The Women of IU Conference offered an opportunity to learn, share, and network.
The goal for equality of males and females necessitates social, legal, and practical changes. The recent #METOO movement offers a renewed approach for improvement, for conversations, for expressions of pent-up feelings of frustration at the still unequal world. The Women of IU Conference offered a way to rethink and consider new avenues of action, good ideas for mentoring relationships, wise women’s words, and positive reinforcement. The conference keynote speakers and break-out sessions online presentations and messages provide access to a broader audience to experience the shared ideas.
The First Lady of IU, Laurie Burns McRobbie, opened and welcomed all attendees and then introduced President Michael McRobbie. The two keynote speakers’ powerful messages offered the audience distinct ideas about moving forward as women.
The opening Keynote Speaker, Martha Sanders Hoover, an IU Alum, spoke about her experiences as a former prosecutor and current restaurateur in terms of tolerances for gender and ethnicity. As a prosecutor she ran the first sex-crimes investigation and prosecution office in Marion County, Indiana. In 1989 she opened a café which began a 14 restaurant organization, Patachou Inc. In both roles she encountered sex-based discrimination and harassment. In her prosecutorial role a key goal was to ensure staffs in courtrooms, ERs, and other services worked respectfully with women and children. At every step of her journey as a restaurateur she met with bias and sex-based discrimination. She began her businesses with an “equal to all” attitude toward employees and suppliers. This posture did not please the business establishment; but she held to her beliefs. Her 14 restaurant organization uses more Indiana based farm products than all Marion county restaurants combined. She is a success and she achieved this by recognizing her staff and customers as individuals and not commodities. She survives in an industry that is predominantly male and lead by males, with women and minorities pushed to the lowest paid jobs. Her speech is inspirational and can be read in PDF.
The Breakout Sessions provided content directed to specific subjects to support women at IU. IU East’s Michelle Malott, Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, presented, Feel Good About Taking Care of Yourself: It Can Be Done!. Additional sessions included ideas on careers and mentoring, negotiating, sexuality, sleep, and a leadership discussion panel. The #metoo was represented in a presentation that looked at ways the movement influences Indiana University. An example from the presentation was a discussion of methods to create healthy, work environments, free from bias. At lunch, table-based assigned topics and questions about work & IU, issue, and solutions offered a way for attendees to interact. The conference planners and organization supported a valuable day of learning and sharing.
The closing Keynote Speaker, Marie E. Hamilton Abegunde, PhD, is the founding director of The Graduate Mentoring Center at Indiana University. Her speech provided a thought provoking introduction to healing through “contemplative practice.” Communities form the basis for healing and actions of individuals are a part of the process. The presentation was spiritual and emotional grounding the almost lyrical message. Dr. Abegunde’s methods, through repetition, contemplation, and arts-based practices, heals the community and moves it beyond trauma. The presentation looks at how the academy and scholarship “Make Us Free” and as people, together, the traumas of the past may be healed. A conference take-away is that Indiana University, in its many versions, can heal the wounds of sex, ethnicity-based discrimination, harassment, and bias, by working together to recognize and solve the issues. Dr. Abegunde’s presentation.
Overall, the Women of IU Conference renews an anticipation of equality and demonstrates possible practical applications of a new normal. The conference purpose, stated on the website, “… is to create a forum for professional and personal exchange and learning across the entire IU ecosystem,” offers an opportunity for IU Women, supported by IU Women, and presented by women. An expectation from the initial Women of IU Conference and future conferences is that women and all of IU move beyond the “we are not quite there yet” feeling toward an environment where equality and mutual respect is the new normal.
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