Campus Focuses on Impact of Triton Women in Leadership

Turn off the critical voice in your head. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Remember that you belong in the room. These were just some of the valuable insights shared by speakers at UC San Diego’s inaugural Triton Women Who Lead Forum on Saturday.

The sold-out event at UC San Diego’s Great Hall was filled with alumni, students, faculty, staff and community members in search of strategies to embrace their own unique leadership journey. As part of the two-day Triton Leaders Conference + Celebration , esteemed women in leadership who are creating a lasting impact on campus and throughout the world were invited to speak on lessons learned throughout their careers.

Curated by the UC San Diego Alumni Engagement Team and volunteers, the forum featured an acapella performance by the Daughters of Triton, a student expo, and a panel discussion with four UC San Diego senior administrators and deans. The keynote address was delivered by sociologist and UC San Diego alumna Marianne Cooper, ’95, the lead researcher for the acclaimed book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”

During his welcome remarks, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla reflected on the campus culture that existed when he arrived at UC San Diego in 2012. At that time, there were no female academic deans.

“I realized that if we were to have any chance of being a leader [in diversity and inclusion] and making a difference, we had to start at the senior level, starting from my office and down,” explained Khosla. Today, nearly half of all deans at UC San Diego are women. The number of women in management and senior professional positions at the university has also nearly doubled since 2012, with the count rising from 424 to 822.

  • 3 Women on the Chancellor’s Cabinet
  • 0 Women Deans
  • 424 Women in management and senior professional positions
  • 9 Women on the Chancellor’s Cabinet
  • 5 Women Deans
  • 822 Women in management and senior professional positions

“This is a day of both joy and pride for me,” Khosla said. “For the first time ever, we are focusing on the role of women, their leadership, and what they are doing for this campus and society.”

During her opening address, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Elizabeth H. Simmons shared, “I am honored to be part of a campus community with so many champions who mentor, sponsor and advocate for the fair treatment of their women colleagues.”

As moderator of the panel, Associate Chancellor Suzi Sterner opened the floor to four distinguished individuals to share their personal stories of leadership and women’s empowerment. Panelists included: Lisa D. Ordóñez, dean of Rady School of Management; Becky Petitt, vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Kit Pogliano, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences; and Alysson Satterlund, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

The panelists answered questions ranging from what they like most about their job and who are their biggest mentors, to what are women’s biggest challenges as leaders and how they personally balance family life with work life. One message that echoed throughout sentiments from all of the women: Letting go of the negative internal voice and self-limiting beliefs that convince women they are not good enough.

Triton Women Who Lead Forum

  • Keynote Speaker: Marianne Cooper, ’95
    Senior Research Scholar at the VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University
  • Opening Speaker: Elizabeth H. Simmons
    Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
  • Panel Moderator: Suzi Sterner
    Associate Chancellor
  • Lisa D. Ordóñez
    Dean, Rady School of Management
  • Becky Petitt
    Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Kit Pogliano
    Dean, Division of Biological Sciences
  • Alysson Satterlund
    Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Offering insight on how to empower and inspire women students, Petitt shared, “The most important service I can provide is being a coach, a sounding board and, importantly, helping people get out of their own way.”

When addressing the biggest challenges that future leaders will face, Satterlund voiced her concern about our country’s maternity and paternity leave policies. As a graduate student without maternity leave, Satterlund had to return to her classroom ten days after giving birth in order to ensure her family had health care benefits. While she was fortunate to have a strong support network of family and colleagues, Satterlund noted, “Right now, [maternity and paternity] benefits are very severely under attack, and they have direct impact on our younger families and our younger women leaders.”

Ordóñez also addressed the complex challenges that women face when trying to negotiate, such as gendered stereotypes that surround assertiveness. In her current role as a mentor to several young female leaders, she assures her graduate students that, “if you come with data and respect, you will never hurt our relationship.”

After the panel, keynote speaker Cooper, lead researcher for “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” took the stage to speak about why there are so few women in leadership. She equipped the audience with a set of actions they can take to create a more equal world. Cooper, who received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from UC San Diego and doctorate from UC Berkeley, is a sociologist and leading expert on gender, women’s leadership, diversity and inclusion, financial insecurity and economic inequality.

Through a combination of personal anecdotes and hard research, Cooper spoke about the gender differences regarding taking risks and opportunities, along with the roles other people play in encouraging women to lean in.

The lack of women at the top, explained Cooper, is a socially produced phenomenon: “It’s not that something is wrong with women, but that we as a society created the context in which women come to feel they can’t stand up.”

In recent years, UC San Diego has made strides towards cultivating a more diverse and inclusive community where all members can thrive, aligned with the university’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. It is evident that the makeup of UC San Diego’s staff, faculty and community is changing. Through the university’s collective efforts toward reflecting the diverse community that surrounds the campus, women now occupy 52% of management and senior professional roles and 63% of all senior leadership roles at UC San Diego.

The forum concluded with an opportunity for the audience to join in roundtable discussions, networking and sharing insight on how to continue fostering the pathways for more women to lead in their community and around the world.


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