“If you’re meant to lead and want to lead, you will lead,” the first female chancellor of SUNY, Nancy L. Zimpher said through a previously recorded video at the Women’s Leadership Symposium.
Students and faculty from Stony Brook University and the community gathered in the Charles B. Wang Center on Friday, Oct. 10 to discuss current women’s issues and ways to gain leadership positions in their careers.
According to Zimpher, less than 20 percent of Congress, one-fifth of governors, 16 percent of board seats in Fortune 500 companies and less than a quarter of university presidents are women.
After a complimentary breakfast, everyone moved to the auditorium for the keynote speaker, Debora Spar, president of Barnard College, a liberal arts college for women that is affiliated with Columbia University. She discussed her book, “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.”
Spar, who calls herself a “reluctant feminist,” shared personal and professional stories about what it is like to be a working mother of three in a predominantly male dominated career—85 percent of leadership positions are held by men in the workplace. In her mid-40s, she was one of the only one of her girlfriends still working.
“There are so many expectations, like my career, the house, a family and being successful that have been a driving force throughout my career,” Graduate Coordinator of the College of Business Erica Robey said. “It feels good to know other people experience it too.”
Spar spent the beginning of her career avoiding women’s issues. She thought that the feminist movement was over.
“It wasn’t until I got a call from a friend to speak at some kind of symposium or lecture, that I realized that there were still women’s issues prevalent,” Spar said. “He said ‘because we need a woman.’ I said no.”
She explained how her generation was affected by advertisements that promoted the idea of the working woman: a woman who had a successful career, a great social life and many children, but most importantly, could handle it all with no problem.
Spar went on to say that the expectations of women have certainly changed; however, the old expectations have stayed. She explained how it is now acceptable for women to have full-time jobs, but they are still supposed to be responsible for the housework and childcare.
“‘Having it all’ is a horrible phrase,” Spar said. “No one has it all. A woman with a high-powered career won’t be able to make it to every soccer game or every ballet recital.”
She urges her listeners to start talking about what they do not do, like always being able to juggle all facets of life. Spar said men need to be included in the conversation as well and that women need to go back to the early forms of feminism, which was largely about working together.
“It is very important for men to make tradeoffs too,” Senior Programmer/Analyst for DoIT Silvina Costazos said. “If a man leaves to take care of his child, it will make women feel they can too.”
The symposium also included a speech from Jen Lee Reeves, a former journalist and current strategist for AARP. Her speech aimed at inspiring people to “own who you are online.”
Reeves encouraged all of the attendees to own their own Uniform Resource Locators, or URLs, using their real names and to use that space to talk about what they want people to know about them. This gives them control over what people find when searching them on the Internet.
“My Facebook ‘about me’ looks like a résumé, because it is,” Reeves said. “It is what I want people to know about who I am. I want to own my own brand.”
The event concluded with Nicole Williams giving a presentation on how to set up a LinkedIn account. She is bestselling author of three books and a LinkedIn Career Expert, and she aims to help people use LinkedIn to enhance their careers. Williams founded WORKS, which is a resource for young women to go to for career advice. It was named one of Forbes magazine’s Top 10 Career Websites for Women.
“I started WORKS because when I was I was constantly thinking about what kind of job I wanted,” Williams said. “I couldn’t find anything useful.”
Williams makes content for using her career. She figures out what works and does not work by what she tried. Her goal is to make people understand how important social media is and to create a brand for yourself.
Along with keynote speeches, there were separate workshops for people to listen to like “Faculty Women Leading in the Academy,” where they discussed power networking.
“Power is not always tied to the position you have,” director of the Career Center Marianna Savoca said. “Networking is not only for extroverts. It still matters even if you only affect one person.”