Rutgers leadership conference helps women find their voice in workplace environments
The Rutgers Women’s Leadership Coalition held its sixth annual Women’s Leadership Conference Friday. This year, the conference used its platform to discuss the importance of advocacy for women in the workplace — as well as the tactics women can use to make their voices heard in a professional environment.
Entitled “Speak Up, Speak Out: Advocating for Yourself and Others,” the leadership conference was coordinated in conjunction with the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. This year’s panelists provided Rutgers students with strategies and tactics that they use to empower their voices and the voices of other women in high stakes environments.
In an interview with The Daily Targum, Chelsea Moore-Ritchie, a graduate student at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and co-president of the Women’s Leadership Coalition, discussed the importance of women’s visibility in the workplace and emphasized the need to help women speak out against other issues they may face.
“The Women’s Leadership Coalition, as an organization, really works to foster networking as well as personal and professional development," she said. “We do that through a series of networking events throughout the year as well as the Leadership Conference ... Our goal is to help women and all individuals throughout the University, not just women, find their voice when they feel like their rights are being taken away.”
While the conference is aimed at empowering women, Moore-Ritchie said everyone is welcome at the conference and that the tools and advice shared throughout the conference are useful to more than just women.
Anyone can gain a better understanding of the importance female empowerment as well as how to advocate for their voices, Moore-Ritchie said.
“We are really trying to foster collaboration throughout Rutgers and all of the different campuses," she said. “I think it’s important to empower everyone, not just women. However, we do want to impact the visibility of women in the work environment. It’s important for women to be able to come together and know that they all have common experiences and that there are things they can learn from each other for.”
Moore-Ritchie said that more often than not, women’s voices are often muffled and silenced in professional spaces ranging from the boardroom to community organizing.
It is important that students at Rutgers have access to professional women who have found a position in fields of work with low female visibility, she said.
“I think it’s really important to hear the stories from people who you might not normally hear of,” Moore-Ritchie said. “Our keynote speaker this year, Suhad Babaa, fit that category. In addition to sharing her personal stories, Babaa talked about highlighting the stories that don’t get the media’s attention like non-violent resistance movements.”
In addition to teaching women to become leaders in diverse professional environments, the Women’s Leadership Coalition seeks to inspire a sense of unity through their annual conferences, she said.
“I think the best part about all of these events is having people come together from all different specialties from around the University,” Moore-Ritchie said. “Here at Bloustein, we are off campus so we don’t always get to meet people from other schools. So it’s really a great opportunity for graduate students from STEM, education, and many other fields to come together, network and create connections that are sometimes life-lasting.”
Moore-Ritchie aimed to make an impact on students' perspectives on the treatment of women in the workplace.
Cara Lubin, a Mason Gross School of the Arts junior, said that she could not be happier with her experience at the conference.
“I didn’t know what to expect initially, but I’m really glad that I came,” Lubin said. “It’s very interesting to hear the stories of different hardships women face at work. I think it prepared me for the world after college in a sense that not everyone is going to be as supportive as the environment here at Rutgers. That may be obvious but hearing Suhad Babaa’s story was very touching to me.”
Looking to the future, Moore-Ritchie said she feels a sense of accomplishment in terms of student turnout at this year’s leadership conference. It makes her proud to see a conference dedicated to the empowerment of women gaining so much traction and wishes to see that momentum continue to develop at Rutgers.
“The conference sold out within a week this year,” Moore-Ritchie said. “We actually had to go to our waiting list to approve more attendees, being careful to not violate the fire code. But we’re very excited for all of the attention and acknowledgment that the event has gotten this year. We hope that the conference will continue to grow and become bigger next year.”
Daniel Israel is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.