President Patton to Host Workshop with New Women Leaders Club

President Patton to Host Workshop with New Women Leaders Club

By Joana Salievska

Middlebury Women Leaders is a new club on campus founded and run by Jialong Wu ’17.5 and Mariah Levin ’17.5. The club works to empower women and equip them with skills to promote their professional and personal development. Their first workshop, on conflict resolution, will be held on Thursday, March 3, at 4:30 p.m. in McCardell Bicentennial Hall 210. President Laurie L. Patton will host the workshop.

Wu and Levin said they started Middlebury Women Leaders because they wanted to create a space where women could learn to navigate situations in which they were in the minority. They wanted to provide women at the College with the skills they would normally not get in a liberal arts context.

Levin said that existing clubs, such as Feminist Action at Middlebury and the Chellis House, do a “great job” of addressing female inequality and feminist issues. “There’s been no special attention, as far as I know, to leadership skill development. We are just here to fill in the gap,” she said.

Wu and Levin were inspired by life experiences to create this club for the College.

“Last summer, I was working as an investment banking intern and often times, the male interns got more attention even though we were doing the same work,” Wu said. “Usually they got praised and I got ignored.”
Levin attributed her interest in female leadership to a women’s leadership training event she attended in high school.

“I was with a lot of high-powered CEOs,” she said. “I snuck my way in, basically, and they were all talking about these really real inequalities that they saw around them even at their really high-powered positions. Because these were people in high positions, I knew that this was something I could experience, too.”

Although Wu and Levin said that the College does a good job of encouraging female leadership, Wu has noticed specific things in Middlebury classrooms that have revealed the relevance of Middlebury Women Leaders.

“Women students, when they ask questions, will first say ‘You know I am not so sure’ or ‘I am sorry if this isn’t relevant’ or ‘I apologize’ and then they ask the question, whereas men don’t have that problem,” Wu said. “These kinds of things result in people thinking that men should know more than women because they are more confident. So, we want to change that. We want to change how we think about ourselves and how other people think about us.”

The club will hold workshops hosted by women leaders in order to create spaces where Middlebury students can learn tangible skills to use in everyday life.

“Basically all of our events are activity-based where you can get your hands dirty with the subject matter, and I think workshops really lend themselves to that,” Levin said. “The objective is to teach students skills they can apply later.”

“You may walk away with one or two skills that you feel solid about that you may want to apply,” Levin said. “I have taken a couple of workshops and I use skills all the time and I refine them and I have more questions and it is this cool circular process: learning and applying then learning and applying.”

These skills include discussion mediation, negotiation and public speaking. The first workshop, hosted by the College’s president, will focus on conflict resolution skills. President Patton has had national and international training in conflict resolution, especially interfaith conflict resolution. She has led workshops at both Emory University and Duke University and has trained students and department chairs in personal and professional conflict resolution.

“I also think conflict management is a fabulous field in which we can be creative about our solutions. When you are managing or mediating a conflict, you have to think about all the options, not just the ones on the table. And you have to reframe issues so that people can see their way out of the conflict into a livable solution,” Patton said.

Patton decided to get involved with Middlebury Women Leaders to help women find their voice.

“I remember my first presentation in a class my sophomore year in college. It was all graduate students, and I was completely terrified. And it was only after my professor wrote a long, thoughtful response to the things I had argued that I realized that she had literally heard my voice, and heard the points I was trying to make,” she said.

“There’s nothing like that kind of bringing people into their own voices. It’s magical. I am deeply privileged to be able to be in a position to help others with that. I don’t think that women make better leaders than men. But I do think that we are missing out on some fantastic leaders if we let traditional gender conditioning get in our way and don’t take active steps to overcome it. That is true for everyone: women, men, gay, straight, trans, cis and non-cis folks. We all need to find that voice.”

Middlebury Women Leaders will sponsor a variety of hosts for their workshops and each workshop will explore a different category of female leadership.

Rana Abdelhamid ’15, president of Women Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), will also lead a workshop for Middlebury Women Leaders. WISE works to empower young Muslim women through through self-defense classes and leadership training. Abdelhamid will speak about her experience working with WISE and how to empower women through entrepreneurship programming.

Carolyn Finney, assistant professor of geography at the University of Kentucky, will also host a workshop. She will speak on African-American leadership in outdoor activities.

Wu and Levin encourage all students at the College to attend Middlebury Women Leaders workshops, especially those students who wish to strengthen their leadership skills.

“Women have a lot to offer,” Wu said, “and we want people to see this.”

More information on MWL and future workshops can be found online at go/girl.