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Women in Academic Leadership
Past Events

Oct. 1 to 5, 2018
The first session of Women in Academic Leadership


The Program

Women in Academic Leadership was a five-day leadership retreat. Participants benefitted from relevant, applied learning through interesting interactive activities and discussion led by experienced women leaders sharing real-world experience. Women set goals, got feedback on their leadership qualities, and made personal, professional connections in this interactive program.

Themes explored

An introduction to women’s leadership in higher education
Changing current perceptions of women in academic leadership
Communication and negotiation: what makes an effective woman leader?
Issues women leaders face: sexism, implicit bias, and the glass ceiling
Organizational dynamics in higher education including navigating the politics of the workplace
Rewards and challenges of leadership, with input from high profile female guest speakers
Networking and creating communities of leadership practice
Professional goal setting

2018 Program Fee
$4,500 CDN (included GST, tuition, course materials, refreshments, and some meals)

2018 Hotel and venue
Inn at The Forks, Winnipeg


Karen Chad, Facilitator

Karen is Vice-President of Research at the University of Saskatchewan, and a faculty member at the U of S College of Kinesiology.  She completed her graduate studies in Australia, and holds several research grants and contracts. Karen currently sits on over a dozen national and international boards and has chaired or overseen hundreds of boards, committees, research programs, and teams. Her awards include YWCA Woman of Distinction (Health and Education) award, the National Leadership Award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal, Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100, and Saskatchewan Business Magazine’s Woman of Influence.

Read more about Karen Chad

It was a tough decision to take on a new position as Vice-President of Research at the University of Saskatchewan, but Karen Chad went for it and she hasn’t looked back since.

“I have made a strong commitment to myself to never wonder ‘what if’. For every opportunity, I walk through that door. You know you can always turn around and walk out, but if you don’t walk in, you never know what could have been before you,” says the facilitator for the Women in Academic Leadership program. This new Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) program was designed to bring women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced women mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to embrace a supportive community of women in leadership.

“I love a challenge. The unknown never scares me. I am motivated by it,” says Chad. “All of my leadership roles have transformed me into the leader I am today. I have been shaped by the opportunities I have been given. I know I am a much better person, and a stronger, more sensitive and more aware individual.”

They need you
When she was first asked to come and interview for the administrative position, she was torn because she loved her research, teaching, and her students. But her young daughter brought perspective to the situation. “She told me ‘They need you. If you don’t take it, who will? Will they just give it to some guy?’ I was reminded I never want to wonder ‘What if?’ So I put my name in, and here I am.”

The new program inspires Chad. “Everyone is a leader in some capacity. There are a lot of myths and misinformation about leadership roles in universities. As I professor, I had no idea of the scope of leadership possibilities. It’s about developing a fabulous understanding of the roles and competencies in an inspiring way, and nurturing skills and abilities.”

Bringing the sisterhood together
People learn well by being with others they can relate to, in a safe environment, she says. “This is bringing the sisterhood together. I think being able to sit down with other women is going to be very important. Diversity is also an important part of the sisterhood coming together. Women from different backgrounds, different cultures, and from different spaces and places should have this unique opportunity to connect with an inspiring sense of support and of community. When you look at professional development opportunities, it’s not just the content that matters. The environment is equally important. This is by women leaders — for women leaders. It’s very unique and very necessary.”

Chad was born and raised in Saskatchewan, in a family of 13. She has six brothers and six sisters. “It was a great learning environment. I learned a lot about leading, and following.”

Her career started with a job as a teacher in Calgary’s inner city schools. “I loved being a teacher but I felt I had a lot more to learn. I did graduate work so I could become a better teacher and make more of a difference.”

After she earned her masters degree in Victoria, her professors connected her with colleagues in Australia. She completed her PhD at Queensland University and taught for them. Next, she was offered a position in New South Wales, and then the University of Saskatchewan recruited her.

