The Committee on the Status of Women Conference: ‘The Balancing Act’
—By Joyce Lindorff, Associate Professor, Keyboard Dept, Boyer College of Music and Dance
The Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Women was very pleased with the presentations, turnout and impact of our very first conference last semester. Three well-attended sessions offered a range of extremely practical career and life balance advice, as well as an unusual opportunity for thought-provoking and often personal conversation with a panel of Temple’s top female leaders.
On October 21 well over 100 registrants were welcomed to the airy, bright surroundings of the Gittis Student Center’s Room 200 for “The Balancing Act: Challenges of Combining Responsibilities for Work and Family.” The topic was chosen after much investigation and discussion of ways the conference could be of the most possible practical support to Temple’s professional women. The large number of faculty, staff and students in attendance confirmed that our chosen topic was indeed timely.
The morning’s first guest speaker, Judith Katz, offered advice on promotion and job application skills. The workshop, “Promoting our own Retention and Ascendance,” focused on how women at Temple can enhance their career development. Dr. Katz is a licensed psychologist who has worked extensively with administrators and faculty in institutions of higher education with a focus on career management, executive and employee coaching, and career transition or transformation.
The second speaker, Julie Cohen, presented a lively interactive session, “The Seven Barriers to Work-Life Balance.” She outlined steps women might take toward a more balanced life, with practical strategies many of us took to heart. Cohen is a certified life coach with nineteen years of experience in corporate, non-profit, and entrepreneurial settings. Her book on this subject, Your Work, Your Life…Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance, was published earlier this month. (See her website at http://www.7keystoworklifebalance.com/ for more information.)
Both these presentations were geared toward the development of skills necessary to succeed, drawing on one's own initiative. But the concluding panel of Temple administrators turned our attention to the importance of developing a supportive work environment built on equality.
Temple is exceptional in that many of its top leaders are women. Skillfully moderated by Amy Caples, former KYW Newsradio and CBS3 television news anchor and a member of our committee, the panel included President Hart; Provost Lisa; Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Affairs Diane Maleson; Associate Vice President, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Rhonda Brown; Law School Dean JoAnne Epps; CLA Dean Teresa Soufas; Vice President for Student Affairs Theresa Powell; and Equal Opportunity Compliance Director Sandra Foehl. (Vice President for Human Resources Deborah Hartnett planned to participate but was called away on an important family matter.) The discussion brought to light aspects of the early careers of these accomplished women that many could relate to—not so much their struggles with balancing work and family, but the often amazing and sometimes comical negative attitudes they had to face in return for their choice to pursue high-level work outside the home. It was an honest and revealing exchange. Some talked about the difficulties keeping up their confidence, or having to hide their motherhood, despite having achieved top recognition for their achievements in milieus in which they were in the minority.
Most relevant to the Faculty Senate's recent quality of life discussion, and of concern to our Committee, was the statement by President Hart that she had heard through the grapevine talk of a "glass ceiling" operating at Temple. Ann Hart spoke of hearing that there were "pockets in certain disciplines in which mid-level leaders feel that although there are visible leaders at the top, the opportunities are not there for women. A sense of equity should permeate all levels." We in the Committee on the Status of Women agree, and would like to see official attention paid to that situation. It should be carefully studied and addressed by the administration, to either disprove it or correct it.
Finally, there was talk at the conference about the need for onsite or nearby daycare facilities. That would seem to be an obvious and important benefit to parents of young children. It was something Temple had in the past, and the idea should be revisited at this time.
The conference made the Inquirer, and we are already planning for the next one! What will we do differently? For one thing, order much more coffee and make many more copies of our handouts! The committee would like to especially thank the officers and staff of the Faculty Senate for all their help with planning and carrying out “The Balancing Act.” And many thanks also to the several colleagues who came up to us afterward expressing interest in joining the committee—we hope to enlist your energy as members rotate off.
The Committee on the Status of Women includes faculty from the College of Science and Technology, School of Communications and Theater, the College of Liberal Arts, Boyer College of Music and Dance, the College of Engineering, and the School of Podiatric Medicine, as well as one librarian. We, as a committee, believe that women at Temple continue to face unique challenges and that we are our own greatest resource in determining how most constructively to face these, both as individuals and collectively. As chair of this committee since 2005, I have been in awe of the knowledge, skill and dedication shown by members, especially in organizing and executing this first conference. The committee members also proved to be excellent fundraisers! We are very grateful to the conference sponsors: the Office of the Provost, Beasley School of Law, School of Communications and Theater, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Technology, Women’s Studies Program, Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought, and the Faculty Senate Committee on Lectures and Forums provided us with the necessary financial resources to offer guest honoraria, rent space and pay for refreshments and printing, which enabled free registration for all.
The Committee on the Status of Women welcomes your suggestions for future conference topics, formats and guests. Please get in touch with me or any of the committee members with your feedback and ideas.