Inspire Inclusion

Inspire Inclusion

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Marlborough’s Alumnae Association brought together a diverse panel of accomplished alumnae to discuss this year’s theme, “Inspire Inclusion,” during an All-School Meeting. Their conversation, expertly moderated by Libby D. ’25 and Ophelia S. ’25, centered around their stories of championing inclusion and their experiences as women in male-dominated industries. The panelists included Kerri Harper-Howie ’94, Dr. Dolly Klock ’88, and Lindsay Louie ’07.

Ms. Harper-Howie ’94 is a lawyer and business owner. She shared her experience as a McDonald's franchise owner and the intentional efforts she and her family make to uplift communities of color. She discussed her mother's pioneering journey in franchising and the barriers she faced as a Black woman in business, emphasizing the importance of resilience and determination in overcoming obstacles.

Dr. Klock ’88, a former family practitioner turned educator and entrepreneur, stressed the significance of inclusive language in her work, particularly when discussing sensitive topics like gender identity and sexual orientation. She highlighted the importance of creating safe and inclusive environments for discussions about puberty and sexuality, both for children and their parents. In addition to proudly serving on Marlborough’s Board of Trustees and Alumnae Leadership Board, Marlborough is also thrilled to be celebrating Dr. Klock as the 2024 Woman of the Year.

Ms. Louie ’07 is a Principal at Standard Real Estate Investments, LP, a minority-owned real estate private equity firm. She highlighted the importance of creating spaces where individuals can be authentic and emphasized finding supportive communities, echoing her positive experiences as a student at Marlborough. 

This inspiring conversation is best captured in the moderators and panelists’ own words. What follows is a selection of moments from their conversation. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Ophelia: Can you think of a class that you took at Marlborough, or a teacher that you had, who fostered your commitment to be inclusive in your life?
Dr. Klock: During my senior year, I took an English elective in creative writing. Senior year, there is a fair amount of emotions coming up and this was a great way to process everything I was feeling. In this class, we weren’t just writing, we were sharing our writing. That puts everyone in a very vulnerable position. What came out of this class, because we were being so vulnerable, is that we were learning so much about one another. Some of us actually didn’t know each other that well, but when you are learning about people's romantic relationships, deaths in their family, ways that they've been processing racism or differences in religion, and more, it gets very raw and real. It ended up doing this amazing thing: not only were we building community in that class, but it spilled over into our relationships with our broader grade level. People were trying to grab onto these last moments as Marlborough students and starting conversations with people they hadn’t had a chance to get to know as deeply yet. It is something I have carried with me for life: trying to get under the surface and really get to know people.
Ms. Louie: For me, it wasn’t a class but it was Homeroom and Advisory. My Advisor was the kindest, most welcoming person. When I walked into school every morning, I felt like I could get what I needed from my Advisor and our whole group, whether it was a moment to relax or if I just needed to be silly, laugh, or cry. I loved having that safe space. As an adult, I have really tried to find those people and those spaces that have allowed me to be myself and be authentic. 
Ms. Harper-Howie: The moment I felt fully and truly included was when I successfully ran for All-School President. I don't know that you realize the connection that you have with people outside of your small circle of friends until you do something like that. It gave me this great opportunity to get involved with everyone on campus because when you're in the student body leadership, you have to engage, listen, and participate in so many different ways you perhaps otherwise would not have. So I really think my sense of inclusion came from the entire Marlborough student body! 

