A powerhouse of women from industries including beauty, food, and science discussed how they’re bringing sustainability to their work—and the world at large—at Fordham’s seventh annual Women’s Summit on Oct. 16. 

“It is overwhelming, this thought of what is happening to the planet, of our own sense of powerlessness, sometimes, to do something about it,” said Tania Tetlow, president of Fordham, in her welcome remarks, referring to recent global events like the Hawaii wildfires. “[But] we have to have respect for Earth, our home.” 

Tania Tetlow speaks from a podium to a group of people.
President Tetlow welcomes more than 100 guests.

During the daylong summit, about a dozen alumnae offered perspectives from their unique industries. Below are four ways that prominent Fordham women are creating change—and their advice on how others can follow their lead. 

Addressing Ecological Challenges

Marie Thomas speaks while holding a microphone.
Marie Thomas presents “Behind the Scenes of Fordham’s Environmental Research.”

Aiding a poultry farm in Africa: Keynote speaker Jeannette Ferran Astorga, GABELLI ’96, executive vice president of corporate affairs, communications, and sustainability at animal health company Zoetis Inc., helped to support a woman who runs a poultry farm in Uganda last year. “The work we do to support veterinarians and livestock producers and farmers around the world [to raise healthier animals]is helping all of us as we depend on animals for comfort, for food, and for well-being,” Astorga said. “My call to action is think about ways to create that sustainable future, intentionally looking to create that change through others.” 

Studying ecology and the environment: Faculty and students are working together to study potential predators of the notorious invasive spotted lanternfly (squirrels in New York City, for example) and the impact of air pollution on the honeybees, among other topics, said Marie Thomas, Ph.D., co-director of Fordham’s environmental science program. 

Reducing Food Waste 

Changing menus and buying local ingredients. Jordan Hunter, FCLC ’12, director of events for Italian restaurant group La Pecora Bianca, said her business condensed its lunch and dinner menus into a single menu that wastes less ingredients. They also try to buy more local ingredients, instead of importing from abroad, to lower transportation costs and emissions. 

Leaving less room for leftovers while donating what hasn’t been sold. Elisa Lyew, MC ’07, owner of gluten-free bakery Elisa’s Love Bites, said, “If you’re coming in 10 minutes before closing, you’re not going to find the same amount of food as if you had come in when we first opened. People get upset about that … People expect us to be wasteful, but then they also want us to be sustainable. … We need the public’s cooperation because it’s usually the consumer driving that demand that brings huge amounts of waste.”

Adopting innovative solutions. Gabriella Macari, GABELLI ’09, third-generation grape grower and director of operations of Macari Vineyards, said her business is practicing no-till farming, composting, and other sustainable activities.

Four seated women on stage speak with each other.
The “How What We Consume Affects Us and the Environment” panel

Rethinking How We Use Clothes and Cosmetics 

Buying sustainable materials like mushroom leather and understanding what you’re purchasing. “The consumer must always ask to look at the labels and understand what’s making up the product that they’re buying, and also question how could this be so cheap? If it’s so cheap, there is someone probably not making minimum wage,” said Claudia Rondinelli, FCLC ’19, head of global raw materials, footwear and accessories, leather and trims at Ralph Lauren.  

Reducing plastic packaging and making more items recyclable, reusable, and refillable. “All of my bottles at home, be it shampoo, conditioner, dishwashing soap, hand soap, are in a refillable container. I really try to stay away from single-use plastics, and from a beauty company’s perspective, we’re moving there. Some of our foundations, you can go to a bar and have your foundation refilled,” said Stacey Ferrara, GABELLI ’10, director of strategic initiatives and operations at the Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation. 

Borrowing outfits from organizations like Rent the Runway. “When I’m going out, I just rent clothes, and I feel like my closet is happier, and I’m happier. There’s less clutter in both my brain and my closet,” Ferrara added. 

Buying less. “If I buy less things less often, and everything I do buy has an intention behind it, that’s one way to start as a consumer,” said Georgeanne Siller, GABELLI ’17, an assistant buyer for women’s apparel at Macy’s Inc.

Four women panelists seated at high chairs on a stage speak in front of a crowd of people seated below them.
The “From Fast Fashion to a Brighter Future” panel

Reimagining Fordham 

Julie Gafney speaks at a podium.
Julie Gafney presents “Laudato Si’ and Fordham—Our Common Home: Taking Action, Inspiring Change.”

Bringing innovation to campus. “The administration and the facilities team at Fordham is working really diligently on tremendously innovative solutions, from expanding our solar array to utilizing found materials like recycled fishing nets for the new carpets in the Campus Center … to utilizing cow fertilizers on campus grounds,” said Julie Gafney, Ph.D., assistant vice president of strategic mission initiatives and executive director of Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning, who also spoke about Fordham’s green work and long-term plan. “This is something that we can lead from wherever we come from. We can lead from justice; we can lead from faith. But this is a vision for a hope-filled future.” 

The event was co-sponsored by Ernst & Young, Greenberg Traurig, Macari Vineyards, and Zoetis. View the speakers, sessions, and 2023 Pioneering Women in Philanthropy honorees at the Fordham Women’s Summit website.

A group of seated woman smile and talk with each other.


Taylor is a visual storytelling strategist in Fordham University's marketing and communications department, where she documents University life through photography and video. Since joining Fordham in 2018, she has served as a writer, photographer, videographer, and social media manager, dividing her time between University Marketing and Communications and the Office of the President. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Stony Brook University's School of Communication and Journalism and her master's degree in public media from Fordham University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her work has appeared on NPR, NBC New York, and amNewYork METRO.