A fabulous life
A grad student once told Chad she was not sure she wanted her life. “I told her she was not seeing what a fabulous life I have. I never have a day that I don’t think about how fabulous it is to be a leader in a post-secondary institution. I have never looked back. I encourage everyone to do that.”

She learned about university administration on the job. “I learned in this environment. I wonder if I could have done better, if I could have known more, if I would have taken different positions on some of my decisions if I would have had the opportunity to attend a professional development opportunity like Women in Academic Leadership.”

It’s about people
For Chad, her work has always been about people. “People are so important to me, whether it’s individuals or organizations. I know one person can truly make a difference. I see many reminders every day, of why it is a gift to be in this position. I see the impact it has made on those around me. I see the real development of people and the transformative change of the institution and its culture.”

Of course, there are challenges, she says. “You have to be aware of what type of leader you are, and what type of leader your institution needs. There’s not just one cookie cutter style. Different leadership skills and styles are needed at different times. You need to be true to yourself and your style. If you can continue to evolve, and continue to look in the mirror with confidence, if you continue to evolve and reflect, you can climb any mountain. Sometimes it just takes more creativity and flexibility, and a whole lot of positive energy and a ‘we can do it’ kind of attitude.”

A strong life balance and preparation are also essential for being prepared for challenges. Once, she remembers preparing for dealing with the old boys’ club by researching how to manage an alpha dog. “I got the sense I might have to deal with that, not only in men but in women. You really need to have a broad leadership tool kit at your disposal. In this program, we want people to come away with an understanding of different people’s journeys as they continue to be true to themselves.”

No leader has just one style. They can adapt, she says. “But always be true to yourself. The only person you are guaranteed to have with you for the rest of your life is you. Know how important you are and take care of yourself.”

Betty (Elizabeth) Worobec, Facilitator

Elizabeth is dean of the Faculty of Science and Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC. Previously, she was director of University 1 at the University of Manitoba, assistant/associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the U of M, and Associate Dean of Students in the Faculty of Science at the U of M.

Read more about Betty Worobec

A colleague once called her Rogue Betty, and Betty Worobec adopted the title proudly because it recognized that she was an administrative leader who got things done. Now she is Dean Betty, dean of the Faculty of Science and Horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic College in Surrey, BC.

“I did it. I survived,” says the mentor for the Women in Academic Leadership program, the new Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) program designed to bring women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced women mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to embrace a supportive community of women in leadership.

Nothing like it in Canada
“We don’t have anything like this in Canada. It’s for women looking at getting into a higher administrative role in post-secondary. If they are thinking, hmmm, I’d like to try this, the program will provide mentoring and focus on what they will need.

“As a dean, I know we can all see some of our faculty members are perfect candidates for this. You can tell when someone is going to be a great leader,” says Worobec.

Higher education is ready for Women in Academic Leadership, she says. “I could have benefitted from this. Most of us made it up as we went along. We had our missteps. We made our own way through. There is no right way. You have to make your way.”

Female perspective on leadership
The program is five days in-residence, with workshops and theory including basic cognitive behavior and leadership styles, but it takes a female perspective on these styles. “It’s about the women. They are always the main focus. This will help guide a junior faculty member, let her see her options and the paths she could take.”

There will also be role-playing, debating, and guidance and support from experienced women mentors, she says. “We want women to know that it’s okay to change your mind, to be courageous. We want them to hear the stories from those of us who have been through the process and want to share. I am in awe of these women.”

Worobec is originally from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. She worked as an assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Manitoba. At that time, there was a mandate for equal opportunity, and women had to be represented on all committees. Because only 20 out of 200 staff in Science were women, she was appointed to a lot of committees.

“I quite liked being part of the process.”

She moved on to the position of assistant department chair, and served on more committees. When the associate dean position opened up, she spoke to the dean, and eventually landed the job. She served as associate dean of student affairs in the Faculty of Science at the U of M, and started looking for a position as dean.

She was asked to put her name in at Kwantlen, because she had interviewed for another position.

