FIU has officially launched its chapter of the ACE Women’s Network of Florida by hosting the university's first Women's Empowerment Summit.
The ACE Women’s Network has chapters in more than 40 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and aims to advance and support women in higher education through professional and leadership development.
Heather Russell, senior associate dean of the School of Environment, Arts and Society and professor of English, is FIU’s representative. Her goal for the new chapter is to design and implement effective programming, and “what better way to launch the FIU chapter than with a summit focused on women's empowerment,” she said, “where women faculty, administrators, staff, everyone, could get to hear experiences, gain insights and receive wisdom from senior executive women who are transformational leaders at our FIU.”
Russell moderated a panel discussion that focused on the theme of “Standing Out and Speaking Up: The New Rules of Engagement.”
Addressing a packed room of more than 400 attendees, Vice President for Human Resources El Pagnier “EK” Hudson highlighted the need to both stand out and speak up. “As women,” she said, “we all have things we have to do, things that won’t get done unless you do it.” Senior Vice president for Academic and Student Affairs Elizabeth Bejar agreed and added, “Every person brings her own sense of self and style to the table. You have to understand your contribution and own what you’re bringing.”
Topics ranged from leadership styles to the importance of due diligence before speaking. More than one panelist shared views on how to be a leader, no matter one’s current position or job title. When asked about empowerment, Vice President for Governmental Relations Michelle Palacio defined the term as “using and growing the power you have right now. Being a leader is what you do with that power.”
The panelists talked about the value of strategy in being an effective communicator. “Someone else may have a completely different universe of things they’re seeing and responding to,” said Senior Vice President for External Relations, Strategic Communications & Marketing Sandra Gonzalez-Levy. “You can’t lose your cool and you can’t be defensive. You have to respect each other’s expertise and really listen to that other perspective.”
“The powerful panel delivered and then some,” Russell said. “To be honest, we were blown away by the response from our FIU community to the invitation to attend. For us, this means that we have been given a mandate to create many more such opportunities for us to speak across our differences, break down silos, and further energize this space to develop future women leaders."