UW News

April 3, 2008

Attendees at first-ever Women’s Summit explore issues

Leadership training, child care and communication were three of the issues that came to the fore at the first ever Women’s Summit, held March 12 on campus. Sponsored by the President’s Advisory Committee on Women (PACW), the summit was a chance for those working on women’s issues to come together, learn from each other and make recommendations on matters important to women.

“The committee’s charge is to advise the president about the issues and priorities of women,” PACW Chair Marcia Killien told participants at the summit. “There are so many groups on campus that are dealing with these issues that the president and provost don’t always know where to put resources. So we felt it was important for all of us to come together to decide what we collectively think are the priorities for making things better for women on campus.”

The summit had four goals:

  • Identify the groups that are addressing UW women’s issues
  • Create a venue for participants to meet and network
  • Identify issues that impact UW women
  • Develop an agenda of priority issues for institutional action

That the meeting be held was one of the recommendations of the Report on Women issued by PACW in November. Using data collected by a number of units on campus, the report spells out where women stand in terms of positions held, students enrolled and degrees earned, among other things. See here for the full report.

Invitations were sent to 70 people with the intention of gathering input from as many groups as possible. At the day of the event, attendance included 30 plus people. “We were pleased with the range of people who attended — from high level administrators to staff members and students,” said Randi Shapiro, PACW vice chair who headed up planning for the event.

Women’s basketball coach Tia Jackson kicked off the meeting with a keynote speech that emphasized collaboration and empowerment. She said she remembered facing 8,000 screaming fans in Hec Ed when she was a University of Iowa player, during the glory days of UW women’s basketball, and wanted to bring those days back.

Jackson said she intended her team to be the “Pride of the West,” with the letters of pride standing for persistence, respect, integrity, discipline and energy. She suggested that these were the attributes needed by all women for success.

Energy was what Shapiro said she noticed as the meeting began. “I was gratified when we first went around and did introductions, just the level of energy and real enthusiasm people had for being there,” she said. “They really wanted to share what their issues are. I think we really filled a need by providing that opportunity.”

The bulk of the time was spent on an exercise in which all the participants had two minutes to answer each of three questions: what they believe are the major issues for women on campus, their vision of how the campus should be by 2020 and their ideas for strategies to move from the present to the future vision.

“The exercise was structured so that it gave equal opportunity for everybody who was in the room to participate at the same level,” Shapiro said. “We had students sharing ideas with administrators, faculty with staff and every other combination. I thought it worked very well.”

Participants ended the session by trying to synthesize the information shared and come up with a list of priorities, together with suggested strategies. Although PACW has not yet put together the results, the three issues listed above were prominent among those mentioned.

Shapiro said PACW will prepare a report from the summit, which will be given to the president, the provost and all those who were invited to participate, whether they attended or not. University Week will publish the conclusions.