Twenty women filled Forum B in the Burge Union Monday evening to listen to five female administrators share their experiences in academia.
“Women are still underrepresented in academia in leadership and in many disciplines,” Kathy Rose-Mockry, director of the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity, said in an email. “As a result, women’s voices are not at the table and need to be heard if we are to change the trajectory and push for inclusion and change.”
Rose-Mockry opened the event ‘Navigating the Path: Women in Academia’ by welcoming the audience to visit the center. She turned the floor over to Diana Carlin, professor emerita of communication and former associate provost at Saint Louis University.
To begin the discussion, Carlin asked the panelists the one major challenge they had to overcome and how they got to where they are today. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, vice provost for undergraduate studies, said she saw education as her ticket because “it will take you any and everywhere you want to go.”
Each of the women on the panel hold or have held administrative positions in higher education, including Shannon Portillo, assistant vice chancellor of undergraduate programs and Joy Ward, associate dean for research.
Burns-Wallace said she agreed to be on the panel in order to share her experience with academia and encourage others on their own paths.
“Being a woman in academia, it can be different and it can be challenging,” Burns-Wallace said. “If you find a little bit of support in someone else’s story – and I can be a part of that – then that’s the work that I do everyday, so this is kind of an extension of it."
Carlin went on to ask the panelists questions about the universal issues women in academia face, what it means to be successful and mentorship. When asked about the differences between men and women in academia, Portillo said we are “a long way from equal, or else we wouldn’t be having this panel right now.”
Annise Richard, Adidas leadership scholars program coordinator, said she attended the event because of her passion for higher education to find out more about how to advance in the field. She said hearing from the panelists showed her the importance of passion.
“One of the things that I enjoy is the passion and hearing how important that passion is and that people see it,” Richard said. “You know, when a lot of people talk about finding mentors or finding support, people see that passion and that’s what leads to leadership roles and that’s what leads to opportunity.”
Richard said it is important to empower women to pursue positions in academia for representation purposes. She described it as a domino effect: more representation will encourage future female leaders, which will lead to more women with “seats at the table” to change policies.
“As the demographic of higher education changes, I think that its just more and more important that we feel empowered to be able to do the work,” Richard said.
Burns-Wallace said she hopes attendees like Richard found a connecting thread between themselves and the panelists stories. In addition, Burns-Wallace said it’s important to continue to have conversations about women in academia to encourage future leaders.
“Leaders in every shape and form matter on our campus,” Burns-Wallace said. “Those voices that bring different backgrounds and perspectives you know, make a difference.”