Unequal pay
As dean, Worobec says she didn’t encounter too many obstacles and she worked well with her colleagues. But a few years later, with the push towards equal pay for equal work in the early 1990s, she learned she was not making as much as male faculty members.

“I am not sure why that was. Maybe I didn’t realize I could negotiate. I was shocked. I was happy people went to bat for me. I knew my situation was not unique.”

Speaking up
While serving on a pan university committee as a faculty member, she remembers speaking up about a situation. “The chair was shocked, and I felt I was punished by being made chair of an ad hoc committee to address the issue on the spot. Of course we solved it.”

Worobec says she is not in favour of token hiring. “I would not have policies like that. We need more consultation and conscious inclusion with the opportunity to have voices heard. We need safe places to have our voices heard. Leaders need to be accountable, and follow through. Policies should not be developed in a vacuum.”

Leading by example
She prides herself on leading by example. “I try not to micro manage. I have an open-door policy. I do follow through on great ideas, so they don’t disappear. I make sure things get done. I encourage my staff and colleagues to try things. I am flexible and open to other ideas.”

The best leaders lead by example and champion their own people, she says. “I represent and support my faculty. They know that. I encourage them to try something new. I am not just a figure head sitting there, taking notes, and never acting on them.”

Denise K. (Kiona) Henning, Consultant/Mentor

Denise served as president and CEO at Medicine Hat College, president and CEO of Northwest Community College, and president and vice-chancellor for University College of the North. Dr. Henning now has developed the collaborative of Kiona – Oxendine & Associates who work with Indigenous women who aspire to be tenured faculty and administrators in Education.  Denise is Cherokee/Choctaw/British, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She believes in Appreciative Inquiry, asking the right questions and being part of the solution. She has a deep critical awareness of barriers and institutional issues that affect access and successful completion of studies and goals. Denise lives in Carolina Beach, North Carolina and continues to work on initiatives for higher education.

Read more about Denise Henning

It wasn’t until she was the first President & Vice Chancellor of University College of the North that Denise Henning finally found a female mentor to help her realize how much the basic gender bias was affecting her, and how to face it.

“Women academic leaders need a safe place to have those conversations, to get the tools for their tool box in order to navigate the situation. I could have used that so much,” says the mentor for Women in Academic Leadership. The new Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) program brings women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced women mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to embrace a supportive community of women in leadership.

Henning remembers attending the Harvard Leadership Institute for Senior Presidents as one of only two women, and the other woman did not speak up. “That experience did not bring a lot to the table for me.”

A great opportunity
In contrast, Women in Academic Leadership is a great opportunity, she says. “It’s by women for women. It’s not about male bashing. It’s working proactively, getting tools, finding mentorship.

“Colleges and universities used to be a predominantly white male environment. Being female and working in this environment, there are social perceptions and questions you always have to deal with. You ask yourself why they treat you this way, differently, as if you are not qualified. You need to understand how to navigate through the quagmire and landmines.”

Women have specific concerns, she says.

“Women are the first ones to suffer from imposter syndrome. How do you deal with the political aspects of the job? We have the most insecure positions in executive leadership. It just takes one wrong move. You have to deal with all of it. Being a woman is at the core of the process. It’s what we think, and what they think about us. I keep thinking it will get better, and in some ways it has not. This program is about what I didn’t have.”

Growing confidence
As a mixed blood Cherokee/Choctaw girl born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Henning says she was among the least likely to go far in school. She was the first generation in her family to complete Grade 12, and when she earned a doctoral degree, her family had no idea what that meant. She was raised in the old ways, and started her post-secondary studies at Tulsa Junior College (now Tulsa Community College). With every course, her courage grew and she kept stepping forward.

Her early studies were in vocal performance. She was a single mom with three kids. She graduated second in her class of nearly 1,000 students when she earned her bachelor’s degree. “A wonderful mentor stepped into my world and realized that there were many gifts that come in the form of people. I had to learn to bend over and pick up my gifts because no one would do it for me.”

