Women Encouraged to Take Charge of Career Path at UCSD Women's Conference
By Ioana Patringenaru | March 29, 2010
Linda Morris Williams, the associate chancellor at UC Berkeley, was the keynote speaker at UCSD's second annual Women's Conference.
Building your career is a whole lot like going to Disneyland. There’s lots of waiting in line and lots of ups and downs once you get on a ride. But you’ve got to make sure you get to the best attractions. Only then will you have a truly magical experience.
That was the metaphor that Linda Morris Williams, the associate chancellor at UC Berkeley, used to deliver career advice as the keynote speaker March 22 during UC San Diego’s Second Annual Women’s Conference. She spoke to an audience of more than 600 staff members at the Price Center West Ballroom. The day’s theme was “(Re)Defining the UC San Diego Woman: Striking the Balance.”
Striking the balance is probably a challenge that most women face during their career, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox told the audience. “We need to understand how your employer, UC San Diego, has a stake to help you achieve that balance,” she said.
She recalled that when she was a graduate student and pregnant with her first son, many people, including her mother, expected her to stop working. She now has five sons and it’s pretty good training for running a university, she jokingly added.
“I want you to know that we support you,” Fox told the audience. “When you find this balance, you’re more productive, you’re more creative.”
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox told the audience that the university wants to support women in their quest for balance.
The conference aimed to inspire and empower, said Tricia Bertram Gallant, staff co-chair of UCSD’s Committee on the Status of Women, which sponsored the event. She said she hoped attendees would take home at least one or two ideas about what they can do to bring balance into their lives.
Morris Williams knows a few things about balance and career. She rose from working as an office manager in the Office of Capital Planning and Budgeting at UCSD to a job as associate president of the University of California under former UC President Robert Dynes. She also served as associate chancellor at UCSD and is now associate chancellor at UC Berkeley. She did it all while raising her daughter, now 27, as a single mother and going back to school.
To describe the secret to her success, Williams compared career goals to making sure you get on the best rides at Disneyland. That entails a fair bit of strategy, including deciding how long to wait in line and which rides to get on, she explained.
To have the most magical experience, Williams advised her audience to embrace change, not fear it. Ask yourself what you need to start doing: paying attention, evaluating your skills, acquiring new ones, looking for new opportunities? Also ask yourself what you need to stop doing: looking for someone to blame, blaming yourself, being afraid, waiting for someone else to define your destiny?
More than 600 staff members turned out for the event.
Finally, learn to take care of yourself, Williams advised. As mothers, spouses and colleagues, women too often tend to put themselves at the bottom of the ladder, she said. It’s important to find a sanctuary, a quiet spot, where you can think things through and regain your prospective, she said. Finding friends who will listen is important too. “Find people who will help you not lose your job today,” she said.
She also advised women to define themselves by more than one endeavor. If you’re giving your work 100 percent, then something else is getting zero, she said. “Usually, it’s you,” she added. “Don’t lose yourself in your role.”
Williams also advised audience members to explore their options and decide early on a career goal. Her original goal was to become a management services officer. Joining committees and other campus groups helped her reach that target, she said. She now sits on the UC-wide Committee on the Status of Women and on the UC-wide Staff Diversity Council. “If people don’t know who you are and where you are, they don’t know you,” she said. “You have to put yourself out there.”
A panel discussion followed the keynote speech.
Williams encouraged the women in the audience to see themselves as leaders. Leadership entails taking aggressive stances and not being afraid of being criticized, Williams said. “We’re all leaders in one capacity or another, professionally or personally, for our colleagues, for our family, for the campus,” she said. She urged women to be both optimistic and realistic. “Have hope and don’t be crazy,” she said. If women plan their path carefully, they now have many opportunities, Williams also said.
“We live in a generation when the glass ceiling has turned into a glass slipper—sometimes,” she said. “This is a new day, with new opportunities. So, like Cinderella, if the shoe fits, wear it.”
After her talk, many women thanked Williams during a question-and-answer session. Leeann Dolbeck, from the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention and Policy, said she had learned a lot from Williams, whom she met back when she was working at UCSD.
“You have to be self-reliant,” Dolbeck said. “No one is going to hand you your career. You have to grow it yourself.”