On Jan. 7, 2018, Oprah Winfrey stood among Hollywood’s elite at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards and delivered a speech that had her audience, both in attendance and watching at home, nodding and applauding in solidarity. She communicated hope, leadership and fearless pursuit toward a brighter tomorrow for women all over the globe.

Though the 75th annual celebration of film and television took place a world away from the rainy city of Eugene, Oregon, there is as much resilience and dedication and power within the borders of this college-town as in cities like Los Angeles. Among our own community, there are ambitious women taking action to create a society and a system where women no longer have to use hashtags to share their stories. No matter how influential or powerful or ordinary, women deserve to be celebrated. 

Sarah Jester, assistant director for career advising at the Lundquist College of Business. (Madi Mather/Emerald)

From adolescence to adulthood, young girls are flooded with information about who they are and how they are to operate. University of Oregon sophomore Taia Lucas believes that not all of this influence is negative. Her favorite part of being a woman is living on the receiving end of a multitude of empowering messages. “From childhood, we were always told you can do anything, you can be anything, you can be the scientist,” Lucas said. She says she presumes that the inspiring words being spoken to her and other women alike are ones not as commonly communicated among men.

Sarah Jester, assistant director for career advising at the Lundquist College of Business, is a voice in the UO community trying to impart the same encouragement to female students that Lucas remembers hearing. She acknowledges the internal report done by Hewlett Packard that states that men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, whereas women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them. “My job is to then help women say, ‘No, go for it. You should go for it because you are enough,’” Jester said.

Of the many reasons to celebrate and be proud of womanhood, Jester is thankful for the friendships she has developed. “We share each other’s lives and are very embedded in each other’s lives and I love that,” she said. “It feels like I have a community with my girl friends that I don’t think my husband has with his guy friends.” Jester attributes these close relationships to a heightened willingness to be vulnerable, and the opportunity for girl friends to genuinely see and support each other in a way unique to them.

Jester notices that it appears to be easier for women to be loving, authentic and nurturing than it may be for a man. She appreciates the space she has to share those emotions freely. As a self-proclaimed gatherer of people, Jester sees her role as a woman as a chance to bring people together in celebration, in mourning and in life. “And in my job,” she said, “I think my role is to support and empower other women and educate men on how to do that as well.”

Like Oprah, there are plenty of women in the spotlight standing tall and leading the charge towards equality with grace and valiance. “When I was younger I used to love Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe,” Lucas said. She marveled at their confidence and impact, noting that Temple held a government position, something she thought to be very admirable.

At the end of the day, Jester defines a strong woman as someone who holds herself high, while doing everything in her power to lift up other women around her. “In middle school, it was a battlefield of mean girls and mean-spirited things between women,” she said. “As I’ve gotten older, when I think about powerful women, it’s women who lift other women up and are accepting of whatever it means for you to be a woman and not be judgemental.”

Watch Oprah’s speech below:

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