Women in leadership roles: Celebrating women at DSU

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At Dixie State University, female students, faculty and staff bear individual identities while taking pride in their shared values in womanhood such as confidence and leadership.

Celebrations like Women’s History Month honor timeless womanhood, but Ashley Snyder, a senior media studies major from Las Vegas, and Chizu Matsubara, professor and department chair of education, agreed events like Women’s History Month are not enough.

“It shouldn’t just be a month,” Matsubara said. “We should be celebrating women…and girls all throughout the year.”

Likewise, Snyder said she’d love to see more than a month’s celebration of women.

“We’re more than half the population, so it’s only fair,” Snyder said.

Snyder also mentioned that the capacity to be understanding is important as it highlights the subjectivity of womanhood. Understanding one another may lead to a stronger bond between women for empowerment.

Matsubara said growing up in Japan did not exempt her from the global expectations of women: to maintain a stereotypical ladylike aesthetic and behavior. She said being a woman nowadays is a strikingly different experience. As times change, identities change and Matsubara now values service and assisting her students in realizing their potential.

The two, along with Olivia Lee, a junior media studies major from Las Vegas, and Ali Threet, director of career services, agreed confidence is one of the most critical elements of womanhood.

Lee said she focuses on confidence and courage and she’d encourage those to be on all women’s minds, along with the ability to stay genuine.

“One of the only things you have is your word,” Lee said. “That’s something I always told myself…whatever you’re doing, do it wholeheartedly and always follow through with [commitments].”

Threet said confidence is important because if she was never confident with who she was, she wouldn’t have had the courage to actively seek success. Threet said along with strength and confidence, to her, womanhood means being independent and positive.

“I think that women tend to berate themselves all day long in their own heads and out loud,” Threet said. “I just wish women realized their value more.”

Hannah Milne, a senior health communication major from Salt Lake City, has been involved with women’s rights as an integral part of launching DSU’s Students for Choice chapter. Milne said along with confidence and compassion, she describes her womanhood using words that are traditionally associated with masculinity.

“I consider strength to be a part of my womanhood too,” Milne said. “Being strong, driven and maybe aggressive or dominant are usually considered male characteristics, but those are also characteristics that make me a woman.”

Snyder, Matsubara, Lee and Threet noted strength as an important part of their lives as women as well.

Katherine Leigh, assistant professor of chemistry, highlighted the importance of multi-tasking, patience and a good work ethic in women as these qualities encourage women to pursue more leadership positions and nontraditional roles like positions in STEM fields. She said more women in these positions will offer diversity and serve as an opportunity to lead the next generation of women to success.

“Being a department chair has helped me to understand that…a leader has to understand the big picture,” Matsubara said. “I’d like to see the next generation of women to be able to do that and to grasp the opportunity to get out there in the world and become a leader.”

The six said the importance of having women seek and hold leadership positions is vast, along with mentorship.

“My first mentor was the most magnificent woman I’ve ever met,” Matsubara said. “She was a VP of a very big corporation…she taught me that confidence is quiet and non-confidence is loud.”

Matsubara highlighted her mentor’s qualities of being quiet, careful with her words, and respectful toward everyone, including herself. Matsubara’s mentor also encouraged female leadership.

“[My mentor] said to me: ‘My generation has [accomplished] women’s liberation for you, now your job is to make sure feminism is for men and women: equal rights,” Matsubara said.

Leigh’s role model growing up was her mother because of her work ethic, determination, compassion and overall strength.

“She epitomized this ‘I can do anything’ sort of mentality,” Leigh said.

Similarly, Snyder focused on her grandmother, a woman who was hard-working and fearless while struggling against society’s traditional expectations of women.

“I think every woman on campus has the potential to be a leader,” Milne said. “I think it’s important that we see women in leadership positions because otherwise [leaders] are making decision about us, without us.”