‘Workdate’: Connecting with New Moms at DePaul

For Women’s History Month this March, DWN invited a variety guest authors to share their insights. Read on to see why #DePaulWomenRock!

Louisa Fitzgerald
Louisa Fitzgerald

By Louisa Fitzgerald

In August 2012, my daughter was born. Around the same time, several friends gave birth, and during those first months of new motherhood, we leaned on each other—commiserating about sleep patterns, nursing, developmental milestones and the major life decisions that come with having a kid. For me, as with many people, those decisions included determining whether or not I would continue to work.

I’ll spare you details of my struggle to make this decision, but ultimately, I went back to work full time. And I’m in good company—according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 44 percent of mothers return to work after three months of maternity leave.

While those numbers didn’t make the choice any easier, I had a pretty good sense of what I was giving up in terms of time with my daughter. What I didn’t expect was the loss I felt when I realized that the camaraderie I had with other new moms was slipping away. Choosing to work full time outside of the home meant giving up the important mom connections that are made during the week at the park, storytimes and playdates. But with the added pressures of balancing work with raising a baby and maintaining a household (even with dad shouldering much of the load), it seemed impossible to make those relationships a priority.

Moreover, the parenting issues I face now are largely a byproduct of the decision to work full time outside of the home. I knew that I wanted to strengthen my network of moms who could empathize with my situation. And knowing that time is always at a premium for parents of young children, I decided to make an effort to seek out new moms at DePaul.

Meeting moms is easy. Casual chats with acquaintances in elevators, meetings and even the bathroom easily turn into longer conversations about kids and often end in a passing suggestion of lunch. I used to write these offers off as a polite way to exit a pleasant conversation, but I decided to start making good on them. Once I got over the initial hesitation of sending a follow-up email, I became more proactive with my invitations.

Reaching out in this way forced me to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve never considered myself good at networking, but having motherhood as common ground allowed me to set aside my apprehension and connect with coworkers in a meaningful way. And my efforts have also helped me have a broader understanding what is going on in our university and how other people’s work is important to our shared goals. Ultimately, getting to know the people I work with beyond my team, my department and even my division has made me feel more connected to our DePaul community.

What I’ve found is that making the effort is usually appreciated. I have yet to find a mom who isn’t into the idea of chatting about her kid over lunch with someone who shares similar doubts, concerns, struggles and successes. Bonus: Being sans child usually means you can have a full-on conversation without someone melting down. Moreover, the network I’m creating for myself is playing a vital role in helping me stay sane as a working mom to a young toddler. And for me, right now, sanity is the best perk I can ask for.

Louisa Fitzgerald is Associate Director, Marketing Communications, in the University Marketing Communications, Enrollment Management and Marketing Department at DePaul University.

Network Power

For Women’s History Month this March, DWN invited a variety guest authors to share their insights. Read on to see why #DePaulWomenRock!

Phyllis A. Gregg

By Phyllis A. Gregg

Americans take pride in our independence. From the moment of birth we are taught to be independent, to “go it alone,” to be tough. While being independent and self-sufficient are admirable qualities, I find myself concerned when I see people, especially women, exclude themselves from the opportunity of community. There’s power in community, so consider this a call for a change. Let’s move from independence to interdependence.

To be clear, interdependence isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, interdependence is a source of power, that’s why women’s networks matter. A women’s network is a vital resource. While women are powerful in their own right (let’s face it, a woman on a mission is a force), when you connect with other women you maximize your power. Today I challenge you to exercise your wisdom and recognize the power of a network.

I know first-hand what a network can do. Over the course of my career I built a network of friends and family, colleagues and professional contacts. My network is a source of strength and a place of refreshment. What does my network do for me? If I need to think through an idea, I reach out to my network. If I need a laugh (and who doesn’t need a laugh), I turn to my network. If I need the comfort of companionship, I relax with my network. The women and men in my network come from all walks of life, and it is their diversity that gives me the courage to meet the challenges facing me. My network empowers and spurs me on to embrace my full potential.

I hope my sharing inspires you to reach out to others and allow others to reach out to you. So many women tell me they don’t have time to network. However, the reality is that you cannot afford to not be part of a network. Without a network, you close yourself off, stifling your personal and professional development. Networking is you investing in yourself and in others. It takes very little to get started but once you do, the returns are incredible!

Phyllis A. Gregg, M.A., joined the DePaul University community in 1992 as an evening coordinator in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and currently works in the Office of the President as a Senior Executive Assistant.

She is a doctoral student at DePaul University, Board President of the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education and, through the Office of Faith-based Initiatives with the Chicago Public School system, has created and implemented an anti-bullying curriculum for the Safehaven program.

Phyllis is a motivational speaker on issues pertaining to women, spirituality and wholeness, and on topics related to exploring the soul. She spends her evenings in the company of her husband, Gregory, her daughter, Lindsey, and her four grandchildren, Ashleigh, Kevin, Sarah and Kelly.

(Learn more about being part of the DePaul Women’s Network now during recruitment for 2014-15!)

