Date of this Version
Journal of Women in Educational Leadership, Vol. 6, No.3-July 2008 ISSN: 1541-6224
Directing the Women's Center for the last ten years at an institution with 22,000 students, 3,000 faculty and staff members, and 9 colleges, I have collaborated with many individuals and programs with a shared interest in women and leadership. I have been appointed to institutional groups charged with monitoring gender equity, such as the Chancellor's Commission on the Status of Women. My student staff and I have collaborated with different departments each March to create programs highlighting women's leadership for Women's History Month. I have learned through my role as the gender specialist in Student Involvement within the Student Affairs division that I have a "big picture" institutional view not often experienced by my colleagues in the their academic departments. A colleague in Student Involvement is the leadership specialist and holds adjunct faculty appointments in two departments. During the Student Involvement strategic planning retreat in the spring of 2007, we discussed gaps in program development, communication and collaboration related to women and leadership. We knew leadership courses were offered in several colleges, students were afforded many different leadership opportunities through curricular and co-curricular experiences, and important leadership research was conducted, which was unrecognized outside of individual departments. We also knew that despite the institution's goal to hire and retain more female professors, progress was slow. Each year the institution lost a few female colleagues to other institutions. How could we use our roles in Student Affairs to address the issues? My colleague and I decided to meet weekly during the summer and throughout the academic year to identify solutions to these challenges. We began by discussing the programs and people who were doing something related to women and leadership. We reviewed the Women's Center programming for the year and identified topics and speakers to create a more intentional leadership focus. Because we share the belief that true change always begins with the individual, we discussed our own experiences as college women, as young professionals, and as women who have been in our careers for 25 plus years. Then we reviewed our list of people and programs and began inviting other women on campus to our weekly meetings to talk about their experiences and their work.