To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

by Niki Messmore

 

For most of my life I’ve thrived from exposure to ‘strong women’ archetypes. At a young age I witnessed sexism (even if I didn’t quite have the words for it then) and I was in need of seeing someone like me, a girl, be a willful and fearless figure. It helped, of course, if they were awesome at martial arts (Buffy! Xena! My childhood heroes, forever).

As I grew older, female representation in non-stereotypical jobs and in the media became increasingly important. Our society is saturated with men overwhelmingly in positions of authority, from the leadership team of my alma mater while I was a student there to the fantasy books/films I love (…at least Tolkien gave us Eowyn…). It is sometimes very difficult  to imagine what is possible for my life when society dictates that my possibilities are limited.

Student Affairs shocked me when I entered graduate school. Surprisingly, even after being a highly involved student leader and service-learning staff member at my alma mater, I still held this lofty idea that student affairs was all about social justice – one of the core components of our field. I learned quickly that was not completely true.

That’s not to say that the field is not down with social justice, but it’s more so with words than action. Ultimately, student affairs is a profession that operates within institutions that were birthed through injustice (after all, who were the only folk to attend colonial colleges?). It’s difficult to move past that, especially when there are social attitudes that affect higher education. We don’t operate inside a vacuum. Not only does systemic oppression affect the profession, but the profession is made up of individuals who each have unique life experiences influenced by systemic oppression.

Still, I was surprised to learn that even though women make up the majority of student affairs employees, the majority of leadership positions are white and male. It’s frustrating to have this gap between our espoused goals and our enacted goals. And this is just one example of how the student affairs profession does perpetuate systemic oppression rather than tear it down.

This is a difficult truth to swallow when one desires to advance to leadership positions over time and has a love for something that isn’t always seen as women friendly, i.e. technology.

That’s why it is so important that I see other women-identified individuals who take leadership in the profession. Fearless women who challenge themselves and their peers. Intelligent and savvy women who bring new ideas into play and think outside our standard processes. Strong women who balance so much in their lives. Vulnerable women who share their successes and failures. Authentic women who call it like it is. Really, as Maggie Gyllenhall said at the Golden Globes, what is important to see is “complicated women“.

Complicated women-identified folks. (because recognition of the gender spectrum needs to be made)

I’ve had the pleasure of blogging on SAWTT since September 2013 and the opportunity to become introduced into this amazing group of women leaders in blogging and beyond. I am so excited to join Kathryn Magura as Co-Editor, and thankful for Kristen Abell for giving me this opportunity.

I look forward to working with SAWTT crew in this new role and learning more from this wonderful community of complicated women-identified folks. If you’re interested in blogging or just want to chat, tweet me up at @NikiMessmore.

To the Complicated Women of Student Affairs: Thanks for Having Me

Follow Friday: SSAO’s on Twitter

By Josie Ahlquist

As part of our ongoing series of Follow Friday, I share four women who are in senior level administrator positions in student affairs that you should be following on Twitter.  I could have listed dozens of Deans and Senior Vice Presidents, but selected four with various styles, backgrounds and length of time since joining the twitter community.  Some of whom I haven’t even met before, but see their leadership clearly through how they use Twitter in their leadership roles.

Mamta Accapadi is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Rollins College.  I encourage you to follow her because she gets that twitter is a tool in her position and provides accessibility to students.  She shares news, inspiration and is intentional of joining, supporting and amplifying conversations by other tweets of interest by Re-Tweeting.  She also is living a blended life, sharing family pictures and is part of the student affairs Scandal TV fan base.

Gage Paine is the Vice President of Student Affairs at University of Texas Austin.  Just looking at her feed, you know she is a VP woven into campus life and truly cares about students.  She is also very active in NASPA, adding to the learning process for other professionals during conferences.  She adds a dose of humor, like when she tweeted about being starstruck when meeting George Takei.

Donna Lee is the Dean of Students at Agness College.  She is actually quite new to twitter, but I already see great things for this leader (and hoping this post will encourage her further).  Active in leadership with ACPA, she celebrates the student affairs community and finds connections to share quickly.  I was sold on her potential presence on twitter as her second-ever twitter post read, “I am in the rhythm and flow of an ever-changing life…”

Jayne Brownell is the new VPSA at Miami University.  I knew Jayne acts out her authenticity through twitter when I saw her promoting her previous AVP position with glowing endorsements.  She celebrates Miami university students at events, as well as ensures accurate information/news gets to them quickly such as a school closure.  You can also see her sharing personal life adventures, like going to Billy Joel concerts.

