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Campus Women Lead

Spring 2010

Volume 39
Number 1

The Gender Pay Gap


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Campus Women Lead

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Nancy "Rusty" Barceló
Judith White
Judith White
Patricia Lowrie
Patricia Lowrie
Caryn McTighe Musil
Caryn McTighe Musil
Ten Years of Leadership for the Twenty-first Century
By Nancy “Rusty” Barceló, vice president and vice provost for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota; Judith White, executive director of HERS (Higher Education Resource Services); Patricia Lowrie, director of the Women’s Resource Center at Michigan State University; and Caryn McTighe Musil, senior vice president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities—all members of Campus Women Lead’s executive committee

Campus Women Lead recently celebrated an anniversary. The final weekend in March marked ten years since the 2000 National Teleconference for Women in Higher Education, an event that laid the ground for a national women-led agenda and planted the seeds for Campus Women Lead. Over the past ten years, the landscape for higher education has shifted dramatically, but not in the directions many of us had hoped. Women continue to face many of the same challenges that greeted us at the cusp of the twenty-first century, and much work remains for the women of CWL and our sisters and brothers across higher education. As we look forward to CWL’s future, we look back to reflect on the roots that took hold ten years ago.

Planting the Seeds at the National Teleconference

In 1998, Anita Rios of the Office of University Women at the University of Minnesota (UMN) was concerned that younger women were not actively involved in fighting gender inequity. She and others at UMN conceived of the idea of organizing a conference to bring younger women into the conversation about gender in higher education. Newly appointed to the position of associate vice president for Multicultural and Academic Affairs at UMN, Rusty joined the planning committee as chair. The committee began by discussing the possibility of a regional conference, but soon started thinking in terms of a national agenda for women in higher education. What would such an agenda mean, and how could women outside of UMN be involved in developing it?

The University of Minnesota already had an incredible history of supporting women in higher education. In 1960, the school helped develop the Minnesota Plan for the Continuing Education of Women, which led to the creation of the country’s first campus-based women’s center. UMN was also one of the first schools to award equal pay for women. With this rich history of leadership for women on campus, UMN was looking for ways to provide national leadership on similar issues. The planning committee decided to solicit input from people located all around the nation and at all levels within higher education, including faculty and staff.

Given the challenges and costs of organizing at the national level, the committee quickly decided to draw on the infrastructure of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC). Robert Bruininks (then provost and now president of UMN) pledged $25,000 of “seed money” with the idea that it would be matched by the CIC. He sent a letter to his peer CIC provosts and raised contributions from all but one institution. The Ford Foundation also provided financial support. The planning committee reached out to several national organizations as well, soon securing the endorsement of two dozen, including the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the National Council for Research on Women, and the American Council on Education, among others.

Knowing that thousands of women wouldn’t be able to come to Minneapolis in person, the planning committee drew on new technology to bring participants together virtually. The committee decided to organize four interconnected conferences, located respectively in Minnesota, California, Texas, and Virginia. For those who could not participate at one of the conference locations, institutions could connect remotely to the conference—and more than two hundred did so, from locations across forty states and Puerto Rico. Some of the downlinks connected up to three hundred people at a single site. The overall cost of the infrastructure was $500,000, but it was well worth the investment. The organizers ran out of registration forms and programs; they estimated that they had exceeded their participation goals with at least five thousand participants.

Honorary chair Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off the conference with a prerecorded welcome. Then Johnnetta B. Cole initiated the conference’s work by pointing out the gender stratification that persists even as more women are participating in higher education than ever before. After the opening session’s telecast, participants attended conference sessions and brainstormed at their local sites, and on the third day everyone reconnected via teleconference to report back on their respective recommendations. From these discussions, participants built an agenda with seventy-two recommendations across four large areas: Teaching/Learning/Research, Work/Life, Partnerships/Outreach, and Leadership. The planning committee members published these as the Agenda for the Twenty-first Century and mailed it to every higher education institution in the country. They also established a companion Web site. Presidents began using the recommendations to frame discussions on their campuses, and people began implementing the strategies.

If ever there was a time when women across differences came together, it was at the National Teleconference. Women of color were at the core of the work there, fulfilling a fundamental goal of the conference planners and laying the groundwork for Campus Women Lead’s focus on inclusive leadership. It was a marvelous feeling knowing that faculty and staff were involved at all levels of creating this new agenda.

Partnering with AAC&U and Becoming CWL

After the teleconference, the principal organizers were looking for ways to capture the event’s energy in a more durable form. People were proud of the report created from the conversations at the teleconference, but those of us who were involved in following up on the recommendations (at this point, a group that included all four of us) wanted to make sure that the report didn’t just sit on the shelf gathering dust. We wanted to identify things we could do in the short and long term to follow up on the recommendations—for example, organizing in support of Title IX, which was up for reauthorization.

