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Women in Academic Leadership

2020 Dates/Location TBA
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Join the community of women leaders in higher education

Prepare to take the next step in your higher education career with this unique and innovative five-day residential program of workshops and mentorship from the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD), and enhance your executive leadership potential in Canada.  

Women in Academic Leadership was designed for the women who will become our next academic leaders, women like you. Build your leadership skills and learn how to address the unique issues you may face in the higher education environment.

CHERD realizes that although we have made progress, women are still significantly under-represented across senior academic positions. In fact, many Canadian universities have yet to appoint a female president.

Be a part of it in October 2020 (Dates TBA)

If you have achieved an early to mid-level of academic leadership and now have your sights on reaching higher levels of academic leadership, join us. Let’s work together, to make a difference in the world of higher education and in your career.

This year the CHERD Women in Academic Leadership 2019 was held from Oct. 26 to Oct.30 at the Inn at the Forks in Winnipeg. Led by facilitators Pat Bradshaw and Joanne Keselman along with a group of mentors, the program was highly interactive and limited to 24 participants.

2019 facilitators

Pat Bradshaw, Consultant/Facilitator

Pat is a Professor of Management at the Sobey School of Business at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, NS. Previously, she was the Dean of the Sobey School of Business. She has served as a professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University where she was cross-listed with Women’s Studies. Pat has researched and written about non-profit governance, leadership and organizational change. Over the past 30 years, she has consulted on strategic planning and governance, and provided executive education and training for a number of organizations.

Read more about Pat Bradshaw

Women should not assume that academic leadership positions will come as a natural development in their careers. Rather they will want to set personal goals, learn about leadership models, take the initiative and leverage the opportunity to learn from experienced female mentors. A program providing these unique opportunities has not been available in Canada until now.

“In my opinion, there is a huge gap and there is clearly a need for such a program. Until now, it was just overlooked,” says Pat Bradshaw, Professor of Management and former Dean of the Sobey School of Business at St. Mary’s University in Halifax NS, and content provider for the Women in Academic Leadership Program. This program from the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) is designed to bring women, who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership, together to learn from experienced female mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to create a supportive community of support. Offered for the first time in fall 2018 it was very well received with the second offering taking place in fall 2019.

A strategic imperative
“There are so many academic leadership job searches going on right now across Canada. It is a strategic imperative for universities and colleges to create succession plans and to prepare high-potential female leaders,” Bradshaw says.

“There are expectations on post-secondary institutions to have strong leaders who represent the diverse communities they serve. We know that diversity in leadership teams results in better decisions. It is also the right thing to do. We need to continue to develop our up-and-coming superstars,” she says.

“Sometimes the people who we believe are qualified to be administrators are not the ones who want to be administrators. Universities and colleges will want to encourage high potential female leaders to feel empowered, to explore their career options and make better informed choices with the support of this new program.”

A strong business case
“Leadership is required in Nova Scotia,” she says. “Content is outdated before we graduate. We need skills, international perspective, different strategies, an understanding of people and trends. Administrative leadership jobs have become much more complicated. At this time of deep accountability, there is a very strong business case for this program.”

Originally from Toronto, Bradshaw started her career at Imperial Oil with a bachelor of commerce degree. She soon discovered that it would take further education to succeed. “In that gendered environment, I had to get ahead. I flipped a coin, to choose between an MBA and a PhD. The coin chose the MBA. I chose the PhD, and I fell in love with the academic world.”

She earned her PhD at York University, and taught in Women’s Studies and Administrative Studies, as she raised her three children.  Bradshaw was considering retirement when SFU recruited her as the first woman dean of the Sobey School of Business. She relocated to Halifax and served as dean for six years.

Over the past 30 years, in addition to her academic and administrative career, Bradshaw has consulted on strategic planning and governance, and provided executive education and training for a number of organizations. She is an expert in non-profit governance.

“It’s good to reflect now on what I have learned and the advice I would give future women leaders. It’s fun to take my personal experience and go back to the theory, having lived leadership for six years.”

School’s first woman dean
“I was the first woman dean at the Sobey School of Business. I was helping people understand I did things in a different way. My style was different. I was different. Expectations were based on gender. I was very engaged with the students and the student leaders. I went to Toronto to cheer them on. I advocated for them. When I left, many came to thank me. They told me I had become like their second mother. I scolded them sometimes. I had an enthusiastic focus on the individual. It took people a while to get used to that. A colleague told me my enthusiasm for students rubbed off on him. It had an effect.”

