March 2020 - Sisterhood, Allyship, and Voice

April 10, 2020
  • Committees and Caucuses
  • book club
  • Professional Development
  • women's caucus

Would you rather have Michael Scott (The Office) or Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation) as a boss? What about during a global pandemic? I had the pleasure of hosting our first content-based conversation recently which included discussion of the puzzling question of why there are so many Michael Scotts in the world, how the confidence gap between men and women affects our career path, and how we can learn to better celebrate our successes and support other women. Knowing that our members have very busy work and personal lives, I chose articles and podcasts instead of a book for this discussion in an effort to allow more individuals to squeeze in time to review the materials before our meeting. We talked about research that shows many leaders are chosen for their confidence and charisma, which leads to organizations favoring men for leadership roles. This pattern of preferring charisma persists even though women excel in the important leadership traits of competence and emotional intelligence. 

Research has also shown that regardless of the circumstances women rarely self-promote at work, and the confidence gap between men and women could be one of the reasons why we see fewer women in executive leadership roles than men. We talked about how almost everyone manages imposter syndrome, and even if some of the tips in this New York Times article were known to us, such as keeping a record of accomplishments ready for annual reviews, we still need to actively remind ourselves to look at the records we saved. I would argue that self-care and imposter syndrome are related, if caring for yourself is not a priority, then you will likely not prioritize the celebration of your accomplishments. 

We’ve all seen the safety video on flights reminding us that in the case of an emergency we should first securely attach our own breathing mask before helping others to attach their masks. Yet for many women, even as we navigate this period of unprecedented change during a global pandemic, caring for others takes precedence over caring for ourselves. Self-care becomes a skill that we need to practice, just like any other. Some theorize that women tend to first care for others because that is the way that many of us have been socialized, and even if that is not the case, many women feel internal and external judgment that caring for themselves is considered to be selfish

Our discussion of putting others' needs before our own was particularly relevant as we grapple with managing campus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members discussed how they worried about the well-being of those who report to them, and were quick to share tips for how others could take care of themselves during this uncertain time, but had a hard time scheduling in their own care. 

However, our tendency to support others before ourselves could help us to create a stronger network and perhaps even support career development for other women. Building supportive, trusting relationships at work can be transformative for women, but finding “your people” who you can be vulnerable with is tough for anyone, especially women of color working in predominantly white organizations--as this Harvard Business Review podcast detailed. One of the first steps to finding a sense of community where trust and vulnerability are welcome, is to be vulnerable yourself

The opportunity to come together for this virtual discussion reminded me that we have many shared experiences and that we are truly connected. I look forward to continuing to build community with AACRAO colleagues during this strange, stressful period. In the meantime, stay well and remember to be kind to yourself.

Ewa Nowicki (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student at Northeastern University, an education public policy fellow with the Rennie Center for Educational Research & Institute for Educational Leadership, and the chair and founder of AACRAO's Women's Caucus. Ewa also serves on AACRAO’s Public Policy Advisory Group and Student Access and Equity Committee. Her research & professional interests include leadership development for women, establishing policies that best serve trans and nonbinary people in higher education, education public policy, and exploring how mindfulness practices may increase a sense of belonging and improve student retention in higher education. Connect with Ewa on LinkedIn and Instagram

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