If I was to summarize the qualities of twitter use I see all of these women in leadership acting out would be:

  1. Sharing both personal and professional content
  2. Celebrating their campus communities
  3. Active NASPA or ACPA involvement and intentional content sharing at conferences
  4. Elements of humor and not taking themselves too seriously

I challenge you to think about your own twitter use and how it may or may not fall into these categories.  As you move into higher levels of leadership, incorporating twitter into your practices, what will your presence be like?  

There are various curated twitter lists out there, specifically that pull together upper level administrators in Student Affairs.  While extremely beneficial to quickly find upper administrators, I do give warning.

Do not assume just because a professional is at that level that they will be active nor will add to your personal learning network, at least in twitter form.  Before going and adding every Senior Vice President out there, go into their feed to explore the types of knowledge they are sharing and example they set using twitter on their campus and within the field.

I will also give you a heads up, don’t be surprised to see many listed that signed up for an account and are no longer active.  I call this a twitter graveyard.  Sure they may be active again one day, or maybe just when conference season comes back around.  But what message is that sending?  That SSAO’s only have to sign up for an account, not really use the tool properly or to its’ full potential, and still get tons of followers?  Or you could argue strength in numbers.

Either way, here are a few of those lists to explore.

Happy Follow Friday!

Follow Friday: SSAO’s on Twitter

Learning to Let Others Lead

By Kathryn Magura

My campus has seen a lot of changes over the last year, and my department in particular has seen a lot of seasoned staff leave. The result has been some restructuring of positions (all good, from my perspective), and new leadership at all levels. As someone who has been a part of the department for over a decade, it’s been refreshing to see new staff come in with new ideas on how to serve our students.

As my role within the department evolves, I have had the opportunity to take on supervision of more professional staff. When you move from supervising students to professionals, the change in needs and structure is vastly different. I think both groups can take a lot of your time, but the needs are different from that time. Please don’t take that to be whining – I love spending time with all my staff. 🙂

A unique perspective I’ve had recently is bringing in new professional staff to take over roles I used to perform. You would think there would be a lot of ego involved in ensuring the tasks happen exactly the way I want them to (you know, the way I used to do it. Also known as the right way.), but I have been pleasantly surprised with myself that this simply hasn’t been the case. I’ve been reflecting about why this is, and it occurred to me that one of the biggest tenants of leadership is learning to let others lead.

It’s not about making sure the tasks get done the way I would do them, it’s about ensuring the staff have the training and skills to get the work done the way they want to. I make myself available to answer questions, and let my staff know that if they want my opinion I will share it, but I let them determine when they need my help, versus assuming they need my knowledge to thrive. Allowing them the autonomy to do it their own way allows them to take ownership of the work and experience for students and staff they serve.

As we continue to bring in new staff, I hope to continue refining my skills in learning to let others lead, so they feel true ownership for the work they are doing. I’m not saying I’ve perfected this skill by any means, but I am saying I appreciate the benefits of humility in leading others.

So what do you think? What does it mean to you to let others lead?

Learning to Let Others Lead

On Leaning In: Pay Equity

By Anitra Cottledge

My first post in a couple of months and I’m thinking not strictly about tech, but about pay equity and salary negotiation. By now, I gather that most reading this have heard/seen the “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders” TED talk by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. But if you haven’t, here’s an opportunity to do so.

Her key messages for women in the workforce: “One, sit at the table. Two, make your partner a real partner. And three, don’t leave before you leave.”

I use this video a lot in trainings. I think it has a lot of uses; it can be a vehicle to talk about women’s leadership, women’s relationship to power and privilege, confidence, workplace climate issues, salary negotiation and by extension, pay equity. Sometimes, people love the video when I show it, and other times, people have plenty of critique. And sometimes, people have both reactions at the same time, which is wonderful for dialogue.

A few other things on my radar re: Sheryl Sandberg and pay equity:

  • She’s (Rarely) the Boss – NYT op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof, which talks about (in part), Sandberg’s ideas about gender gaps in the boardroom. “We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives, the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. We continue to do the majority of the housework and child care. We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet.”
  • Lest you think that Sandberg doesn’t think that men also have a responsibility to create a gender-fair workplace: “I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto,” Sandberg writes. “And I am hoping that each man will do his part to support women in the workplace and in the home, also with gusto.” However, this article written in response really emphasizes that responsibility that men have.
  • More on the pay-equity-and-economic-justice-as-systemic-issues front: “Trickle-Down Feminism” and an earlier piece called “Paycheck Feminism.”

Thoughts? What are some other resources that you’ve found online about pay equity and women in the workplace?

On Leaning In: Pay Equity