Of course, she also faced some of the unique issues that women academic leaders face, and in the Women in Academic Leadership program, she says, she will be a part of creating a safe place to discuss such issues and improve confidence in dealing with them. “Women still get shut down, harassed, bullied, and discriminated against. These things still happen. It’s getting better. Women are moving into leadership positions. It’s significantly better, and there is a climate to talk about this now.”

Bradshaw remembers dealing with harassment by a department chair at another university before she moved to York for her PhD studies. “A male colleague who was quite committed to social justice told me you either sleep with him or fight with him. I said no. I left.”

With the current focus on Indigenization and the need to be more inclusive, with the pressures of social media, and the focus on marginalized populations including women, students and administrators alike can feel depressed and anxious, she says. “How do we teach our students to have the confidence to go out into the world, to scan the environment, understand the context, and appreciate the need for change and disruption?”

A safe space
The program is more than talking heads and theory.

“Having a safe place where women can discuss these abuses of power and how they can still manifest themselves creates an opportunity to learn how others deal with it, and how to navigate this challenging terrain. We will be working diligently to create that safe space.”

Women will share new insights and skills, she says. “It will be a deep sharing, to build inner capacity. If, as a result of attending, women feel more able to go out into the world and make a difference as a leader, I will be thrilled.”

Joanne Keselman, Facilitator

Joanne is Provost Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. Previously, at the U of M, she held the positions of Provost and Vice President (Academic), Vice President (Research), Interim Vice President (Administration), Associate Vice President (Research), and Associate Dean of Education. She has also served on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canadas (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) as well as numerous other national and local boards. She is a professor of psychology, and previously was a professor of educational psychology.

Joanne Keselman, Facilitator

A few times when Joanne Keselman was the only woman at a meeting, the assumption may have been made that she was there to take notes and pour coffee. But for the most part, she says she hasn’t experienced a lot of barriers in her administrative career.
“I have had a few interesting times, but I’ve been lucky. My philosophy is if you work hard and try to be inclusive and respect people, a woman can do anything,” says the Provost Emeritus at the University of Manitoba and facilitator for the Women in Academic Leadership program. With its second offering this year WIAL 2019 from the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development (CHERD) is designed to bring women who are thinking about moving forward in academic leadership together, to learn from experienced female facilitators and mentors, to build on their leadership skills, and to create a community of support.

For women
“Women generally tend to approach leadership in a different way. They tend to be more inclusive and collaborative, and take a team or shared approach. It’s useful to acknowledge this, and tailor a program around understanding this,” says Keselman.
At the start of her administrative career, Keselman attended another CHERD program called SUAC or the Senior University Administrators Course. “I really valued the network of people I got to know through this course, people I could reach out to. It’s curious. Now I realize most of them were women.”

Attending a leadership program is a great professional networking opportunity, she says. “There’s the opportunity to create a network beyond the course, something you can draw on as the need arises. The problems we confront at various institutions are often not unique. I will be very interested to hear what others have to say about leadership approaches.”

Born in Calgary, but considering herself a lifelong Winnipegger, Keselman earned three degrees at the University of Manitoba and has worked here for many years. “I know this place inside and out,” she says.

A number of perspectives
At the U of M, she completed her PhD in psychology in 1978, and taught in educational psychology. She took her first administrative role as associate dean of research in 1984. She has worked at the U of M for over 40 years with over 30 of those years in administration and has held three vice presidential portfolios, and served as provost. “I have seen administration from a number of perspectives,” she says.
“I never thought of administration as a career. It wasn’t a goal. I planned to do research and teach, then I started serving on committees. I got a broader perspective. I always enjoyed listening to ideas and working with people. I liked committee work. I was asked to chair a committee. The more I saw, the more interested I got. I stumbled into it.”

In her VP roles, she had the opportunity to speak to people about the amazing work they did, and she was inspired. “I got a lot of personal satisfaction out of helping people advance. In administration, you have to enjoy serving others. It’s not about you. You are trying to advance the work of the university by helping others.”

A great career
While she loved teaching and research, she also found a great career in administration. “You have to get personal satisfaction out of facilitating the work of others. Your time is not your own, as with academics. There are demanding time commitments. You must be organized, juggle many demands, and use your time effectively.”

