Submitted by: Paula K. Davis
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Facilitators: Paula K. Davis, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Minority Programs, School of Medicine
Padi McFadden, Medical Student
Panelists: Patricia I. Documet, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health
Beverly Harris-Schenz, Director of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of German, School of Arts and Sciences
Goal: The goal of the workshop was to have faculty panelists discuss their experiences as the recipients and providers of mentoring, then to have workshop participants brainstorm methods of identifying, recognizing and utilizing mentors as a means of enhancing career success.
Attendees: 18, including faculty, staff, graduate students and fellows.
Proceedings: Professors Documet and Harris-Schenz recounted their personal experiences seeking mentors as their careers developed. Their comments served as fodder for the group discussion. Recommendations are bulleted in the text.
Participants noted that Pitt is a hard culture to “crack” for newcomers. It can be difficult to network and find support. It was suggested that the University might provide structured opportunities for women of color to have access to mentors and to opportunities for advancement. For example, the American Council on Education hosts ACE NIP (National Identification Program – now the ACE National Network for Women Leaders – “The Network”), which exists to increase the number of women in higher positions in universities. The program matches women with mentors, and also features a “visiting administrator” program that serves as an identifier for university presidents. It was noted that professionals might require multiple mentors for different facets and times in their careers, for example, mentoring may be key as one leaves a particular career path, in order to prepare for transitioning.
§ Recommendation #1 - The University of Pittsburgh may wish to consider instituting a similar program internally, perhaps modeled after Penn State’s Leadership Fellows program.
§ Recommendation #2 - The University may wish to start a New Faculty listserve, which could provide another opportunity for networking among those who are new to the University.
Another key concern was how to combat the expectations of Pittsburgh society for people of color. Participants who had come from outside of Pittsburgh felt that Pittsburgh’s culture is not particularly progressive and noted that professional women of color often feel weighed down by local attitudes and expectations, thus many find difficulty in networking both on campus and in the city.
As stereotypes are also embedded in the environment of work cultures, women of color may need to “think outside the box” and seek mentors outside the academy.
§ Recommendation #3 - In considering where we might start in providing assistance to women of color on campus, it was suggested that a good beginning might be forming a group to provide support, guidance and networking for women of color in the academy. It was pointed out that this group should specifically address the needs of women not of the dominant culture, and might also provide guidance in networking locally.
One question from the participants involved how, as a woman of color, to assert oneself in a male-dominated environment. Participants brainstormed strategies for success, such as coming to meetings prepared with questions and background information in order to maximize one’s contribution, and strategizing; asking yourself in advance what you can contribute.
§ Recommendation #4 - It was recommended that a workshop could be structured on assertiveness training, led by high-ranking women of color on campus.