Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

The future leaders of Augustana: women

Students attended a women’s leadership summit to learn about why it’s important to have female leaders in today’s society. Photo by: Tawanda Mberikwazvo

Augustana’s Multicultural Programming Board held a Women’s Leadership  Summit on Saturday, hosting multiple female leaders from Augustana and the Quad Cities to speak and empower college-age women to be leaders in the workforce and the world.
After an introduction by Augustana’s own Associate Dean of the College, Dean Kristin Douglas, Jenkins led a panel of three female leaders in questions regarding their gender and how it has affected their lives. Assistant Vice President for Communication and Marketing, Keri Rursch, and Assistant Director of Communication for Career Development and CORE, Leslie Scheck both spoke on the panel alongside Rock Island Alderman, Kate Hotle.
Panelists discussed examples in their own lives of how their gender has made living in society in a leadership roles more difficult and the struggles they have faced because of their gender. Alderman Hotle shared a time when men tried to assume what she wanted to be made equal in the local government but ended up making her seem more insignificant.
“Men should take the time to listen to the female perspective instead of just charge forth with what they think will help them feel equal,” Hotle said. Hotle wanted to be heard instead of spoken for, saying when men speak for gender equality over women, they overpower women in their own battle.
However, sometimes, as the panelists said, being the only woman in the workplace can be positive. Being the single representation of a minority gives you a certain amount of power and authority.
“It’s always a good thing to be the woman, to know that you’re trusted, that you’re capable, and that there’s a good reason that you’re there, and that you can bring a lot to the table,” Rursch said.
When asked to describe how she combats gender inequality, Rursch said that “the way I look at gender equality is the way I look at equality across the board. I think all people in the workplace, whether they’re men or women, whether they’re black or white, whether they’re gay or straight, they all deserve the same treatment in the workforce.”
Rursch said that it’s not exclusively women but all people given equal opportunity.
Women fortunate enough to receive a position in leadership also have to carry the weight of judgment from their male counterparts. Rursch made reference to the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” saying that men will respect women after the woman has proven herself as worthy of their respect.
Alderman Hotle encourages young women to try for leadership roles despite this saying, “If not you, then who? If you have a desire to lead, then why not?”
Following the panel, Quad Cities Entrepreneur and founder of Lead(H)er, Melissa Pepper, spoke in regards to leadership in relations with gender. Pepper address the use of the phrase “Women’s Leadership” claiming it to be flawed, saying that leaders shouldn’t be recognized for their gender, whether male or female.
“We can’t stop and just say ‘women are like this, and men are like this.’ and then tie it up in a nice little bow,” Pepper said, “What’s good for [men] as a leader on this campus can work for [women].”
Pepper focused on what makes a good leader, using anecdotes from her own experiences, disregarding the gender of leaders completely.
“Leadership is so not about managing and the ‘how,’” Pepper said, “but it’s about leading people to somewhere they didn’t maybe even know they wanted to go.” According to Pepper, if a man can be a good leader, so can a woman. Good leaders are not based on gender, nor are bad leaders.
Pepper pushes young women to be fearless when going into the world of leadership, embracing their individuality. “You’re gonna try to be somebody else,” Pepper said, “Don’t do it. Try not to do it.” Pepper is a mom, a marketing director, an entrepreneur, and a woman in a unique way no one else could be, and she wants other women to embrace themselves, minority and all “because the world needs you to be you.”

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The future leaders of Augustana: women