As vice president of research, Keselman was part of developing a different approach to acquiring research funding, at a time when three national granting councils were changing their funding models. She also led the development of the university’s first strategic research plan. Both accomplishments were proud moments for her.

As provost, she led the development of the new faculty of health sciences, combining medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and medical rehabilitation. She also led the development of the university’s current strategic plan. “Bringing people together, identifying common ground requires persistence.”

Over the years, she has also met some challenges including when, as vice president of research, some researchers did not agree with her stand and took it to the media, calling her actions an infringement of their academic freedom.
“I had to ensure that research conducted at the university and any partnerships with outside entities conformed with university policies and procedures. And I had to explain the reasoning behind these practises, both internally and externally.”

Serving as provost, with all the faculty deans reporting to her, was also challenging. “Deans have their own individual styles and aspirations for their units and for themselves. So, there is a strong human dimension to all of this work. People’s work is very important to them. You have to treat them with respect, and follow fair and equitable process even when it takes time. You have conversations about why and how decisions are made. You must be transparent. If you do that, people may not agree, but they understand you are consistent and it is not personal.”

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, she says. “There are best practices and common problems. I’ve often been surprised to find how common problems are, and how willing people are to share their experience and learning with you. We have a very generous community. You just have to have the confidence to reach out and ask. I’d say 99 times out of 100, you will get a great response.”
Leadership positions are challenging roles, but they are also very rewarding, she says. “I hope the women in the program get some sense of the real opportunities in leadership positions. We will help them to analyze their strengths and weaknesses. They will get a sense of the opportunities and how to determine a fit.”

2019 mentors

Denise K. (Kiona) Henning, 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. Denise has now developed the collaborative of Kiona – Oxendine & Associates to 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.

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.

Judy White, Mentor

Judy is a registered social worker and the dean of the Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina. In addition to her academic leadership, Judy has held leadership positions with several women’s organizations including being past president of the Congress of Black Women, International Women of Saskatoon, and the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. She was a member of the executive of the Vanier Institute for the Family. Judy spent seven years as a commissioner with the Saskatchewan Human Rights. This history reflects Judy’s commitment to intersectional feminist frameworks, to anti-racist work, and to fostering environments of equity and social justice. Judy was born and raised in Trinidad and has lived in Canada for the past 32 years.

Karen Grant, Mentor

Karen served in senior administrative roles for more than 20 years, first at the University of Manitoba and then at Mount Allison University. At the University of Manitoba, she was an Associate Dean (Research) for 8½ years, and then the Vice-Provost (Academic Affairs) for 9 years.  These two positions involved significant efforts related to professional development, faculty and leadership development, program development, and human resource management.  In 2012, Karen moved to Mount Allison University where she served as Provost and Vice-President, Academic and Research.  In this role, she was responsible for all matters related to the people at the university (in particular, faculty and students), program development, delivery and quality assessment, and compliance with respect to research and regulatory systems at the local and national level. Karen has extensive knowledge and experience in university governance, labour relations, professional development, program development and administration, as well as intergovernmental affairs and philanthropy.

What women said about the program

“I am leaving here with more of a spark than when I arrived. This is an opportunity for learning and reflection, with an incredible added bonus. You develop a network with women you may have no chance of otherwise meeting.

“Leadership is believing in yourself. Do what you need to do to accomplish this.”

Keltie Jones, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University

“It was broad and diverse, an enriching experience. The peer sharing as well as the quality of the mentors and the facilitators really contributed to the experience. The mentor groups were smaller, and everyone was very honest about their challenges, strategies and tools.

“Do you want the title or do you want the job? That question stuck with me. Don’t be afraid of change and challenges. Continue your growth journey.”

Susan Tighe, Deputy Provost and Associate Vice-President Integrated Planning and Budgeting at University of Waterloo

“My dean/boss told me and my two female colleagues we needed to come. There are only three women in our faculty council. It was a great event, fantastic. It gave me framework for high-level thinking and practical tools. It showed me how to find a vision from the bottom up, to get people to walk in each other’s shoes.

“I am from Brazil. I came to Canada for my job. It gave me the opportunity to get to know people from other provinces, to learn about cultures and values.”

Ana Campos, Director, School of Interdisciplinary Science, McMaster University

Remember our previous events. Visit Archive.

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