Sunset over CSU campus

Launching the Women & Gender Collaborative (Spring 2016)

It’s been one month since we officially launched the Women & Gender Collaborative, which connects and promotes efforts that support the University’s mission to improve campus culture and climate around gender and make Colorado State University the best place for women to work and learn. And what a month it has been!

Let me start by recognizing the incredible amount of energy and commitment that can be found in various pockets across campus with respect to gender. As most of you know, there has been quite a bit of institutional attention directed at things like pay equity among faculty, parental leave and bullying policies, increasing the number of gender inclusive restrooms, and how we at CSU identify and articulate the principles that shape our community.

Furthermore, consider how many campus units are independently highlighting gender as a point for critical engagement.

Partly in honor of Women’s History Month, but not just because of that, there have been lots of events and opportunities for learning about gender-related topics, especially as they intersect with other issues and identities. There have been too many to individually name, but in summary, there have been socials, forums, and on-going dialogues that addressed gender in relation to sexuality, masculinity, transgender identities, and disability. We’ve had world leaders mention gender equity as a key aspect of global sustainability, and lectures from scholars on trans representation in the media, connections between the brain and body weight, and encouraging women into tech-related fields through video gaming. We’ve also had student-led productions and conferences that focus on gender and empowerment across our differences and a presentation on the economic state of women in Colorado.

I mention this month’s programming to affirm that we need widespread attention and diverse forms of engagement to understand gender as it reflects and intersects with many different issues, identities, and experiences on our own campus.

Gender-related challenges are complex, multiple, and dynamic, so one point of focus, one perspective, and one approach to overcome them will never be sufficient. 

This means that our collective effort to improve the culture and climate around gender must involve very concrete methods – like new policies and diverse programming. So, thanks to you all who have been creating those opportunities, and thanks to those of you who have been attending and supporting them.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of these policies and programs, to ensure that the issues they bring to light become part of how we better create our culture, we have to recognize other areas where we can still grow and learn together, which can be as difficult at times as it is necessary.

Sometimes I refer to this as the growth that happens when we engage each other’s “hearts and minds.” I don’t mean to sound overly fluffy, warm, and fuzzy, like we just need to be kinder and like one another more (though that may be a good principle, no matter the occasion).

By getting at our “hearts and minds” I’m referring to more subtle, less tangible things, like changes we can affect within ourselves and with others when we learn more, and, importantly, when we care enough to internalize that learning.

Institutionally, policies are necessary, but policies don’t change people.

Culturally, we can use what we learn to shape how we are as people, our behaviors and how we interact with each other. We can even use what we learn to revisit current policies!

And this is where the vision behind the Women & Gender Collaborative comes in: Educate to Empower. Engage to Change.

Given our goal to connect and promote various gender-related efforts across campus, one of the first priorities of the Women & Gender Collaborative was to set up means for communication, such as the website and Facebook page. 

In addition to other face-to-face dialogues, we will continue to develop and use these platforms to communicate with our community, so please be in touch when you have something going on that you would like to share.

As we move into our next phase, we’ll be able to direct more energy into the educational side of things.

The hope is that providing more resources to learn about gender will not only inform and support existing efforts, like policies and programs, but that this type of learning will also inform others – women and men – so we are all empowered and equipped to productively engage in making positive changes.

Our first educational blog post will be about one of the most important (and perhaps most difficult) things to recognize: How and when we all participate in creating the culture and climate around gender at CSU. Please check out that post – and future posts – under the education section of our website where you can also scroll through other articles we’ve shared about women and gender-related issues.

Thanks for your support of the Women & Gender Collaborative thus far, and thanks for your continued commitment to make CSU the best place for women to work and learn.