Change Happens with People Power (Summer 2019)

It has been an incredible several months for the Women & Gender Collaborative, materializing and manifesting several new additions to the structure and operations of this initiative and the way we are able to continue advancing the campus culture around gender.

Launching the Systems-based Leadership Development through Service Model and the Gender Summit

Following our call last winter for participation from diverse employees across campus to join a new effort under the Systems-based Leadership Development through Service (SLDS) model, in January we held our first SLDS retreat for co-chairs and committee members of nearly twenty committees under the Women & Gender Collaborative and the Feminist Fight Club at CSU. Under this model, there are close to 100 employees (staff and faculty) who are committed to work together and support each other as they collectively work on critical issues that impact some of the most marginalized groups among our campus community, including women of color, trans and non-binary employees, and people with dependent care responsibilities.  The energy at the retreat was invigorating as groups clarified their charges and established work plans for the semester ahead.

The SLDS retreat was one of those rare occasions when people from across campus units can see and meet others who are just as dedicated to working on related issues, which this model seeks to make less rare. The visibility of a such a large group helps counter any doubt or cynicism that people do not care or are unwilling to put work into changing the culture. Because being in the room and connecting with others is uncommon but so beneficial, we made this a way of connecting a cornerstone of the inaugural CSU Gender Summit.

In March, we brought together over 50 different employee-based groups working on gender-related issues for a two-day event of networking, information sharing, education, healing, and deliberative conversations. In our morning showcase, each group shared their respective efforts and accomplishments, which was a brilliant display of the breadth and depth of engagement related to gender across campus. Panelists and presenters shared important information on Title IX and ways to support women of color and those who identify as trans and non-binary to help inform everyone’s work around gender. There was a session on healing and repair to inform how we might better approach the work of gender equity on personal and interpersonal levels, and the Center for Public Deliberation supported a collaborative conversation about the values that should inform all gender equity work across campus as we push ahead.

Engaging Men and Allies in Culture Change Efforts from the Top Down and the Feminist Fight Club at CSU

One goal for the 2018-2019 academic year was to increase levels of engagement around gender equity issues among men, particularly those who hold leadership positions. In the spring, with support from President Frank, we offered a session of the Man: Educate Yourself (MEY) program for men in executive leadership positions as Deans or Vice Presidents. The usual cohort model of MEY consists in 15-20 men from across campus meeting over 16 weeks, but the time requirements of this program have prevented many of our top leaders from participating. The condensed, twelve-hour executive version of the program met over four sessions and included many of the core components of the MEY program, including reflections on identity, intersectionality, bias in the workplace, and discussions on accountability among leaders.

In January, we also held our first joint meeting between the Feminist Fight Club at CSU (FFC@CSU) and the newly created FFC for Men. The FFC for Men continued to meet over the semester with meeting topics focusing on what men can do to hold each other accountable, especially as it pertains to role modeling different ways of relating to each other and advocating for culture change in the workplace.

With continued self-reflection and intentional conversations about how to resist perpetuating the gender binary, the FFC for Men was renamed FFC:MASC, an acronym which maintains the separate focus on Masculinities, Allyship, Socialization, and Culture (MASC). To support cohesion across the entire FFC@CSU structure, there will continue to be joint meetings once a semester and monthly meetings for each group, and minutes for both sets of meetings are now shared out to all members of the Feminist Fight Club at CSU. All employees and graduate students are invited to join either or both groups.

Expanding Opportunities for Education

Finally, after nearly two years of development with CSU Online, the Introducing Feminist Frameworks courses are available. The two non-credit, self-paced online courses introduce learners to basic concepts such as oppression, privilege, and how to practice solidarity across identity differences. Learners can enroll in one or both courses (Understanding Identity Basics and Women Supporting Women). Thanks to financial support from the Women & Gender Collaborative and Commitment to Campus, eligible CSU employees can enroll in the courses with a 50% discount.

People Powered

While much of the groundwork for these recent developments has been in the works for the past few years, moving the Women & Gender Collaborative to the Office of the Vice President for Diversity last summer provided additional programmatic support that has enabled us to offer new structures for engagement and processes that increase participation from people across campus with these efforts.

The ways we have been able to grow, expand, and bring more people into shared spaces to work better together has been inspiring, fruitful, and new. As always, it would not be possible without so many people being willing to invest themselves, along with their time and energy, into exploring and developing new ways of approaching this work together.

I extend my deepest gratitude to all those who have been part of making all of this possible, who continue to stretch themselves so that we can all figure out how to be better together.