Barnard Global Symposia

Leadership is Global

Barnard’s Global Symposia series was launched in 2009 with four main goals in mind:

  • to provide a dynamic forum for discussion of women's issues in regions where such opportunities do not readily exist;
  • to create a network of women leaders from around the world;
  • to inspire young women about their own leadership potential; and
  • to provide an opportunity for Barnard, as an American college, to learn from women in other parts of the world and bring their stirring stories back to the students.
The first Symposium was held in Beijing in 2009 and since that time Symposia have been held across the globe in Dubai, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and most recently in Sao Paolo, Brazil. 
The Athena Center for Leadership Studies has played an active role since the 2010 Dubai Symposium.  Athena Center Director Kathryn Kolbert has attended and moderated panels of women leaders at each Symposia.   Beginning in 2011, she has helped to train Barnard students, including many Athena Scholars,  to provide leadership development programs at local high schools.  These programs inspire the young women we meet in each locale and create an extraordinary learning opportunity for the Barrnard students who attend.  

2015: Women Changing the World

New York, NY

On March 13, 2015, President Debora Spar and the Barnard community welcomed Queen Noor of Jordon; Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee; CARE USA CEO Helene Gayle '76; President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Founder of 10,000 Women Dina Powell; New York City Commissioner for International Affairs Penny Abeywardena; and more than a dozen other women leaders from around the world for the Seventh Annual Global Symposium, Women Changing the World

In a series of discussions addressing some of the most pressing questions facing women, the guests represented a range of fields including business, media, the arts, finance, government, and academia. The Global Symposium -- which since 2009 has gathered women leaders in cities around the world including Beijing, Dubai, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai -- was held in New York City for the first time this year in celebration of the College's 125th Anniversary. 


2014: Women Changing China

Shanghai, China

In March, 2014, Women Changing China brought together some of China’s most prominent women leaders in business, finance, academia, media, and the arts for a symposium sponsored by Barnard College.  The event featured panel discussions and conversations on women’s leadership, women’s agency, and women’s voices, as well as lunch and networking opportunities.  The Athena Center’s Director, Kathryn Kolbert moderated a panel on Insights into Business and Finance, with Yuan Li, Editor-in-Chief, Chinese online edition, The Wall Street Journal;  Yunli Lou, Founding Partner, Milestone Capital; Jiang Peizhen, Chair and General Manager, Golden Throat Group and Bing Song, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs, Beijing.  More

On the Sunday before the symposium, Barnard’s Global Symposium Student Fellows, including several Athena scholars led the 2014 Young Women’s Leadership Workshop at the High School Affiliated to Fudan University in Shanghai. More than 75 girls from 20 high schools participated in this program.  More


2013:   Women Changing Brazil 

Sao Paolo, Brazil
Approximately 400 people attended Women Changing Brazil in São Paulo which brought together exceptional leaders from all over the country as well as Barnard students, alumnae and faculty for wide-ranging discussions addressing education, activism, leadership, science, the arts, and more.  Read more and view photos and video highlights.
Following the symposium, Barnard's Global Symposium Student Fellows led the third annual Young Women's Leadership Workshop for high-school students from around São Paulo on Wednesday, March 20. Read more and view photos.

2012: Women Changing India 

Mumbai, India
The fourth annual Barnard College Global Symposium in Mumbai showcased the incredible work being done by some of the most prominent women throughout India and featured a dialogue on women's leadership, women's agency, and women's voices.   


2011: Women Changing South Africa 

Johannesburg, South Africa
Women Changing Africa brought together leaders—in government, commerce, academia, media, and the arts—for a day of collaboration, networking and discussion, including two panels entitled Conversations on Leadership and Voices of the Next Generation. Featured panelists included Governor Gill Marcus of the South African Reserve Bank; Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, a South African academic, activist, and former senior director of the World Bank; Ferial Haffajee, editor-in-chief of City Press; Senator Aloisea Inyumba from Rwanda; Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, chairperson of the South African Law Reform Commission; Ndidi Nwuneli, founder of LEAP Africa; Susan Mboya, founder and president of the Zawadi Africa Education Fund and general manager for Coca Cola; Fiona Budd, managing director of the South African Ballet Theatre; and Nomfanelo Magwentshu, formerly chief operations officer of the Local Organizing Committee for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

2010: Women in the Arab World 

Dubai, United Arab Emerites
Women in the Arab World showcased the work and careers of preeminent women throughout the Middle East. The event began with a luncheon where Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the United Arab Emirates' Minister of Foreign Trade and the first woman in her country to hold a cabinet post, delivered the keynote address. The keynote was followed by two panels. Moderated by President Spar, Voices of the Region focused on women in literature and film. Conversations on Leadership examined the changing face of women's leadership across the Arab world; its moderator was Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center.  A reception concluded the day's events.
Click here to read an article in Barnard Magazine written by Kathryn Kolbert entitled, "Barnard Global Symposium II: Dubai; A Revealing Exchange of Personal History and Ideas About the Future"

2009: Women Changing China 
Beijing, China

The inaugural Barnard College Global Symposium was held in Beijing, China on March 19, 2009, bringing together prominent women leaders in government, commerce, academia and the arts. The event honored the legacy of one of China’s first feminists Kang Tongbi, daughter of political reformer Mr. Kang Youwei. Ms. Kang, along with her father, advocated successfully to eliminate the traditional practice of footbinding in China.  Panelists included Yang Lan, a leading television anchor, media entrepreneur, and philanthropist;  Wu Qing, an esteemed advocate for women’s rights in China; Yan Geling, one of China’s most acclaimed contemporary novelists and screenwriters; and Ruby Yang, an Academy Award-winning Chinese-American filmmaker.