Tag Archives: Empathy

Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Intergenerational Feminism Starts at Home

This is the third post in a series contributed by Susan Albertine, Senior Fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

This blog post started as a conversation with my daughter. About three years ago, I asked my daughter about feminism. She, Hannah, had just finished her first year of college. Prime time for a mother to swoop in and take temperature. Let’s be more precise. Second-wave feminist mom who at age 43 gave birth to her daughter descends on wary daughter after year one of college, bearing annoying questions. I could easily have been her grandmother, but she was under no obligation to extend me that courtesy.

I took the risk. Note: I am often too direct for my own good. Indeed, the conversation was awkward. Asked about the word feminism, Hannah said, “That’s your generation. I don’t know a single person who says she’s a feminist.” She said it genially, with a gleam in her eye. It put me in mind of her baby self, beaming with love, looking me straight in the eye, opening wide her adorable little mouth, and biting me. Her young adult conversations retain both their affection and their teeth. I felt it, but I was ready. Then followed ruminations.

Continue reading Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Intergenerational Feminism Starts at Home

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Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Equity and Leadership

This is the second post in a series contributed by Susan Albertine, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Student Success at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

In the months since I last wrote for #SAFeminist, we’ve seen racial, ethnic, and sex-gender violence continue to flare across the country, on campuses, and in communities. For some of us, this unrest seems new, a different turn of events. Others of us–I among them–hear and feel the past echoing in the present. Many of us recognize a high-publicity phase of conditions that have simmered, boiled, and exploded all along. Perspective matters here.

Regardless of one’s experience, regardless of the ways one recognizes origins and continuity, social unrest now is impossible to miss. Reading an opinion piece by Danielle Allen, a political philosopher at Princeton, I found myself stunned by empathy when Allen describes—in a single sentence—a moment of continuity in her life. She says, “I, too, was called ‘n-‘ on campus in the lovely, deep late-night dark of Princeton in the spring of 1993.” That sentence haunts me. It is an experience I, as a white woman, have never known. But for a moment I felt a pulse of familiarity. It was not the full actuality, which is beyond my grasp. Still I felt breath and heartbeat for a moment. Thinking about equitable leadership for this #SAFeminist blog post, with that sentence ringing in my ears, I realize what I need to say. Continue reading Reflections on Gender Equity in Higher Education: Equity and Leadership

Empathy in the Workplace: Fact or Crap

by Jennifer R. Keup

OK, confession time: I have become highly suspicious of the use of the term “empathy” in the workplace, especially with respect to leadership.

I realize that this statement is likely to be interpreted as heretical in the highly emotionally-intelligent, person-centered, post-modern world of student affairs practice and leadership. So, let me clarify that I am actually a kind-hearted, sensitive person who values plurality. I cried during the death scenes in the movie Titanic, have been known to get emotional during commercials featuring babies and families, and maintain many longstanding personal and professional relationships. I value diversity, seek opportunities for international exposure and awareness, and actively integrate intercultural perspectives into my life and the lives of my children. I am a good “read” of people, am often the person to whom friends and colleagues confide, and regularly feel my heartstrings pulled by the trials, tribulations, and accomplishments of others. In other words, I believe that empathy is a real and important trait and that it is present in my own innate personality, although I will admit that I have never participated in any formalized training that would allow me to cite a specific measure of the depth or degree of this aspect of my psyche.

My trepidation has more to do with the way that “empathy” is cited and, I would argue, largely misused in the modern workplace.  Empathy is “the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others” (Gentry, Weber, & Sadri, 2007, p. 4).  It is the ability to see and understand the worldview of others and “share their perspective” (Gallup, 2014, para. 1).  It requires trust, the ability to read subtext and nonverbal cues, strong listening skills, and a healthy balance between compassion and cognition. Several studies of professional performance and leadership in higher education and the corporate world provide evidence that empathy is an important professional quality. This body of research shows that empathy is a critical component of successful management, is related to employee satisfaction and productivity, and is becoming an ever more important leadership quality in a pluralistic and global society. Continue reading Empathy in the Workplace: Fact or Crap