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Forum gives women at W&M a chance to share interests, concerns

  • Women's forum
    Women's forum
    Nearly 200 women participated in a women's forum at William & Mary on Oct. 17. Here, Anne Rasmussen addresses women during a panel session on leadership during the event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Women's forum
    Women's forum
    Forum participants engage in a discussion during the event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Women's forum
    Women's forum
    Panelists discuss workplace leadership during one of the sessions of the forum.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Women's forum
    Women's forum
    Attendees listen during one of the sessions at the forum.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Women's forum
    Women's forum
    Kate Slevin (right) was the opening speaker at the forum.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

In a little corner of the Sadler Center on Wednesday, a group of women shared their definitions of success. Some noted a sense of personal fulfillment, others mentioned health, family, accolades and promotions.

“A beach house,” one woman added, receiving good-spirited laughter and nods in response.

The lively discussion was just one of many that took place during a women’s forum at William & Mary on Oct. 17. Nearly 200 women who work at William & Mary came together for the event, which gave them a chance to discuss their common experiences, interests and concerns.

Sponsored by The Women’s Network, the forum was attended by women employed in various roles on campus, including administrators, teaching faculty, professional faculty and classified and hourly staff members.

“I think it was great,” said Carla Costello, co-chair of The Women’s Network. “It was a very important step in bringing all William & Mary women together to talk about shared concerns and issues we face as women. The Women's Network was proud to sponsor the event, and we hope to have more in the future.”

Kate Slevin, vice provost for academic affairs and chancellor professor of sociology, welcomed the attendees to the event, saying that it was the first time in her more than 20 years at W&M that she had seen such a gathering of women at the College.

“Both at William & Mary and in society at large, the inequities that we face will only be addressed properly if we tackle them as a collective or as a group and not as individuals,” said Slevin.

After Slevin’s opening remarks, the crowd broke into three smaller groups for panel discussions on work/life balance issues, organizational climate and workplace leadership. Following those sessions, the group got together one last time to discuss common themes from the sessions and possible steps forward, including a potential workshop series for women. Earlier this year, The Women’s Network began a mentoring program for women on campus.

Rowan Lockwood, co-chair of The Women’s Network, said that she was “bowled over” by the similar challenges that women face, despite differences in job responsibilities and walks of life.

"It was incredibly empowering to see all of these women come together from across the College to brainstorm on women's issues,” said Lockwood, associate professor of geology. “It made me realize how far we've come and how much work we still have to do.”

Tami Back, who recently began working at William & Mary as the associate director of strategic communications & outreach for Swem Library, called the forum “incredibly worthwhile and insightful.”

“I especially enjoyed speaking with other female professionals who are dealing with the same issues I am facing, such as creating work-life balance and managing expectations,” she said. “Not only did it provide an outlet to discuss women's issues, it connects women throughout the organization, creating a much-needed support network."

The women who helped lead the panel discussions were also impressed with the event.

"What a wonderful gathering of William & Mary women," said Chon Glover, assistant to the president for community initiatives and chief diversity officer. "Special thanks to The Women's Network for a great opportunity to learn, connect, and grow!"

Warrenetta Mann, who helped lead the work/life balance session, said she participated in the forum because she believes “in the power of women’s voices and women’s work.”

“There are so many talented and energetic women here at William & Mary,” said Mann, director of the counseling center. “I wanted to be a part of what was bound to happen when they came together around empowering themselves.”