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Women leaders give advice in forum

Photo by Megan Loos

On Founder’s Day, Bradley hosted an inaugural forum celebrating women in leadership.
The panel included women from around the state who occupy top positions in their respective fields.
The forum began with a welcome from University President Joanne Glasser.
“In the spirit of Lydia Moss Bradley, this Founder’s Day forum has invited six most amazing women … each is a trend-setter. Each is a leader,” Glasser said. “We are thrilled to have them at Bradley to teach, to guide and to inspire our young women and young men.”
The panel of women discussed their careers and guiding principles and gave advice for aspiring women leaders. They answered questions ranging from inquiries about their respective histories, fears, aspirations and goals, the future of women in public offices and the act of balancing a career and family.
Student attendance was low, however the women’s basketball team did turn out in full force.
Junior math secondary education major Renee Frericks said she enjoyed the forum.
“It was interesting to hear about how they balanced everything and about their goals and obstacles,” she said. “It was also really encouraging to hear how most of them changed direction from what they were planning to be in school. So even if we don’t know what we want to do right now, it’s OK.”
Individualized major Jenny Van Kirk said she has a pre-med focus in her major and aspires to join the medical field
“I got to talk to [Dr. Sara Rusch, dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria],” Van Kirk said. “She gave me her card and told me I could call her. It’s really a great networking opportunity.”
The members of the panel used their personal experiences to share leadership guidelines and encouragement.
Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman spoke about her days of being surrounded by men at law school.
“People said things like, ‘What are you doing here? You’re taking up a seat a man could have. You’re not serious about practicing law,’ ” Garman said. “When I was interviewing with law firms after graduation I got responses like, ‘What would we do with you? People don’t want to talk to a woman about legal matters. Can you type? Make coffee?’ ”
But she didn’t let that stop her.
“I had a dream,” Garman said. “And I wasn’t going to be dissuaded from that dream.”
Rusch, a mother of seven, talked about another challenge faced by women in leadership.
“Most of us are primary caregivers for our children,” she said. “That means you may have to re-arrange your career path. It’s important to acknowledge that life is a balance. You can’t be all things to all people at all times. We aren’t superwomen. We need to make choices.”
Chief of staff to the Illinois State Treasurer Robin Kelly’s advice made the audience laugh.
“One day, five men came to me and said, ‘We want you to run for office.’ I told them, ‘I can’t. I’m too sensitive. If they talk about me in the paper, I’ll cry,’ ” she said.
But Kelly did run for office and said it is important for women to persevere.
“Sometimes you have to be thick-skinned,” she said.
Van Kirk said she thought the forum was helpful.
“It was really positive for women,” she said.
The event was co-sponsored by the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service and the Executive Development Center at the Foster College of Business Administration.