Henning accomplished a lot of firsts. She was the first vice-president academic and research at First Nations University of Canada. She was the first president and vice-chair of University College of the North, and as such, the first Indigenous president at a mainstream university in North America.

In her career, she also served as president and CEO at Medicine Hat College, president and CEO of Northwest Community College, and vice-chancellor for University College of the North.

Principles and values
“I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do,” she says, of her accomplished career in higher education. “I’ve dealt with a lot. There was a time in life that I had nothing but my principles and values. I don’t hesitate to hold people accountable and that pisses off some people.”

Among her challenges was going into one job without realizing the school was in a deficit and having to lay off 15 per cent of its staff in her first year. It was a tough time and many people were deeply unhappy and bitter with her.

“You can’t allow it to intimidate you. It takes great courage to be a leader. There will always be someone to tell you how horrible you are.”

She says she has a lot to share with women in academic leadership, and those who aspire to advance in academic leadership.

Trust your gut
“I practice shared leadership. You have to decide what your goals are and how to achieve your goals. You have to know your philosophy and how to trust your gut. You have to make sure you are going to work for the right institution, that you understand how to find the right position and that what you have is what is needed at that time. You need to know how to navigate that type of environment, and you need to know when it’s a good time to leave.”

Now living in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, and working on further developments in higher education at New England College and a new stream focused on community colleges at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Henning is looking forward to returning to Winnipeg to share her experience and connect with women in academic leadership.

It’s time
“It’s time to move to the next phase of growth for higher education. The college and university environments have changed drastically. From the perspective of women and Indigenous women, now is a great time to share the experiences of women who have gone through it and to prepare the next generation of women for careers in higher education in colleges and universities.”

Nawal Ammar, Mentor

Nawal is dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rowan University in New Jersey. Previously, she served as dean of the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), and director of the Kent State Geneva Program. She also held positions at Kent State University including director of Women’s Studies, graduate coordinator of Justice Studies, and associate dean of Arts and Sciences. Nawal has worked with the United Nations, and researched and written about areas including elder abuse, violence against immigrant women, issues of Muslim women and Muslims in prisons.

Read more about Nawal Ammar

Many workshops teach leadership skills, but they aren’t designed to meet the unique needs of women academic leaders.

“I have been to many workshops on how to be a dean, but 90 per cent of them don’t fit. We need to know more about how to be a woman in academic leadership. If you are a woman, there is an added variable,” says Nawal Ammar, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rowan University in New Jersey, and mentor for the Women in Academic Leadership program. This new Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) program was designed to bring women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced women mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to embrace a supportive community of women in leadership.

Different expectations
There are different expectations for a woman dean, says Ammar. “They expect her to be gentler, kinder, have more time to chat, be the analyst and the mommy. As a faculty member, I decided I have one kid. She gets my mommy treatment. Students get my professor treatment. That’s empowering them as students.”

A male dean is automatically called Doctor or Dean, and a female dean is called by her first name, she says, nothing the labels and titles used make a difference.

It’s hard for everyone to understand a woman dean, she says. “When I became associate dean, I was the only woman, all alone. No one else was around to talk to. I felt like I was in isolation. Women academic leaders need to understand what is happening to them. It’s a structural issue. It happens to many of us. We are healthier and happier people when we don’t have to dance around the issues. A woman dean should have the tools and the wisdom passed on to them so they can take it and adapt it to their needs.”

With an Egyptian father and a Lebanese mother, Ammar was originally an Egyptian citizen born in Lebanon. “My parents were highly educated. My father had a PhD in anthropology. He came from one of the poorest villages in Egypt and went up the ladder, doing his PhD in London, England and going back to Egypt as a professor and advisor. My mom was one of the first women in her community to earn her masters degree. All three of my siblings are PhDs.”

Learned peaceful approach from Quakers
Ammar went to elementary school in Egypt, and to a Quaker secondary school in Lebanon. When civil war broke out, she went to England for high school through graduate studies. The experience made her value education. “If you have an education, you can move with it. It’s the only thing you can really take with you.”

