by: Kathryn Kay Coquemont
India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” is a symbolic anthem communicating that people (particularly those from the Black/African American community) are more than the social identities we use as labels. She sings, “I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am not your expectations, no / I am not my hair / I am not this skin / I am the soul that lives within”. Although many found these lyrics empowering, others were quick to point out that systemic oppression often does relegate people of color to embody a single dimensional identity. As a woman of color, my permitted identity is often determined by those with more privilege and power than I have. Every day, I navigate the world trying to determine if my racial or my gender identity is more salient in the current space I inhabit. I can only imagine and listen to stories about how much more difficult it is for women with additional marginalized identities to cope with social expectations. Continue reading Identity, Intersection, and Collision
Recently, a female colleague said that she believes that I had achieved my professional position because I am an attractive woman and work for male administrators. The (not-so-subtle) implication of this statement was that, as an attractive woman, I was given opportunities not afforded to others who she believes are better qualified than I am.
To be quite honest, I was shocked at this accusation. I would never classify myself as an attractive woman. I would describe myself as a runner, athletic, a feminist, an educator, a wife, a sister, a mother, an animal lover, and a laundry list of other adjectives…but never would I label myself as “attractive.” The idea of of using my appearance in an attempt to get ahead is ridiculous to me. I am the person running out the house at the last minute with a dryer sheet stuck to the arm of her blouse. I am so frugal that I only shop at second-hand clothing shops and that one red tag clearance rack at the back corner of the store. My husband is far more fashion forward than I am. In fact, he does all the ironing in our household as my skill level is not up to his standards, which is fine by me. I spray that magic wrinkle spray on myself and call it good enough. Most of my time outside of work is spent in running shoes and workout clothing. My beauty “routine” consists of my daughter’s baby oil, eczema cream, and prescription acne ointment from a dermatologist (yes, in my mid-30’s I am plagued by both acne and wrinkles). Those are certainly not the features that one would normally associate with “attractive.” Continue reading Feminism and the Alpha Female
by: Jennifer R. Keup
The week of Thanksgiving, I sat in my regular yoga studio listening to my instructor begin the class with a statement of intentions for our 90 minutes together. Much to my surprise she shared the following: “Thanksgiving is the time when we might expect to engage in a practice with the intention of ‘gratitude.’ While I certainly support the idea and practice of gratitude, I would rather spend our time on the intention of setting appropriate boundaries. By saying ‘no’ to family members, to food, to holiday obligations, or to other things, we are often saying ‘yes’ to ourselves in the healthiest of ways.”
Continue reading The Gift of Saying “No” to Others and “Yes” to Yourself
by: Jodi Koslow Martin
An alternate title for this entry is ” What’s Taking So Flipping Long?” Let me explain.
In 2012, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote an article in The Atlantic titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” This article sparked a great deal of debate and dialogue among professional women and was certainly a point of discussion for the founding authors of this blog. Recently, Ms. Slaughter’s spouse, Andrew Moravcsik, added his own entry into the same periodical, which was titled “Why I Put My Wife’s Career First.” As you can guess from the title, it was a personal reflection of the choices that the two-career couple made with respect to the ever elusive balancing act of raising kids and having a meaningful careers.
As you can imagine, this article elicited some strong responses from the women in our group, especially from me. My reaction was this…of course there’s a lead parent! Sometimes, there’s even only one parent. We’ve all known this. It seems as if it’s taking a really long time to finally realize it’s OK if it’s a male lead parent. Like a really long time. And, apparently, it takes a Princeton professor to say, “It’s okay, guys, you’re going to have to give up some things but this, this bond with the kids, ya’ know, you should really try it out.”
Continue reading Who’s Lucky: Choices about Primary Parenting
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
by Heather Shea Gasser
This entry was modified from the original post on heathersheagasser.com
Very early on in my career in student affairs I had a really terrible supervisor (who will remain nameless). He was a “good ole’ boy” in the purest sense, catering not to his staff but to the upper administration (nearly all men) at the college. He undermined my role as the primary advisor to a group of students frequently: sometimes he provided only lukewarm support of my decisions and other times he blatantly advised students to take a course of action in direct opposition to my previous advisement. It probably comes as no shock that I moved on from that position as quickly as possible. There is nothing worse than having an unsupportive and hierarchical supervisor.
Supervision in student affairs comes in all shades. Some supervisors are as developmental and intentional in supervising their staff as they are in working with undergraduate students, applying lessons of Sanford’s “challenge and support” in every context (maybe inappropriately at times). Continue reading Lessons from the Field: Feminist Supervision
By Jennifer R. Keup
“What a nice little girl!”
This is probably a refrain that many of us heard in our youth. Replace “nice” with “good,” “sweet,” “cute,” or “charming” and there are any number of variations to communicate this praise for young women that reinforce the idea that we should be agreeable, nonthreatening, and, most importantly, likeable. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these traits, the challenge arises when they become the primary character themes of our youth and ones that are reinforced through adulthood and into our professional lives as female leaders.
Because, let’s be honest, people of all genders prefer women who are likeable, non-threatening, sweet, and nice. Popular media and academic scholarship show that “high-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations about how women are supposed to behave. Continue reading Success and Likeability