9th Annual Women and Leadership Symposium

Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do. Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they’re doing it. That’s purpose. And that’s the key to achieving something truly transformational.  

– Marillyn Hewson, CEO at Lockheed Martin

The 9th Annual Women & Leadership Symposium was attended by hundreds of people, and the ratio of women to men was approximately 200:1. Walking toward Varsity Hall in Union South you could hear the thunder of hundreds of conversations taking place simultaneously during the morning networking hour. Some of the most influential women on campus were there including Lori Berquam (Dean of Students), Diana Hess (Dean of the School of Education), Margaret Raymond (Dean of the UW Law School), Dr. Linda Scott (Dean of the School of Nursing), Kathryn VandenBosch (Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), among many other prestigious faculty and staff.

The opening keynote presentation was made up of a panel of many of the aforementioned women on campus. They shared the most important advice that they have learned from previous mentors including:

  • The importance of finding what you’re good at and what brings you joy, and being better at it than anybody else.
  • The notion that we should all try to be, and to seek out critical friends. A critical friend is someone who is both an advocate for your success and also someone who will provide critical and constructive feedback.
  • When you think about where you want to be, it’s about walking toward those goals, and avoiding the urge to run away from challenges.

UW’s new Chief of Police, Kristen Roman, presented at a breakout session immediately following the keynote, about the idea of owning your individual story and using it to shape who you are as a leader. Kristen quoted Brenee Brown who said that “What we know matters but who we are matters more.” In this way, she describes her leadership style as “authentic,” and encourages us all to research the notion of authentic leadership. Her philosophy for the UW-Police Department is that they “will be leaders in innovative, community-oriented policing. [They] value diversity and will promote campus community wellbeing through collaborative approaches to ensuring safety.”

Leslie Orrantia, Director of Community Relationships for UW, gave another breakout session which explored reflection and identity as it shapes who we are presently and who we want to become. Leslie reminded us all to be an advocate for those individuals who don’t have a seat at the table. She spoke of the importance of adaptability in any given situation, and adjusting to the situation when necessary. When prioritizing for effectiveness, and efficiency, her advice is to look at deliverables from a short-game and a long-game perspective and tackle projects accordingly.


The energy and mood of the Symposium remained high throughout the day. The Endnote presentation consisted of a panel of women who shared their experiences in advisory and policy-making roles at both the state and federal government. These women gave a message that consisted of patience, hope, and change. They all overcame significant obstacles in their work, devoted years of their life to the betterment of the country, and quickly discovered how powerful partisanship was. One of the most important leadership qualities that they identified was the ability to bring together different people with different opinions to advance a common goal.



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