WKU to host women’s leadership conference

Monica Kast

WKU will be hosting Women Leading, a conference about leadership styles and opportunities for women, in Downing Student Union on Friday, Feb. 19.

The conference is sponsored by the WKU LEAD Coalition, WKU Women in Science and Engineering, or WISE, and the Ogden College of Science and Engineering. The conference will feature three guest speakers who are women that hold prominent leadership positions.

Carly Speranza, a former intelligence officer in the United States Air Force and current department chairwoman at the National Intelligence University, will be presenting on understanding leadership differences between men and women.

Susan Wente, the provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Vanderbilt University, will be speaking on different pathways to leadership opportunities.

Laura Bryan, vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of Transylvania University, will be presenting on balancing life at work and outside of work.

Jerry Daday, associate professor of sociology and executive director of the Center for Faculty Development, is one of the event planners and said the goal of the conference is to “get people thinking about and start a conversation about leading broadly.”

“We have to move past the idea that only men can lead and women have to follow,” Daday said.

Daday formerly worked at a Fortune 500 company. He said he was shocked by the lack of female presence in the business world and also by the lack of females in higher education leadership positions.

“Women are getting about half of the PhDs in this country and over half of the bachelor’s degrees, yet we don’t see women in these prominent leadership positions,” Daday said.

Women have earned over half of all bachelor’s degrees and half of the bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering fields since the late 1990s, according to a study done by the National Science Foundation in 2014.

However, women are still in fewer leadership roles both in business and higher education.

Cheryl Stevens, the dean of Ogden College, said that since she has been at WKU, increasing the number of female faculty in Ogden College has been a priority.

Stevens also helped start the WISE program on campus.

“We created a Women in Science and Engineering group in Ogden whose purpose is to provide some programming to help female faculty navigate some of the challenges associated with being successful in their jobs and being able to successfully compete for promotions and tenure,” Stevens said. “When Jerry Daday asked if I was interested in serving on the conference steering committee, I thought it was a great way to also support our WISE initiative.”

Daday added that this conference will be beneficial for both men and women.

“Men will be working for women; men will be led by women,” Daday said. “Men will need to know how to work with these different leadership styles.”

Daday said they have filled the 200 reserved seats for the conference but will have overflow rooms available in DSU, where the conference will be broadcast and available to watch. It will also be broadcast to WKU’s regional campuses.