As we considered our logical next steps, we thought it was important to have firm grounding with higher education institutions, so we began to look for associations who might partner with us. We didn’t want our work to be dictated by an association’s agenda, but we were looking for a supportive infrastructure to move our goals forward. AAC&U seemed like the logical choice, with its grounding in on-campus work, its historic women’s office, and its programmatic national initiatives on inclusion. AAC&U vice president Caryn McTighe Musil had also been a member of the National Advisory Board, spoken at the opening plenary, and moderated the final telecast.

We had identified goals, had begun to approach funders, and had started to gain momentum. Then 9/11 struck. After 9/11, the world was clearly a different place, and we all experienced myriad changes that had previously been unimaginable. But the immediate consequence for our work was that funders were no longer investing in anything having to do with women or higher education. It wasn’t clear what the new priorities would be, but it was clear that they wouldn’t be closely related to our work. AAC&U took a leap of faith when it chose to affiliate with us at that point. Our campuses continued to fund us as individuals, and we relied on their support and AAC&U’s organizational banner to keep us going.

After affiliating with AAC&U, we became the National Initiative for Women in Higher Education. For a while, we moved forward by organizing a national alliance of individuals and organizations to implement the new agenda on their campuses. We also held sessions at conferences and organized an annual advisory board retreat. After a few years, we began to refer to ourselves privately and then publically not as the National Initiative, but as “Campus Women Lead.”

The name change reflected a strategic shift. CWL reaffirmed that women of color would remain at the core of its work, and but leadership would become an area of emphasis. Rusty Barceló and Pat Lowrie had developed a series of CWL workshops focused on toolkits for women of color. That initial work set the foundation for a meeting at the University of Washington in 2005, to which twenty-five women were invited. Rusty hosted the event from her new position as vice president and vice provost for Minority Affairs and Diversity. Participants explored their leadership journeys and created the initial design for CWL’s curriculum on inclusive leadership. Among its central curricular elements were “leadership from where you are,” multicultural alliance building, and constructing more inclusive institutions. Campus Women Lead’s one- and two-day workshops to mobilize women’s leadership for inclusive excellence, which grew out of that meeting, have now been offered at nearly a dozen institutions. Shorter versions of the CWL workshops are regularly embedded in national conferences all around the country.

As the workshops became more successful, we continued to wonder if there were other products we’d like to create or goals we’d like to pursue. Ten years after the teleconference, CWL is still pondering other steps to foster greater equity for women across color, class, and all areas of difference.

Facing Future Challenges and Defining Next Steps

Looking back over the last ten years, we still see many of the same issues that confronted us in 2000. In some areas, significant improvements have occurred; for example, work­–life policies are improving, women are moving into some disciplines in impressive numbers, and access to resources like daycare centers has expanded. At the same time, we haven’t made progress on other fronts—including within the tenure process, which is itself becoming less relevant for the increasing numbers of women whose contingent job status makes them vulnerable in different ways. When we began Campus Women Lead’s work, we wanted to create workplaces where women, particularly women of color, could be authentic and draw on all their talents; but we still see too many women who feel that their work is unrecognized and invalidated. We are once again seeking new strategies to make our institutions inclusive of everyone.

We are now asking ourselves some essential questions: How can we harness energy and keep from being discouraged in the face of unexpected changes and challenges? How can we respond to the demographic and cultural shifts that must and will drive higher education’s agenda in the coming decades? How can we maintain the courage to work as outsiders even as we move into leadership roles in our own institutions, and how can we keep our critical edge as we work from the inside? What are the best strategies to effect change on both structural and personal levels, and how can we bring more women, whether emerging or seasoned leaders, to this work?

As we look for new strategies to support our work, we are heartened to see the unanticipated outcomes of some of our initiatives thus far, including the workshops. Our work at Purdue University, in particular, has generated an interesting model for expanding Campus Women Lead’s reach and bringing more women into the fold of inclusive leadership. After a Campus Women Lead workshop in 2008, women at Purdue were inspired to create a local group based on the CWL model. We were honored when they named their group Purdue Women Lead. These women are continuing their discussions about women’s leadership with the same drive that first brought them together for a CWL workshop. If professionals across the country formed their own “Campus Women Lead” groups to carry on CWL’s values, we would consider our work an incredible success.

As we move forward, we must recognize that CWL’s potential to transform higher education is only as good as the legacy we leave with those we encounter. Our experience with Purdue underscores that the real ownership of and impetus for change occurs on the ground, where women so often do their most influential work. If women can mobilize their leadership, whether positional or nontraditional, around a women-led agenda on behalf of all marginalized people, substantial changes will occur on campuses—changes that are ultimately good for everyone. But for this to happen, an investment in women’s leadership will need to be understood not as a drain on resources, but as an investment in higher education’s future.

Editor’s note: Campus Women Lead is a multicultural alliance promoting a women-led agenda for the sustained transformation of higher education for the twenty-first century. If you want to raise questions on your campus about how to use diversity as a key vehicle for expanding intellectual and practical choices, consider bringing a Campus Women Lead workshop to your campus. For more information, visit our Web site at

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