Female Leaders in Academia to Meet for Unique Conference this Fall

The dean of KPU’s science and horticulture faculty will attend the four-day event in Winnipeg this October

Betty Worobec, KPU’s dean of the faculty of science and horticulture and facilitator for the Women in Academic Leadership program (submitted).

Women in academic leadership roles from across North America will come together this fall to share personal stories, participate in workshops, and learn from mentors in the hopes of shattering the glass ceiling in the world of academia.

The Women in Academic Leadership program will be held in Winnipeg over the course of four days starting Oct. 1. Betty Worobec, dean of KPU’s science and horticulture faculty, is excited that it is one of the first academic leadership programs in North America to cater specifically to women.

The program itself was developed by the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development based at the University of Manitoba, where Worobec used to work as a senior administrator. She was contacted by former colleagues about participating in the program and will now be serving as a program consultant, facilitator, and discussion leader.

“They’ll be a large team of women who are in senior admin positions from all across Canada, and some from the U.S., that will be the people delivering the program,” says Worobec.

Only 20 attendees will be admitted to the event, each of them nominated by their university. These women will be paired with five mentors who will participate in one-on-one and small group sessions and workshops covering a range of topics.

Some of the topics that will be discussed include positive and negative perceptions of women in leadership positions, the rewards and challenges faced by mentors and attendees, and the ability to negotiate salaries and work conditions. There will also be role-playing of workplace scenarios, which Worobec says will foster interactions between participants, mentors, and facilitators.

On the final day, participants will regroup with their mentors for more one-on-one learning. Worobec hopes that attending the program will benefit these women for years to come.

“The idea is that they will have these mentors plus all the people they’ll meet at the workshop as contacts to help them along the way as they navigate through their careers and hopefully end up in leadership positions,” she says. “We’re from all different parts of academia and I’ll say there are some pretty amazing people.”

Some of the facilitators and mentors include former university presidents, vice presidents, and deans, who Worobec says will share their advice and their life stories to those in attendance.

“The biggest takeaway will be meeting other women who are in similar situations in their career,” she says. “It’ll be this awesome network that these women will have active support from.”

She adds that many similar programs only teach leadership skills, whereas this one will encourage women to apply for managerial positions. One of the aims of the event is to “let them know that those opportunities are out there and maybe give them some strategies on how they themselves could be prepared for that step up,” she explains.

Worobec wants the program to empower women who are considering moving up the career ladder. She also notes that KPU has a high number of women in senior leadership positions, which she calls “fabulous.”

While there’s still work to be done in achieving true gender equality for women in leadership roles, it’s easier nowadays for women to ascend into these positions. With an influx of female politicians, CEOs, and university administrators, Worobec is looking forward to the day when this is the norm rather than the exception.

“The glass ceiling is getting a bit thinner,” she says.