On Thursday evening, Barnard President Debora Spar welcomed mayoral candidate and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to campus for an evening of discussion about New York’s most pressing issues and the challenging expectations that women face in their lives and careers. More than 300 alumnae, students, and faculty attended.

In her opening remarks, Speaker Quinn noted the widespread presence of Barnard alumnae in public service, including a few she’s worked closely with: Maura Keaney ’96, Sarah Scheinman ’12, and Eva Schneider ’13, who will graduate in May.

Through anecdotes about the tenacity of her grandmother, who survived the sinking of the Titanic, and the hurdles she’s faced in her own career, Speaker Quinn urged young women to turn off their “internal naysayer,” and move past persistent expectations about conforming to norms.  By deciding to let go of societal pressure to be perfect, she said, “We will create an enormous positive energy in this city that will help lift up young girls and young women and other people who need to have their right to excel and their right to not be perfect affirmed.”

This theme carried over into the second half of the event, when President Spar joined Speaker Quinn on stage for a more informal conversation. “In politics, I find women are really supportive of each other,” said Speaker Quinn, also noting that women elected officials are quick to reach across the aisle and work toward compromise. In response to questions from the audience, Speaker Quinn also touched on the troubling lack of affordable housing in New York, and the need to expand early childhood education and improve middle school education in public schools. She talked about the city’s potential as a hub for the technology sector, noting the obstacles and exciting opportunities that are on the horizon, and encouraged young people in the audience to get involved with community organizations and become active citizens of New York.

“The thing that works most in this city, so to speak, are New Yorkers,” said Speaker Quinn. “They are the glue that holds New York City together.”

Listen to the full event below.

Photo Credit: Barnard College/Asiya Khaki