The American Council on Education Women’s Network Ohio held their 20th annual conference Nov. 3 to celebrate women leadership and career advancement in higher education in the Student Union.
“The vision is to create competent women presidency across the United States and encourage women empowerment,” State Co-Chairperson of ACE WNO Shanda Gore said.
Together, the board members said ‘Lift as We Climb’ is an essential theme in this year’s conference because it refers to the lack of women leaders in higher education institutions.
“A lot of women hold themselves back in terms of taking that next leap in leadership,” said board member Rashmi Assudani Ph.D. The team is intended to provide a window into the possibility of moving and advancing in ways that women want to.”
The annual conference is an opportunity for women leaders in higher education to connect and get answers to those tough questions women leaders have.
Conferences are held in different regions of the state every year. Last year’s conference took place at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
It was the first time in 20 years tickets were sold out.
“Again, we’re sold out for the second year in a row which means women are really excited to be here,” said Treasurer Carol Tonge.
The panel of university presidents shared skills on how to be successful as leaders in higher education and President Sharon Gaber served as the moderator.
“Well, I’ve been talking to Gore for more than a year about this,” said Gaber. “She suggested that we have the conference here and I said absolutely. As first female President at UT, I want for women across the state to come together and see the power in women leadership and think about the importance of higher education.”
President of Union Institute and University Karen Webb told the audience her ability to target the right balance between her personal and professional life has served her well throughout her career.
Webb said when she went to institutions in Kenya, which were looking to advance technology, she saw classrooms filled to their maximum capacity with some students sitting on the floors.
She recalled seeing other students standing outside the classroom with notebooks and pencils, hearing the lecture through raised windows.
“How do we bring that notion of understanding in higher education in our country?” Webb said.
President of Capitol University Elizabeth Paul told the audience she was obsessed with learning about everything that involved higher education institutions, yet that didn’t help her become a great leader.
Paul said as a leader, she needed to trust the people around her to do their jobs. Her second degree in financial module led her to suggest that higher education has not fought for better decision making and governance across institutions.
“We cannot let higher education slip away in our country,” Paul said.
Marcia Ballinger, president of Lorain County Community College, suggested that female leaders shouldn’t think about what they don’t have or what their weaknesses are.
“Leadership transcends that and you have experts on campus to assist you,” Ballinger said.
Beverly Warren, president of Kent State University, said the university’s policies for maternity leave and health benefits for spouses of LGBT+ partners are initiatives to enforce the importance of family.
Brittany Arthur, who is an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, received a $1,000 scholarship from ACE toward her travel plans to present research about undergraduate women in engineering in New Orleans.
Arthur’s research began after undergraduate women told her about their experiences and harassment.
“Their experiences are just very different than their male peers,” Arthur said.
She added that some researchers mentioned engineering as the last male-dominated profession in the United States. She is empowering women to join engineering without the pressure of assimilating themselves into a masculine culture.
“There are all of these social movements happening for women whether it’s MeToo, Black Lives Matter or the Women’s March,” State Co-Chairperson Robin Selzer said. “This is not a moment, this is a movement. We will not quit until we see women college presidencies at the highest level in colleges and universities be 50 percent.”