She returned to Egypt for her PhD, worked in the United States for 18 years in higher education. At Kent State University, she was the chair of women’s studies and the associate dean of arts and sciences. Then, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) hired her as dean of social science and humanities.

“UOIT was just four years old when I showed up. At that point, I realized being a woman dean makes a difference. I spent nine years there in Oshawa, Ontario, building up the enrollment and the faculty.”

Committed to education of women
Then she moved to Rowan University. “I look for the places to educate students who otherwise would not get the chance. Rowan was a sleepy state university in 1992. Now it’s a research institution, expanding its enrollment. I am a dean and an academic, still doing research. I am committed to education for people who are not privileged. It alters your life completely. I am committed to the education of women.”

Things have changed since she started at Rowan. “There’s a big difference. There are more women in administration now, but not as many as I’d like to see. That creates a different environment. With increased numbers, about 50-50 male and female, women leaders are no longer this anomaly.”

Overall though, women are still paid less for the same work, and the industry continues to favor those with no family responsibilities, she says. “These are still very male-oriented institutions. It’s improved, but it is not where it should be.”

Responding effectively
At UOIT, she recalls speaking up about a lack of funding for her department and the provost telling her to stop being angry and taking things personally. So Ammar tracked down an article explaining the perception of how when women leaders express dismay they are angry and when men leaders express dismay, they are doing their job. She sent the article to everyone who attended the meeting, with a note simply stating that it included a very good article with good empirical research.

“I had originally expressed my discouragement because they were not being fair to us. My actions made a big difference. Another woman dean said I had guts. My actions elevated my status. That was in 2008. It’s the tool of not being silenced, something new leaders don’t know about. Always be professional but respond in a way that allows you to be respected.”

In a more recent incident, Ammar was waiting for a board of trustees meeting when an African American colleague started pontificating and imitating her accent and the way she speaks.

“Another woman was going to jump on him. He would never have talked to a male dean that way. It was very clear. I was not going to let him. I told him I speak like someone who is reading a book. English is not my first language. Do you speak another language?”

A colleague told the provost about the incident, feeling injured by it.

Respond with balance
“These things happen all the time,” she says. “Because I am a woman, I am always backing up my information. He was making fun of that. Our president is an Iranian. He never talked to the president like that. I had to say something.”

Women academic leaders have to choose their battles, says Ammar. “Always respond with balance. You don’t have to react to everything. When we share stories and hear the experiences of others, it helps to decide how to handle the situation.”

Men have their own way of networking and women are not involved, she says. “They talk about things and the world talks to them. Most training is written from the experience of men deans not women deans.”

At Kent State, Ammar was among many mentored by the woman dean. “Being able to call on her perspective and then make a decision was very important. We are not islands. We should be able to ask for advice.”

Stefi Baum, Mentor

Stefi is dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba, and a professor of physics and astronomy. Previously, she served as professor and director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, American Institute of Physics Science Diplomacy Fellow at the US Department of State, Head of the Engineering and Software Services Division Space Telescope Science Institute (STScl), new instrument lead, and systems scientist on the development of the Hubble Telescope archive. Stefi has published over 200 articles on space and biomedical imaging in the refereed journal literature, is active in the development of new mission concepts for astronomy, and she is passionate about Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) education and community outreach.

Read more about Stefi Baum

As a physicist, Stefi Baum spent most of her career in a male-dominated environment. As an undergraduate at Harvard, her advisor asked her why she was wasting her time because she would never become a scientist.

Today, Baum is dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba, a professor of physics and astronomy, and a mentor in the Women in Academic Leadership program, the new Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) program designed to bring women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced women mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to embrace a supportive community of women in leadership.

Make decisions
“In physics, it is still quite male-dominated generally,” says Baum. “I want women to be able to make their own decisions, not to feel that this is a path they can’t choose. Historically, women tend to undervalue themselves and their abilities. They may feel alone and question whether they are up to it. Having examples is important.”

