This past fall, Northwestern’s Leadership and Community Engagement department (housed within Campus Life) introduced its new series, Women in Leadership. This cohort meets six times over the course of one quarter to discuss and explore various aspects of the intersection between gender and leadership.
“We have a pretty multifaceted mission,” Assistant Director of Leadership & Community Engagement Adrian Bitton said.“Ultimately what we want to do is empower women and build their leadership self-efficacy.”
The group accomplishes this goal through a focus on educating members. Each week, participants explore different concepts together related to women in leadership. Bitton also credits the series’s structure with creating a productive learning environment. “The particular pedagogical style of having a cohort that meets repeatedly creates relationships among the women and builds trust and vulnerability so they can share authentically in their experiences and perspectives around women in leadership,” she said.
Bitton said they also try to create a solution-oriented focus for the women in the program. “We not only try to deconstruct ideas around women in leadership,” she said, “but we also say how can we empower and support one another and build each other up as we overcome some of these obstacles that we might experience based on our gender in a leadership context.”
Thanks to this combination, the cohort’s coordinators said that they consistently see growth amongst the women that participate throughout their time together.
Graduate Assistant for Leadership and Community Engagement Jazminn Williams said, “We talk about the confidence gap between men and women, and I think that whether [participants] are a first or fourth year walking in, there’s a lack of confidence. I want them to walk away knowing that they can be like the leaders that they see every day.”
Williams said she thinks this is an important part of changing the way women see themselves and are seen within a leadership context.
“Women matter!” Williams said. “I think that learning how much we’re socialized to think certain ways and to know that there are other ways to navigate and be leaders is definitely important. Building that conversation allows them to take what they’re learning and have those conversations with their friends, families, student groups, and start to dismantle that socialization.”
They’re off to a good start working toward this goal; the group saw nearly perfect retention rates for both the fall and winter groups.
Over the course of the upcoming years, Bitton and Williams said they hope to grow the program further. “Right now we’re following the energy that’s already there,” Bitton said. “We’re building a cache of student leaders who want to facilitate, and we’re hoping to eventually run multiple cohorts each quarter with unique tracks.”
The upcoming series begins April 17. Enrollment has already closed, but be sure to keep an eye out for new installments of the cohort in upcoming quarters.