This week I had the opportunity to attend a keynote lecture given by Donna Carroll, President at Dominican University. She was the featured speaker at the DePaul Women’s Network Annual Event which typically draws about 200 female faculty and staff members. Donna’s speech focused on female leadership in higher education. One sobering statistic that she shared is that currently only 23% of American colleges and universities employ a female President.
There are three key points in her speech that I have been mulling over for the past couple of days. Good keynote speakers make you think and great ones make you take action. Her words were powerful and I am thinking about the ways that I (and others) can develop our skills to better assist our students and staff members, create supportive networks of colleagues to assist us on our journey and contribute to the success of women in obtaining career progression in Student Affairs.
How are you inspiring the people you serve to do their very best work?: Donna said the 4 keys to this are to “attract believers, build strength, demonstrate results and build your brand.” She stressed the importance of supervisors being the stable center of the workplace.
In other words, if you show up to work every day and are consistent in your actions, your supervisees will know what to expect from you day in and day out. This will ultimately inspire confidence in your abilities and create a positive environment for the students and staff you serve. “Absorb chaos; give back calm; build confidence,” said Donna. How is your leadership style inspiring confidence in others?
Mentorship/sponsorship: Donna stressed the importance of mentoring and “sponsoring” other women along the professional journey. “Mentoring” means giving advice and being a resource. The concept of “sponsorship” really implies an investment of yourself in another person. The women who succeed in our field often have other more seasoned women invested in their success who extend a helping hand, listening ear and advocate for them at every opportunity. Who are you a mentor/sponsor for?
Leadership is a Lifestyle: Those who desire to obtain the top leadership roles will have to critically think about ways to blend their personal and professional lives. Rather than focusing on “balance”—which gets harder and harder to do as you move up—Donna suggests focusing on health. Staying healthy means that you will feel better, have fewer sick days and bring the best version of you to work every day. How are you living the lifestyle of a leader?
Inspiring women like Donna have created a road map to understanding the challenges and opportunities that women may face as leaders in our field. It is up to the next generation of women to support and advocate for women so that our representation at the highest levels of the university reflect the diversity of gender and ethnicity that we see in our college students.