Organization enhancing role of women at Western

Shawntaye Hopkins

For Anne Murray the dates are fuzzy. Yet, the feeling of isolation she felt while working at Western nearly 30 years ago remains clear.

There was something missing – support of women promoting leadership in a community with few women leaders.

An alliance.

The goal of the Women’s Alliance is to promote continuing education and personal development and to enhance the job performance of women employed at Western.

Murray is one of the founders of the alliance, which started with a group of women meeting informally to discuss women’s leadership roles at Western. The Alliance was established as an official organization in 1980 with Murray as its first president.

“These women are women I admire and meant a lot to me personally and professionally,” Murray said.

Murray was the assistant Dean of Student Affairs, one of the few women administrators. The alliance concentrated heavily on helping more women obtain leadership roles, she said.

Murray said jobs were not always properly advertised to women. In order to give them a better chance at employment, the Alliance made phone calls to qualified women to tell them about open positions. In time, more women leaders were seen on campus.

“If someone knew about a job coming open the telephones would start ringing,” she said.

The group also focuses on helping women obtain equity when they are hired.

Members of the Women’s Alliance have taken great strides to promote women leadership since its formation.

Jo-Ann Albers, director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, received the annual Women’s Alliance award yesterday. Albers has worked at Western and been a member of the Alliance since August 1987.

Albers said it is important to have support systems especially among women.

“There’s strength in numbers,” she said.

Awards Chair Sylvia Pulliam, associate professor of computer science, said the organization gave the award to Albers for her support of women employees throughout her career.

“She’s an exemplary leader as a scholar and administrator,” Pulliam said. “She’s a pioneer.”

The award was given at their business meeting yesterday taking place before their monthly program.

Each year the program committee creates a theme for the year. This year’s theme is “Gateways to Global Awareness Through … ” All the programs promote understanding of the differences and similarities of other cultures.

President Jill Norris, early childhood and health coordinator, said she particularly enjoyed the “Art Around the World” program. The February presentation showed how women have been depicted in art over time.

Yesterday’s program, “Gateways to Global Awareness Through … Stretching for Good Health,” demonstrated the importance of stretching, especially in the workplace. Program Chair Susan Morris, training and technical assistance staff assistant at Western, said the program fits the theme because movement and exercise is universal.

New officers for the 2003-2004 school year were also announced yesterday. Norris, as the group’s new president, said she wants to recruit more members and get the Alliance out more visually on campus.

Norris joined the group over three years ago after hearing about the alliance from her mother, Judy Owen, director of Career Services, another founder of the alliance.

“I grew up hearing about the Women’s Alliance and the things they were doing,” Norris said, “And the women’s issues they were looking at in terms of how they could make Western a better place for women to work.”

She said she had the opportunity to meet women at Western she would not have met otherwise if she wasn’t a Women’s Alliance member.

Norris said anyone who shares the goal of the Alliance is welcome to join.

“If there is someone that has some concerns or some interest in women’s issues this is a good group for them to get involved in,” she said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]