Dr. Heather Olson-Beal, associate professor of secondary education and education leadership, recently hosted two interest meetings for a potential organization on campus for female faculty members.
Olson-Beal said she felt a group for female faculty members is necessary to fully promote the ideas of the women employees on campus.
“Recent events on campus have led me to feel like we need an organization that will help female faculty advocate for ourselves, advocate for families, amplify each other’s voices and each other’s accomplishments, because I feel that that maybe isn’t being done enough,” Olson-Beal said.
There were 10 women in attendance at the first meeting in early September, five at the second meeting, and 12 women expressed interest through email but were unable to attend either meeting. The meetings, held on the second floor of Ralph W. Steen Library, served to let the women express ideas and concerns, but no decisions were made.
“I just decided to do these interest meetings first and see,” Olson-Beal said. “I mean, I have ideas of things that I would like to do, but I’m not going to make an advocacy group by myself, so I’m feeling like I want to see what other people want and then we’ll see. I mean, there are already existing groups that, I think serve mostly a social purpose, so I’m personally not super interested in that because there’s other organizations that exist for that. I am interested in a group that would be doing more related things probably related to policy, faculty work life, just the life of a faculty member. But, like I said, we’ll have to just see what other people want.”
Some of the biggest topics during the meeting included what the group would do, who would be included and how to make the organization official. While there are set guidelines for students forming organizations, the guidelines for professional faculty organizations are unclear, she said.
"To me, we would want to get some kind of blessing,” Olson- Beal said. “I don't know what that would look like, I don't know if there's a process that we have to follow or not, but to me it should be 'SFA Women's...' whatever we'd like to call it. Because we're not ashamed; we're not trying to skulk around. We're trying to do the exact opposite and be like 'No, actually we're here and we’re going to put ourselves out there.”
The general consensus of the women in attendance was that the group would serve as an opportunity for the women on campus to have a voice and support each other. There are currently existing chapters of female organizations at SFA; however, they have more of a social purpose or are inactive.
"I do think that, for me, what I don't think I have, and what I don't feel like I've been necessarily able to cultivate for myself is the community of women where we hold hands and we carry each other when one of us can't carry ourselves,” Assistant Psychology Professor Dr. Lauren Brewer said. “And I think that's what I would like to see in this organization. Not to exclude anyone if someone thinks they would benefit from that, I would carry them along, too, when I can.” According to Brewer, now is the time for the women on campus to speak their minds because of the change in leadership with the new president.
“It sounds like this is a time of great change at this University with the new president, so maybe we show up, request a meeting with President Gordon and say 'Here's what we'd like, we'd like a standing seat from our organization on the policy committee,’” Brewer said. “That all of these policies are supposed to be representative of their stakeholders, and some of these policies are going to disproportionately disadvantage women. So, we want to say on that, or we want a designated seat on the Faculty Senate, a voting seat, that will be reserved for someone whose sole purpose is to say, 'This will disadvantage women.' So, I think we can think of ways to codify what it is that we might like, and then ask for it.”
In addition to promoting the ideas of women on campus, women in the meeting talked about how they can use a group to amplify the achievements of other women.
“I was very amused to find on Twitter yesterday, and I don’t know if it was for real or if it was a pun, but they were putting together a panel on men in film and looking for additional women to serve on the panel,” Associate Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Linda Levitt said. “I think it points out the ridiculousness of the way that we have to go to extremes in terms of gender in order to really highlight the work of women.”
A mission statement for the potential organization is currently in development.