IN THE BEGINNING WAS SWAAC
It is sometimes said that the journey is as important as the destination. In this case, the destination is next year’s annual conference of Senior Women Academic Administrators of Canada (SWAAC). The journey is Women in Leadership, an initiative underway to cultivate a strong cohort from among Brock University’s women leaders to attend.
Following their attendance at the 2018 SWAAC conference, several women from Brock decided to look at ways to maintain the excitement of the event.
Read the story of how this idea started here
BRINGING THE ENERGY TO NIAGARA
One step was to attend the Niagara Leadership Summit (NLS). Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences (FOSS), Diane Dupont, Professor of Economics and former Associate Dean Research and Graduate Studies in FOSS, and Angela Book, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in FOSS, created a video proposal for a panel discussion. In their session called A Conversation with Brock Administrators the three women interviewed one another. They described their roles and worked to dispel some deeply-held assumptions.
“There are myths out there about the significance of administrative roles for women. People don’t understand what senior administration means,” says Dupont. “We contribute to the goals of the University.”
EXPANDING WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY
The next step was to turn their attention to their university community. They started the Women in Leadership initiative and organized a meeting in November to continue the momentum of the SWAAC conference and the NLS panel.
About 30 women gathered to discuss the current situation for women in leadership roles at Brock, to consider ways to support women in formal and informal leadership positions, and to encourage the next generation of potential women leaders.
“We want to build a trusted network of mentors,” says Dupont of the initiative’s goal. “Leadership is all about human relations.”
“I can’t imagine doing this alone,” says Book, noting the importance of collaboration in effective leadership.
The increasing number of women in politics and academia may seem encouraging but some striking disparities persist, says Makus. “It’s true there are more women in tenure track positions in post-secondary institutions,” she says “but, the higher you go, the fewer women you see in positions of formal leadership.”
Even within positions of leadership in administration, there are significant salary discrepancies between women and men, Makus says. “There is still lots of work to be done.”
According to Dupont, women’s roles are traditionally seen as emotional labour and caregiving, which don’t generally come with prestigious titles or remuneration.
“The definition of leadership is not tied to a formal position,” says Dupont. Leadership is happening quietly throughout the University, she says, but often the leadership provided by women is informal.
The November 2018 meeting was the first in a planned series that aims to build a support network among women leaders at Brock and to recognize leadership wherever it is found within the University. Several attendees noted the importance of structural support for mentorship, possibly building on a pilot program currently underway. For more on the November meeting, see the Caucus of Women blog.
Makus is confident that the initiative will yield a strong cohort of Brock women leaders to attend the 2019 SWAAC conference which will be held within driving distance from Brock. Meanwhile, she says, conference organizers are watching what’s happening at Brock with interest.