Guest Column: Changing the culture of committees that work on culture change

Cori Wong portrait
Cori Wong, Assistant Vice President for Gender Equity and Director of the Women & Gender Collaborative

When the Women & Gender Collaborative launched in spring of 2016, the initiative joined several other campus offices and programs that work on gender-related issues. In addition to connecting these Core Collaborators, the Women & Gender Collaborative has been developing strategies to fulfill its specific charge to improve the campus culture and climate around gender and make Colorado State University the best place for women to work and learn.

Improving the culture around gender is hard work, and it takes a critical mass to get things moving in a new direction. On an institutional level, this requires practical and concrete ways for a critical mass to work better together by understanding the challenges to overcome, articulating shared goals, and developing strategies to get us there.

To that end, the Women & Gender Collaborative is creating a structure to bring more people in as change makers.

Join our efforts

If you are interested in serving on a committee and participating in the Systems-Based Leadership Development through Service model, fill out this form. To be considered for immediate involvement, submission are due by Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.

A new model for culture change through committee service 

The Women & Gender Collaborative is introducing a model to help connect and inform campus-wide gender equity efforts, inspired by the unique institutional landscape of CSU. The Systems-Based Leadership Development through Service (SLDS) model operates on multiple levels to develop employees and foster culture change through committee service.

Key aspects of the model include:

• Creating meaningful opportunities for leadership and professional development among employees who are passionate about gender equity
• Elevating and including diverse and intersectional perspectives to gender equity work at CSU
• Strategically charging committees to develop programs and recommendations that holistically and systemically support the University mission to improve the campus culture and climate around gender
• Fostering inclusive committee cultures by establishing expectations of accountability, transparency, and mutual support among all committee members
• Increasing consistency among multiple efforts to advance gender equity across campus by regularly connecting working groups, as well as communicating shared resources, information, and foreseen challenges

Given challenges associated with service commitments, why would we ask people to join more committees? The answer is pretty simple: One can reap huge benefits through service, too.

The good sides of service: privilege and opportunity, principle and means

Rather than turning away from service, the SLDS model seeks to make service a net gain by providing meaningful opportunities for employees to enrich their own development as they shape institutional culture through their service, which is recognized with supervisor support.

This is especially valuable given inherent privileges and benefits that come with service appointments, such as: networking and relationship-building across units; deepening understanding of institutional systems and how the University operates; developing strengths, passions, and areas of interest that may exceed current job responsibilities; improving skills in organization, communication, project management, and leadership.

Finally, service is included in our Principles of Community and is largely how we get things done. A well-functioning group can be an incredible catalyst for activating change, implementing new processes, and making real progress. Have you noticed shifts over time with respect to how we do things at CSU? A committee probably did that.

Changing the culture of committees

If we are serious about culture change, we need broad engagement from people across campus who can speak to the varied ways that gender informs our policies, practices, and systems. We also need to be intentional about engaging those who possess the will, passion, and commitment to embody the change we seek to make our institution more inclusive, equitable, accountable, and transparent.

The Women & Gender Collaborative committees are charged with activities to make our institution more gender inclusive and equitable, including developing programs and recommendations that respond to needs of women of color, LGBTQ faculty and staff, and those with dependent care responsibilities. By focusing on issues that affect the most marginalized, we create an environment where everyone can succeed. Other committees address equitability in awards and recognitions, promoting women’s leadership, and engaging men in culture change. To build cohesion, there will be regular retreats to connect the community of those involved, including the inaugural CSU Gender Summit next spring.

With that said, perhaps the most exciting goal of this model is to carve out corners within the University where things feel and function differently by changing the culture of the committees themselves.

The expectation is that all members and co-chairs will be invested in creating inclusive, accountable, and supportive working groups that develop committee members and advance gender equity through an intersectional approach to our policies, practices, and programs. With shared language, resources, goals, and expectations, these committees become spaces to foster a culture where feedback is generous, people are honest, everyone participates, and all voices are heard. As a result, service activities become highly rewarding, effective, and transformative for our employees and our institution.

The University’s charge to improve our campus culture around gender presents each of us with the responsibility and challenge to become part of the effort to realize it. I extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who has been involved in pushing our institution forward with respect to gender thus far. None of this would be possible without you.

If you are interested in serving on a committee and participating in the Systems-Based Leadership Development through Service model, fill out this form. To be considered for immediate involvement, submission are due by Monday, December 17th, 2018. To those who will respond to the call to get involved, thank you for adding your contribution to make deep change.

Cori Wong is assistant vice president for gender equity and director of the Women & Gender Collaborative at CSU.