Mentorship is invaluable, she says. “I know a number of women who are on the edge of wanting to pursue bigger leadership roles. It’s is good for them to make a connection with someone who can mentor and discuss with them. I was so lucky to find very good people to mentor me along my way.”

There is a real need for this program, she says. “It will serve women trying to decide whether they want to be a department head, run a lab, be a dean, take on a new leadership role in the community. A lot are not confident. They worry about the impact on their research and home life. They may hesitate to try it. But they might be very good at it and find they enjoy it. It would help for them not to sell themselves short.”

Leadership is challenging, she says.

Overcome barriers
“It would be nice to tell women there are no barriers but then you know they are going to hit them,” she says. “When you do, you face it and deal with it. I just speak up. I try to remember it is not personal. We can agree we want to be responsive and encourage more diversity in science.”

Leadership is a bumpy road, she says.

Leadership is mentorship
“When you are a leader, there will always be someone who is unhappy with you. That’s just part of it. Eventually you come to some agreement and develop mutual respect as long as you are motivated by the right reasons.  It’s never going to be smooth. That’s okay. It’s going to be bumpy, that’s the way things are. It’s about the people, and you’re just one person. You do the best you can do and make a good climate for all of the people you are working with and for. It’s very important that people enjoy things at work and feel comfortable so they can achieve their individual best and make their best contributions. Being a leader is really a giant mentoring exercise.”

Baum grew up in New Jersey. Her father was a mathematician and her mother was a teacher. She was interested in math and physics but only discovered her love of astronomy and her leadership path after a teaching job fell through and she took a data entry job to pay the bills. “I wandered into it and decided I would go to grad school.”

While her academic advisor was less than enthusiastic about the idea of a woman becoming a scientist, her employers at the time, a couple who were astrophysicists with a dog and baby, inspired her by example and she went to grad school. “I wasn’t the best undergraduate student. There were no women in most of my classes. Women were very rare in the field at the time.”

Connecting with women
As a graduate student, she remembers connecting with a woman who was a librarian, and a visiting astrophysicist from Iran. “We did yoga together.” She played sports with women, but she studied and learned from men.

“As an undergrad, I had no women science professors. None. It’s so important there be more women in professor and leadership positions.”

As the lone female student, she was also awkwardly aware she was treated differently. In one case, when the men would ask a question, the professor would yell at them for being stupid. In contrast, when she asked a question, the prof would put his arm around her and gently explain. The men would ask her to ask the questions on their behalf, and she would do so and share the answers with them.

“I was uncomfortable, but that was just the way it was. What was I going to do?”

In 1991, Baum was only the third woman PhD hired by Space Telescope Science Institute, an independent organization created by NASA to deliver the science for the Hubble Space Telescope mission. “There were a lot of issues. It was harder for women to get hired. It was quite bad there for a while.”

A visiting senior female astronomer was hired for a year and provided some insights, but when family leave and related benefits were being considered, some of the senior women who did not have families were very resistant. A consultant was hired, and told women if they thought they were being treated poorly as women they were right, but she was fired. It was a wonderful but complicated place to work, she says.

Making changes
“I learned it was almost impossible to change the situation from the bottom, if the person at the top is unresponsive. That’s another reason women take on these roles. It’s a rude and harsh awakening.”

Things are improving but there is still a way to go, she says. “I am able to be aggressive if needed but I don’t enjoy it. No one should have to do something out of character but in the end you have to do the right thing to make good things happen.”

As a leader, Baum says, “I am a good listener. I care about people a lot. I am trustworthy. I put my people first. It is not about me. I have a lot of ideas and I am always looking for different ways. There is no one master way to move forward. I got a lot of experience motivating people in sports. I never thought I wanted to be a manager but I enjoy making teams work.”

Angela Hildyard, Consultant

Angela has served as a senior academic administrator at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and the University of Toronto for the past 28 years. In her honour, U of T created a leadership fund in her name. The fund supports an annual leadership symposium. Angela came to Canada from London, England.  In her most recent position as vice-president, Human Resources and Equity, she recognized how diversity enriches scholarship, teaching, and other activities, and how excellent graduate programs have become even better today.

