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UM System Women In Leadership

UM System Office of Human Resources hosts inaugural Women in Leadership Conference June 23-24. 

The inaugural UM System Women in Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Office of Human Resources, kicked off June 22 with a capacity crowd of 200 attendees and 150 more on a waiting list. The two-day event brought presenters from throughout the four-campus system to Columbia, Missouri, to highlight topics important to women and leadership in academia.

“I think the most important thing is that we’re learning from each other; that’s why I’m so excited about this conference,” Betsy Rodriguez, vice president for human resources at the UM System, said. “Almost all the presenters are internal speakers — that shows the great talent we already have in the system.”

Effective leadership knows no gender, according to Rodriguez. However, the event provides a unique opportunity for female leaders to share ideas and discuss issues relevant to gender in the workplace and to develop the leadership traits relevant to effective professional and community leaders.

Robin Walker, coordinator of graduate student professional development at MU, was among the attendees. “I’m working on a couple of leadership programs, one for UM System and one on campus, primarily for doctoral students,” she said. She says the conference is an opportunity for her to broadly reflect on gender issues across different sectors in order to help students build transferable skills in leadership development. 

University of Missouri Board of Curator Pamela Henrickson served as the opening speaker where she encouraged attendees to not be afraid to say yes when presented with opportunities.

“Try to find a way to say yes. In other words, take a risk,” Henrickson said. “Say yes to volunteer opportunities and career projects so, when you come to that time in your life, you'll have the experience to teach you and train you where your time is best spent.”

Henrickson reflected on her own experience in saying yes to serving as a curator sharing that she had no idea what the job entailed when first asked. “If I said no, I’d miss the whole thing and I wouldn’t miss this experience for anything! Don’t be afraid to say yes. Take a risk; that’s how you grow,” she said.

Curator Henrickson shared many pieces of advice with attendees — among them, she encouraged them to both find a mentor and be a mentor. “Identify women in positions you aspire to and talk to them.”

Given the success of the inaugural Women in Leadership Conference, it is likely that the Office of Human Resources will continue the discussion with future conferences. To view attendee feedback on the inaugural event, search #UMWomenInLeadership on Twitter.