Ujima Donalson

A Note from Ujima Donalson,
POD Director

Sometimes something comes along at the right place in time and sparks a movement—or at least a whole lot of conversation. Such has been the case with Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which has skyrocketed to the top of bestseller lists and spawned countless news articles, editorials, blog entries, and Facebook posts.

In our corner of the world, a colleague mentioned the book during a brainstorming session for this issue of the Leading Edge. One of my team members had seen Sandberg on 60 Minutes the night before; another had heard her on NPR's Morning Edition on KUOW while driving into work that morning. As we discussed what we’d read and heard about Sandberg and her book, we decided it would be interesting to find out what some UW leaders thought about Lean In and, more broadly, women and leadership.

Personally, I’ve seen more women at higher levels of leadership here at the UW than I did in the corporate world. As Gerald Baldasty, senior vice provost for academic and student affairs, responded to my email, “I've been very fortunate in my UW career to have worked with—and reported to—highly capable women leaders (such as Susan Jeffords, Judy Howard, Phyllis Wise, Mary Lidstrom, and Ana Mari Cauce). I've benefited from their leadership—and UW has, too.”

I was delighted to hear from Jerry and also to receive contributions from several other UW leaders. In fact, that reflects the inviting and supportive culture I’ve experienced here at the UW. We have an incredible wealth of resources, and there’s a feeling you can reach out to anyone here and receive help—all for the greater good and to support the University and its mission.

Lean In has sparked more than its share of controversy and criticism. Some people agree, some disagree, some are on the fence, but in my mind that’s somewhat beside the point. What’s exciting to me is that people are talking and thinking about women and leadership—and I would be thrilled if this issue of the Leading Edge inspired both spirited conversation and thoughtful reflection.

As Jerry wrote in the same email referenced above, “The challenge for all of us is to ensure that women have an opportunity to take on a wide variety of leadership roles throughout their careers. This requires a sustained effort to provide opportunities, thoughtful mentorship, and meaningful support.”

I truly hope you enjoy reading other UW leaders’ perspectives throughout this issue.

Spring 2013 | Return to issue home