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Women Leaders in the Ignatian Family

Tania Tetlow

Institution: Fordham University

Title: President

Location: The Bronx, New York

Do you have any other Jesuit institutional connections?

  • Former president, Loyola University New Orleans

What does your job entail?
Fighting fires, making thousands of friends, change management, vision and constant discernment.

What are some of the lights and shadows you’ve experienced as a woman working in partnership with a men’s religious order?
I grew up in a family of Jesuits and think of them all as my adopted, and particularly wise, uncles. Their insights into humanity and the purpose of life are my worldview. When I finally came into a Jesuit institution, it felt like coming home — and remembering a language I learned in childhood. The Jesuits I work with believe in me, pray for me and cheer me on, something that holds me up on particularly hard days.

How does Ignatian spirituality shape your approach to work?
I use the principles of discernment every day, reminding myself to stop talking and listen, seek insights from unexpected places, balance data with the voices of real people. I try to engage in radical self-awareness through the Examen, to remember the ways my own biases get in the way of accurate perception. I try to lead with gratitude and build on people’s strengths rather than fret over their weaknesses.

How could the Jesuits and the church as a whole foster women’s leadership more effectively?
Welcoming women (and their half of the talent pool) into leadership can’t be passive, a matter of mere politeness. It requires learning about the range of obstacles still facing women — from the grueling experience of being constantly underestimated, to the shocking level of violence in the home against those who do not obey. Until our institutions move beyond denial, they will continue to squander the talent of women and be complicit in a great injustice.

What’s one of your favorite quotes about leadership or the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
My mentor Lindy Boggs (former Congresswoman and ambassador to the Vatican) always told me, “You can get anything you want to do done, as long as you’re willing to give away the credit.”