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What We Will Do

Photo of a woman At the Women and the New American Dream summit in March, we plan to address the challenges that hinder women’s leadership, but we are also striving to imagine new contexts in which women leaders might better emerge and thrive.

Toward that end:

We will host a Student Leadership Institute. This day-long institute will inspire a new generation to become social change agents. Students will explore their own leadership stories, diversity issues in leadership, and strategies for starting campus-based programs with other students from across the region.

We will share and learn from women’s leadership stories. Women’s leadership stories will accent many of the summit sessions. NBC4 News anchor Colleen Marshall, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton, and our keynote speaker, Jo Luck, are just a few of the women who will be sharing their stories with us. A special session on Women Policy Makers, with representatives from Columbus City Council, the Mayor’s office, and the Ohio House of Representatives, will examine the leadership roles that women play in local government positions.

We will showcase Otterbein’s innovative Leadership Mentoring Program. One effective strategy for cultivating women’s leadership is the development of mentoring programs for women and girls. A special session on developing mentoring programs will highlight the new Otterbein college-to-career intergenerational mentoring program that links selected students with successful professional women. Through the program, student protégés learn about workplace challenges, organizational structures, work/life balance issues, and leadership strategies while they explore career options and begin building a professional network. This cascading mentoring program also provides unique opportunities for the protégés to mentor teen girls through service clubs for local 8th graders.

We will explore the unique promise of women’s service leadership. A special session on women’s leadership roles in service will explore campus and community programs that grow students’ capacities for leadership for the common good. Students from campus student organizations and community-based learning programs will share stories of successful initiatives that empower our students and strengthen our communities.

Photo of a woman

Why We Will Do It

Women continue to be underrepresented in formal leadership positions in both the public and private sector. And, in part because of a history of exclusion from political participation, women are also underrepresented in key policymaking positions.

What accounts for the relative absence of women in such significant decision-making roles? Rutger’s Institute for Women’s Leadership suggests that a number of obstacles combine to discourage women from seeking leadership opportunities: long-standing gender stereotypes that associate men with the qualities of more effective leadership, inadequate mentoring networks and informal systems of support in workplaces and schools, the unwillingness to grant women the ‘presumption of competence’ that is often granted to male leaders, and the tendency to subject the decisions of women leaders to more rigorous scrutiny and microscopic judgment.

In order to meet these challenges and create more gender equity in positions of leadership, it is clear that we will need to build a critical mass of women who have both sustained success as leaders and advanced on a leadership continuum that provides scaffolding at each transitional point in the journey (Morahan, 2011).