Read more about Angela Hildyard

At a recent University of Toronto graduation, the former students of Angela Hildyard gathered around their wise advisor and gave her great big hugs.

The Women in Academic Leadership consultant expects that her colleagues, the experienced women mentors will play a similar role in the new Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) program. “That’s the kind of program Women in Academic Leadership will be,” says Hildyard.

Women in Academic Leadership brings women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced women mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to embrace a supportive community of women in leadership.

CHERD saw the need for a unique program like this, so they created it. Hildyard looks forward to playing her enthusiastic part. “Women have long been absent from the highest levels of academic leadership, and we have to correct that,” she says.

Hildyard served as a senior academic administrator at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and the University of Toronto for 28 years. In her honour, the U of T recently created a leadership fund in her name. The fund supports an annual leadership symposium. The first symposium, held in 2018, was on leadership and equity, a topic near to her heart as she most recently served as Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity.

Creating a path
It’s no secret that the number of women in senior leadership in post-secondary institutions is low, she says. “In my institution, over the past 15 to 20 years, more women have moved into senior roles. Because U of T is so large, we have been able to create our own network to provide support to each other. Creating a network is an important part of the Women in Academic Leadership program, to ensure women who are thinking about academic leadership can find some ways to move forward along their path.”

Leading through persuasion
Being a leader in the post-secondary sector has unique challenges, she says. “In universities, for example, you don’t have much authority. Your staff has academic freedom. You have to move ideas – and individuals – along through persuasion.”

It’s essential to communicate and champion everyone on your team, she says. “You must look at the culture of your organization and determine if it is appropriate for 2018. Changing culture and values takes a long time. You have to focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion from the top down or, I can assure you, change is never going to happen.”

Hildyard came to Toronto in 1970, with her partner who was pursuing graduate studies in IT. The program was not available in the UK at that time, and she refused to go to the US due to the Vietnam War. “I expected to stay for two years. At one point, I wondered why I had left London for Toronto. But it grew on me,” she says. “I love Canadian culture. I love it here in Toronto.”

I could do this too
With her experience as a high school teacher in England, in the late 1960s, Hildyard got a job as a research assistant at the Ontario Institute For Studies in Education (OISE). She eventually got fed up with her boss always getting his name first on their papers. “I thought damn it, I could do this too. So I did my MA and PhD.”

When she could not get a faculty appointment in Toronto, she started working in administration only to discover she loved and wanted to do both academic and administrative work.

“I was a pretty good negotiator,” she says, noting that she led the OISE teams in the merger of OISE and U of T. “I started at OISE, then I went to Woodsworth College where they accept more non-traditional students. I loved it. Then I was offered a position that I couldn’t possible turn down as the first ever VP of HR at U of T. I worked in HR and Equity for 15 years.”

Redefining issues and creating solutions
As Head of HR she negotiated with 23 Unions, the Faculty Association and three Staff Associations. “I took an ’interest-based’ bargaining approach. Issues were brought forward. We found resolution by getting creative, always redefining the issue and then finding a solution. It’s about relationships, not being in battles. You need to know and pay attention to your principles and values, and always do things from a principled position.”

Hildyard was honoured to have an event named after her. “It’s absolutely fabulous. The first symposium looked at equity, diversity and inclusion. A year ago, not as much attention was focused on inclusion. Now we are looking at what it means and identifying strategies to ensure it happens. We are working on these issues. We are working with each other.”

Inclusion began with increasing numbers, but simply having more representation will not crack the barriers, she says. “There is a lot more work to do.”

During her term as VP, she worked with four presidents and five provosts. “I learned I had to change my approach to the issues with each of them. I would  modify my strategy  to ensure the goals of the president and provost were also supported. I also developed a reputation of telling my bosses what I thought. When something was not appropriate, they could rely on me to tell them.”

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