Building A Sisterhood: Celebrating Women’s History Month

by Dr. Denise O'Neil Green | March 18, 2014 10:00 AM

Building A Sisterhood – Celebrating Women’s History MonthMarch is Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day is March 8, which was the precursor to Women’s History Month.  Little did I know that after moving to Canada, I would begin to focus on gender equity and equality.  This is not to say that women’s rights or gender issues were not important to me prior to moving to Canada.

When I was a tenured track professor, I taught a course on race, class and gender.  From a doctoral student to a senior administrator, I did not hesitate to support my women colleagues, direct reports, peers and friends, irrespective of their background.  I saw mentoring and coaching as a means of giving back or “lifting as I climbed”.  This is a mantra that many successful women see as their obligation.  For example, Senior marketing executive for Coca-Cola, Wendy Clark, supports this idea as well.

I participated in an annual June conference sponsored by the Michigan – American Council on Education Network Conference (MI-ACE Network).  This was a day and a half long conference that allowed Michigan women in higher education to come together, discuss and address a host of topics related to postsecondary education.  I always looked forward to this conference.  During the late afternoon and evening of day one, there would be a women of color workshop that explored interesting topics (i.e. your brand) and a policy panel, where Michigan state legislators would share what they saw on the horizon for higher education in the state.  This year the theme is Make a Difference: Leadership, Inclusion and Connections.

Now that I am in Canada, I feel my awareness of women’s issues and gender issues has been heightened.  Given my experiences in the U.S., being a woman was always connected to my race.  I typically saw myself as a Black women or African American woman.  The two are inextricably linked, especially when on multiple occasions in the academy, it seemed that “sisterhood” did not mean a strong bond between white women and women of color.  As the challenges that women of color face in the academy as academics as well as administrators and executives, sometimes add to that divide. There’s a wealth of both quantitative and qualitative research from the American Council on Education and the Association of American Colleges and Universities that bear out the double jeopardy that women of color confront.

Nonetheless, as I reflect on the gains women have made and my new place of residence, Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day, and Viola Desmond Day have added significance for me.  In addition to sponsoring events that recognize women for the remarkable contributions and differences they’ve made, both locally and globally, I realize that a strong sisterhood bond is just as important now as it was before.  I trust that building community through these initiatives and others help to get us there.

Tell Me:

What has your organization done this month to support women and increase the bond of sisterhood?

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Learn about the origin of Women's History Month and International Womens' Day (March 8th), and the roles American women played in shaping both holidays.

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