Brown Bag: Women and Leadership [Event Recap]

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The BrownBag lunch meeting that took place at UBC on March 28th centred on the topic of “What is Female Leadership”? This subject was evidently quite timely, as the topic of leadership has been addressed in several recently published books that focus on the emerging trend towards a collaborative approach to leadership, which has partially replaced the more traditional “command and control” style of leading people. These styles were introduced in a presentation by the facilitator, Carolina Chanis, an MSc candidate in the Forestry department at UBC. Carolina has extensively read material published on this subject and highlighted that many of the characteristics associated with the “collaborative” style are more commonly observed in females, in contrast to the “male” ones associated with the other, hierarchical style(1). This suggests that qualities more traditionally seen as “feminine” can now be brought to the table and even confer an edge in achieving successful leadership outcomes.

The invited speakers for this session represented a variety of areas in science and technology:

  • Dr. Melinda M Brugman (Mindy), Senior Research and Development Meteorologist, Meteorological Service of Canada
  • Dr. Jennifer Solomon, Program Manager, Key Relationships, STEMCELL Technologies
  • Dr. Anikó Takacs-Cox, MBA, Research Program Manager, Genome BC
  • Dr. Jehannine Austin, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Medical Genetics, UBC

The “Caliper Study” in 2005 reported that women were more persuasive, inclusive and willing to take risks and ignore set rules, than their male counterparts(2). A text called “How Remarkable Women Lead”, by Joanna Barsch and Susie Cranston, put forward the concept of five dimensions of centred leadership – Meaning, Framing, Energising, Connecting and Engaging. These qualities came from interviewing a wide range of women from all walks of life and emerged as a “model” for work and life shared by many of these women.

Dr. Brugman also gave a brief, entertaining presentation, emphasising the value of teamwork and warning against listening to those people who are “doubters” or “downers”, and can de-motivate or de-energize you if you let them.

For the latter half of the BrownBag, the discussion was opened up to the panel of speakers and the room in general. Many aspects surrounding the concepts mentioned in the initial presentation were discussed, including “work-life balance”, “framing” one’s experiences in a positive light and how to pursue your individual goals while maintaining collaborative and productive leadership. Discussion was lively, engaging and many different anecdotes and points of view were batted around among the women present. We gained a strong sense of the many ways in which women can lead today, in a fashion that preserves their own unique personality and values.


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