters to them.

The "She Opened the Door" phrase is a nod to Winifred Edgerton Merrill, an 1886 graduate and the first woman to receive a degree from Columbia, opening the door for women to gain admission to Columbia’s graduate and professional Schools at a time when co-education for women was under heavy debate. 


A complete list of She Opened the Door 2020 events and speakers can be found here.

(Photos: Diane Bondareff/Columbia University)