April 18, 2007
By Elizabeth Boyle
I have to confess I had never attended a function at a women's center and so I was a bit nervous as I walked into last week's "Brown Bag Thursdays" event at Ohio University's Women's Center.
Even though I'd read about the center (actually, I'd even written about it on Outlook as part of our coverage of the opening of the new Baker University Center, where it's located), I really had no idea what going to a women's center would be like. Nor did I know what the event, scheduled for the lunch hour, would entail. Discussion, I presumed, but who would be there? Were they going to force me to take a stance on what type of feminism I support? What if I had nothing to say?
'Brown Bag Thursdays'
Thursdays at noon are "Brown Bag Thursdays" in the Women's Center, Baker University Center room 403. Upcoming dates and topics:
For more information, contact Marlene Jenkins at email@example.com.
- April 19: Discussing Imus -- The Bigger Picture
(Day-To-Day Sharing: Women's Perspectives with moderator Janice Collins will be rescheduled)
- April 26: Can Men Be Feminist? (Brittany Buxton will moderate)
- May 3: Do You Feel Safe At OU? (Kristin Delo will moderate)
But the title of the session, "What Are You Worth -- Landing a Job?" had interested me enough to pry myself from my computer and take the short walk from Scott Quad to Baker. I'm glad I did.
Beatrice Selotlegeng, the day's moderator and interim director of the Women's Center, got us started by reading some statistics about women's salaries. "If a 25-year-old woman works until she retires," she told us, "she's estimated to make half a million dollars less than a man over the same amount of time." Then she introduced a panel of women brought from the campus and community to provide insight on the topic.
Starting with the panel -- which included a former corporate human resources executive with 35 years of experience, a staff member from Ohio University's Office for Institutional Equality and an entrepreneur who owns a floral business -- I quickly realized the value the variety of backgrounds and ages represented. How often does a group of such diverse people take an hour out of the middle of their week to get together?
A scan of the room revealed a count of 20 or so women ranging in age from early 20s to 70 or so. Even though men are, of course, welcome, there were none in attendance that day; but I was told there had been men at the previous sessions. Among us, there were professors, librarians, students and teachers.
With our chairs arranged in a circle, some women sipped coffees or munched on lunch. I loved the personal reflections and advice many of the women shared in the intimate setting, including Ohio University First Lady Deborah McDavis, who reflected on her more than 30-year career as a teacher.
From the insights of McDavis and others, I came away from the event with a renewed appreciation for my responsibility to know how much I'm worth, understand the marketplace and be willing to negotiate on salary. The failure to do so could result in less money accrued over a career and a smaller pot to draw from for retirement.
"It's about time now we start educating ourselves and making sure we negotiate," Selotlegeng said. "In the corporate world, it's all about money. If they can get you for less, they will."
Multiple participants advised that it's important to overcome thoughts like, 'I just want to do what my heart tells me to do,' and 'money doesn't matter.' "It will make a difference later," they said.
By the end of the hour, as it so often happens, I'd realized how silly it was to have been nervous. Armed with new knowledge, I certainly left more confident than when I arrived.
Elizabeth Boyle is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.