As WLI 2011 comes to a close I will take with me many important concepts and new friendships. The last few days have allowed me to critically think about (as my new friend Sumi Pendakur says) who I am and who I am meant to be both as a person and a professional.
When we depart from experiences like this it is critical to determine our take-aways so that we can apply the knowledge learned and find ways to continue our journey to minimize our professional gaps while being true to who we are.
1) Know what you bring to the table and what you do not: WLI has been a great opportunity for me to think about what I do well, what I do not and what brings me energy in the workplace. It has also served as a great reminder of the importance of strategically hiring. Always hire people who can compensate for your weaknesses. Build strong teams of people that think differently than you.
2) Know how your power (positional, expert, etc.) manifests itself and understand your role in the political landscape of your institution: In a session I attended at WLI, the presenters asked us to consider “who we are when we walk into a room.” What power do you bring with you? How does this fit with the objectives of your audience whether it is a staff meeting, committee meeting, budget hearing, etc.
3) It’s all about the relationships: As the women in our plenary panel reminded us, “There is not a single unimportant relationship in Higher Education.” That means that everyone–from your custodian, to your supervisor, to the faculty to the President will have their own opinions about who you are and what you represent, so take time in investing in those relationships with others. This also applies to practitioners at other institutions. We know how small our field is. The person you had breakfast with at WLI could be your co-worker next month–or your supervisor!
Finally, I can’t help but wonder what will the sessions look like at WLI 2021. Ten years from now will we still be talking about negotiation skills, work/life balance and having difficult conversations? Or will the female leaders of today and tomorrow work to shape our institutional culture in ways that honor our unique talents and benefit both men & women equitably?
Follow the discussion at #WLI11