On Friday March 24th, I had the opportunity to attend Advancing Women in Leadership Conference at Biola University. The conference focuses on ways to support women and some of the barriers that hinder the advancement of women in leadership. Although attendees are largely women, men are also invited to be part of the conversation and call to action.
As part of the keynote address, we were able to hear from Shirley Hoogstra, J.D., the current CCCU President (and first female President). She had some tips on making sure that we take care of ourselves as we are involved in leadership. She highlighted the importance of remaining adaptable and sustaining energy. We cannot be productive if we do not prioritize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Kimberly Denu, Ph.D., Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Azusa Pacific University then shared on the importance of remaining courageous. She reminded us that we have to move beyond the barriers and critical voices in our heads to lead. Dr. Denu noted that the call to Christ is a call to courage (not to comfort). For women, these are especially important reminders. There is often a challenge of balancing work, family and personal enrichment that can deplete us. We must remember that self-care is crucial. For women, there are also many barriers to advancement in leadership so that the call to courage is essential.
GLASS CEILING, STAINED GLASS CEILING AND STICKY FLOOR
During one session, I was able to hear from Karen Longman, Ph.D., a professor at Azusa Pacific University on the barriers that hinder women. We all know of the glass ceiling (challenges in structure that women across the country face) but there is also the stained glass ceiling which are challenges that come as part of Christian culture.
She also noted that current literature explores the “sticky floors” effect. These are factors that are internal. Women often have more voices in our head deterring us from leadership. For example, when a position calls for particular attributes, a woman may feel that she needs all those characteristics to even apply for that position. Men are more likely to just go for it. Recognizing that women are often motivated and driven by different factors is a helpful piece in advancing women in leadership. Relationship motivators are much more successful than ambition alone.
Despite the rise in advanced degrees obtained by women (as of 2006, women received 50% of doctoral degrees), women still fall way behind in numbers of faculty, administration and board members. In the CCCU alone, there are less than 10 women Presidents out of the roughly 115 member universities (and only 2 Presidents of color). So we still need to find ways to diversify our leadership.