Women’s symposium brings 600 people to advocate for female leaders


Elaine Kramer (left) and Pam Farly (right) were two of four women panel members during the Tuesday night discussion session. Photo credit: Kendall George

From Feb. 12 to Feb. 15, the Wildcat Leadership Institute hosted a “Women Like You” convention, featuring five days of events all under the theme of female empowerment in business/professional settings. All events led up to a symposium on Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium. Over 600 people attended.

“I was so sick of people telling me what I was and what I was worth, ” Jamie Clyde, Associated Students Executive Director, said in her keynote speech Friday afternoon. “If I want to soar with the eagles I couldn’t let the turkeys get me down. I grew to like the fight.”

Female leaders are a huge part of Chico State’s campus. Gayle Hutchinson, the university’s first female president, shows just how much women leadership presence has been incorporated into modern-day campus administration. And it’s not just faculty and staff. According to the Digest of Education Statistics at Forbes, women have been outnumbering men in college enrollment since the 1970s. Feminine presence, in every form, is now commonly seen throughout higher education systems; it comes as no surprise to see large-production leadership conventions centered around these presences happening at Chico State.

women college presidents (large)
This graph from the Pew Research Center shows that as of 2015, 30.1 percent of university and college presidents are women.

The convention started on Tuesday and Wednesday morning with a nail polish exchange where students could trade in their old polish for a new, “professional” color, said to be good for interviews.

Nail polish exchange (large)
Karla Rosa (left) and Delaney Jones (right) are part of the Associated Student and helped to run the nail polish exchange on Monday and Tuesday in the BMU. Photo credit: Kendall George

“Nail polish is harmful when you throw it away,” Karla Rosa of Associated Students said. “You need to throw it away in a special way so it doesn’t release the toxins.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a female business leader’s panel was held in BMU 220G, where people could learn about what it is like to lead in a business setting. The panelists included Kelli Bell Nooney of Bacio Chico, Pam Farly of Sheltering Oak Farms, Sarah Richardson of The Canine Connection and Elaine Kramer with Associated Students dining. Topics of discussion at this panel centered around how to balance work and personal life, people of influence and specific barriers women might have to overcome in their careers.

“If you are open-minded, you’re always going to get something out of the experience,” Farly said.

“I think the balance [between work and personal life] is easier when you love what you get to do for work,” Nooney said.

On Wednesday at noon, The Wildcat Leadership Institute put on a free concert in the BMU Auditorium with a live performance by a local singer and songwriter, Hannah Jane Kile. She performed a cover of, “A Natural Woman” and stayed for questions after the concert was over.

On the last day of the convention, the “Hear us Roar – Women Like You Leadership Symposium” was held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the BMU Auditorium. Over 600 people attended this event that featured six keynote speakers including President Hutchinson and Jamie Clyde.

Including the keynote speakers, there were also multiple small session breakout groups where people could come in and talk to women leaders on campus and around the community. One of the panel group presenters was Juanita Mottley, the Student Health Services Director. To Mottley, being part of the symposium was all about empowering students on how to overcome adversities and remember resilience.

“It’s never too late to follow a dream and we should continuously strive to be better than the best and never be complacent,” Mottley said. “I want to use my power to influence others in every way that I can; to push and motivate others outside of their comfort zones to be the best.”

Much of the credit for organizing the event goes to Kate Harris, the planning committee president for the Wildcat Leadership Institute. Dawning her sparkly pink sneakers at the symposium (along with many other staff members), Harris stated that she thought the event was, “awesome” and, “very successful.” She coordinated the event, picked all the speakers and was the main leadership presence during the symposium.

This week-long convention had a lasting impact on Chico State students as well as sparking inspiration to take newfound empowerment into the future workforce.

“It’s been an inspiring experience to see all of these people in professional positions,” Brooke Kojima said. She is a junior nursing student currently part of the Associated Students staff. “They all want us to succeed and feel empowered.”

Although this was the first female-centered symposium at Chico State, Wildcat women continue to inspire, empower and reach new heights. Only time will tell what comes next for these leaders.

Kendall George can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kendallmgeorge.