Libby: Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate how each of you talked about the importance of a small community, but especially about the power of gaining connections with people who may not be in your immediate friend group. I think that is such an important takeaway for us. I'd love to take a step further and ask: how does the term inclusion apply to you and your work?
Ms. Louie: Inclusion is integral to what I do now; it is a big part of my work life and what I do outside of work, too. I started my career at a larger investment management firm that truly was an old boys club. I was always in rooms where I was the only woman, the only young person, the only Asian person, or the only combination of all those things. My current business partners—who also identify as minorities—and I felt like we wanted to create our own space and opportunity for people that looked like us. Born out of the pandemic and a collection of social justice movements, my partners and I left this larger firm and started Standard Real Estate Investments where we endeavor to afford opportunities to diverse developers across the country to build communities with affordable housing that are inclusive of their communities and the people that they represent. We found that when you build these communities with people who are from there, they know exactly what the community needs.
I have also spent some time on the Los Angeles County Commission for Women and Education. When I was representing the 2nd District—the most racially and economically diverse district in the county—I found that a lot of the women and girls didn't know that there were opportunities out there for them. It is hard to advocate for yourself to be included in opportunities that you don't know you're being excluded from. What we tried to do was put together these educational programs and job fairs to really let these girls know all that is available to them, that they can do all these different things in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics that they didn’t know were out there.
Ms. Harper-Howie: I have to give so much credit to my mom who got involved with franchising in the 1980s. The first restaurants were in neighborhoods that could probably be described as more affluent, but in 1995 she traded in her two restaurants that were in these higher end, less diverse neighborhoods and decided to purchase five restaurants that were in communities of color. That was a very intentional and conscious decision by her to be a Black woman who owned businesses in Black and brown communities. I have always been learning from her modeling of what it means to be inclusive and representative. 
My sister and I are now in business together. 99% of our employees are Black and brown. The neighborhoods where our restaurants are located are Black and brown. Many people would be hesitant to own restaurants in the communities where we serve. Our restaurants thrive and we're very happy to be able to hire individuals from the communities where we serve, uplift them, and be actively involved in these communities.
Dr. Klock: Well… I teach puberty and I teach about sex. For me, I think the way inclusion comes up is primarily around gender identity and sexual orientation. When I teach workshops about puberty, I’m teaching to 5th- and 6th-graders and their parents. I know, it sounds so dreadful, but it's actually really fun and empowering because I'm teaching the kids and I'm also modeling for the parents that these conversations can be fun and even funny. What is so interesting to see is there's such a difference between the comfort level of young people who are much more well versed in all the vocabulary than their parents. In those moments when I'm talking about sex assigned at birth and gender identity, I feel like I'm teaching the parents more than the kids sometimes. When I meet with teenagers, if we're talking about relationships and hookup culture, I can't walk into the room and assume people's pronouns or use exclusively heteronormative messaging. That will shut down the entire conversation before it even begins. In my work, it is so important to me to be inclusive with my language. 

Ophelia: Do you have any memories of being in a male-dominated environment after graduating from Marlborough and realizing how your time at the school really shaped you?
Ms. Louie: It’s impossible for me to count the times I’ve been the only woman in the room. The confidence I gained at Marlborough means I don't think twice about raising my hand and offering an opinion. We are taught here to have an opinion and speak up. That training has served me really well. There's always been this part of me that is really comfortable with who I am; I can attribute a lot of that to my experience as a Marlborough student.
Dr. Klock: At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I was attending my first sociology class. I went to UCLA so it was a big school, not exactly male-dominated but a mixed environment. On the first day of class, in a 500 person lecture, the professor gets into the first lecture and poses a question to the group. Without hesitating, I raise my hand. He looks right at me. I look around and I realize I am literally the only person in the room raising their hand. While that felt really different from what I was used to, it was also a moment of realizing the confidence that comes from a Marlborough experience. At Marlborough it’s cool to be smart and participate in class. We have this really special place where everybody’s voice matters.
Ms. Harper-Howie: Unfortunately, it never ends. So you have to get ready for it. You have your years at Marlborough to soak up every opportunity available to build your confidence. In those tough moments, you will be able to rely upon your Marlborough experience and confidently say, “This isn’t right.” You are ready for whatever will come your way throughout the rest of your life. Marlborough is preparing you for it.

Ophelia: What is a piece of advice you would give to Marlborough students who either want to create a more inclusive environment or want to feel empowered to use their voices?
Dr. Klock: Your voice is so important. The way you all use your voices at Marlborough makes a difference too. I get to see behind the curtain and it drives some of the conversations that contribute to our school continuing to evolve in positive ways. Use your voice here and keep using it. Being inclusive starts with you when you're respectful, welcoming, and open-minded about ideas and people that are different than you are, so keep creating space for people.
Ms. Louie: Find out what “using your voice” means to you. It doesn’t always have to mean being the loudest person in the room. Sometimes showing up is enough and that's okay. Another thing I’ve learned is that sometimes it is ok not to be included. That means there is an opportunity for you to forge your own path and be your own woman. I think that’s important to know because Marlborough students are innovators; we need you out there doing your own thing!
Ms. Harper-Howie: Whatever it is that you have to say, whatever question you need to ask, whatever impact you feel like you need to have, do it. There's no wrong answer. If you're not included, find a way to include yourself because what you have to say and who you are is necessary and valuable. 

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In the image that accompanies this article, Ms. Louie, Ms. Harper-Howie, Dr. Klock, Libby, and Ophelia (left to right) stand on the Caswell stage with their hands raised in hearts. This is the worldwide symbol of International Women’s Day 2024 as we globally seek to #InspireInclusion.

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