UC Berkeley women examine, reflect on female leadership, inequality

Women make up just a fraction of senior leaders at universities and colleges across the country. And the women who serve in those senior roles earn, on average, less than their male counterparts.

With this in mind, a panel of female UC Berkeley leaders gathered virtually on Tuesday for a Campus Conversation centered around women’s contributions to Berkeley, as part of the “150 Years of Women at Berkeley” project.

The panel featured Chancellor Carol Christ, Berkeley’s first female chancellor, and an array of other leaders: Charmin Smith, the women’s basketball coach; Cruz Grimaldo, director of financial aid and scholarships; Dean of Students Sunny Lee; and Mia Settles-Tidwell, assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Equity and Inclusion.

“Today is a token of appreciation to the female staff who have played such an extraordinary role in the history of our campus,” Christ said. “As we know, we still have a journey ahead of us as we seek social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion on our campus, but I know that we are willing travelers on this journey together.”

For the next hour, the panel examined their own experiences, offered advice to their female colleagues and articulated their hopes for Berkeley’s future.

Smith, the first Black person to lead Berkeley’s women’s basketball team, discussed how she shapes her young female athletes on and off the court.

“We are, in a sense, raising young women that will go out and do whatever it is that they want in this world,” she said. “What I am here for is to … empower the young women in my program to be the best version of themselves; to be confident and strong and unapologetically exactly who they are supposed to be in this society.”

The panelists also discussed the struggles they had faced as women, especially women of color, over the course of their careers and how they had persisted.

“A lot of folks want you to be background to their foreground; they want you to hide your talents,” Settles-Tidwell said. “I am a bold person. I give a lot of credit to my father, who taught me to advocate for myself. As a woman, he wanted me to have a voice and he listened to me and so I do expect everyone to listen to me.”

At the end of the hour, moderator Oliver O’Reilly, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate and co-leader of the 150W project, asked each of the panelists what Berkeley can do to improve the campus climate for women.

“It is not just inter-personal,” Lee said. “Where are the dollars at? Do a pay analysis. What are the differences between the different gender identities and the different intersectionality of race and other marginalized identities. We have to do that.”