Where and When I Enter: Intersectionality, African-American Women and Higher Education

As Part of DePaul Women’s Network Women of Culture Series, DWN, in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity, and the School for New Learning, had the honor to recently present: “Where and When I Enter: Intersectionality, African-American Women and Higher Education”, featuring Dr. Venus Evans-Winters, Associate Professor of Education at Illinois State University. Read on for DWN Communications Team Member Dorothy Griggs’ recap of the event. 

By Dorothy Griggs

Dorothy Griggs
DWN Communications Team Member Dorothy Griggs

Dr. Evans-Winters is an Associate Professor of Education at Illinois State University in the department of Educational Administration and Foundations, and is a Faculty Affiliate with Women & Gender Studies and Ethnic Studies.  Dr. Evans-Winters’ research and teaching interests are the sociology of education, educational policy, critical race theory and feminism.  Dr. Evans-Winters is also a therapist and the author of the book, Teaching Black Girls – Resiliency in Urban Classrooms.

An energetic speaker with an infectious laugh and the uncanny ability to make her audience feel more like kinfolk than strangers, Dr. Venus Evans-Winters began her talk by showing a YouTube video of Nina Simone on stage singing, “Four Women,” where she sang about four of the many varied and distinct histories of African-American women.  While the song itself is over forty years old, it speaks to the intersectionality of racism, sexism and classism that still exists today.

Dr. Evans-Winters spoke about some of the issues faced by African-American women in higher education.  Most are well known and well-documented:

  • Fewer African-Americans receive tenure
  • Inequity in pay
  • Only allowed to teach race and gender specific classes
  • The number of diverse faculty members not keeping pace with the increased diversity of the student body

She went on to speak on issues that are not as obvious – mini abrasions, she called them:

  • Walking into a room of your peers and it being assumed that you are the support staff
  • Ideas and opinions devalued
  • Personal choices of how to wear one’s hair negatively impacting evaluations, which in turn, negatively impacts opportunities for tenure
  • When speaking up, the risk of  being labeled an “angry Black woman”

When looking to quickly gauge a company’s values and culture, many African-Americans know that it is often as simple as looking around for someone who looks like them.  Do they span the ranks of the organization from the top down, or are they all clustered near the bottom?  The color and gender of the top hierarchy of any organization speaks louder than its motto or mission statement.

Dr. Evans-Winters stated that no one should be the only “one.”  If a company recruits an African-American executive, there should be other African-American executives for her to be able to elicit support, from the perspective of being one of the few.  The same thinking applies to students.

Dr. Evans-Winters spoke on how the Eurocentric, privileged and elitist culture of higher education is vastly different from the cultural many African-Americans have grown up in.  And while most Blacks are well versed in the culture of White Americans, the larger population knows very little about the psyche of African-Americans, due in part to the fact that the little research that is conducted deals primarily with the pathologies and deficiencies of that population.  Dr. Evans-Winters believes that to better understand African-Americans, research would be better served by focusing on the resiliency and strength of character that allowed African-Americans to rise from the depths of slavery.

Many African-Americans in higher education feel that they must split their identities and conform to the ideologies and culture of the dominant race in order to be successful.  But wherever people of color go, they bring their history, their culture, and their unique perspective of the world.

A one time practicing therapist, Dr. Evans-Winters talked of how there was never any psychological therapy given to Blacks when slavery ended.  None was offered following the mass lynching of black men or, in more recent history, following the abolition of Jim Crow.  Black women have learned to lean on one other to overcome these and numerous other hardships and atrocities, the effects of which outsiders cannot begin to comprehend.

To that end, Dr. Evans-Winters advocates that Black women should have a ‘Room of One’s Own,’ where they can create a safe place to share their stories, a place of community to nurture and heal, time to network with one another, and a loving environment with de-colonized images of beauty.

Additionally, women of color need allies from higher-ups, equal pay, students educated in a pluralistic democracy, professional development, and cultural diversity in the work place, with the goal being the humanization of the individual.

Dorothy Griggs is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is the department assistant for the Center for Students with Disabilities at DePaul University.

National Catholic Sisters Week Highlights Women’s Leadership

For Women’s History Month this March, DWN invited a variety guest authors to share their insights. Read on to see why #DePaulWomenRock!

Patricia Bombard, BVM
Patricia Bombard, BVM

By Patricia Bombard, BVM

March is my favorite month of the year. There are so many life-giving things to celebrate during March, including Women’s History Month. This year there is an added event: National Catholic Sisters Week, which will debut March 8-14. Last August, St. Catherine University in Minnesota received a $3.3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation “to launch an initiative to heighten public awareness of the lives and contributions of Catholic sisters.”

According to organizers at St. Catherine’s, the new initiative will center on the contributions of Catholic sisters in five areas:

  1. Education
  2. Health care
  3. Social change
  4. The Church and spiritual life
  5. Women’s leadership

Here at DePaul, it is the leadership story of Louise de Marillac, co-founder with St. Vincent de Paul of the Daughters of Charity, which especially inspires us. Though she was born out of wedlock, and never knew her mother, Louise had a loving relationship with her father, Louis de Marillac, who saw to her education and care. Later, as a young widow and single parent, Louise met Vincent, who became her spiritual advisor.

Strongly motivated by her faith, and encouraged by Vincent, Louise eventually gathered a small community of women dedicated to serving the poor by visiting them in their own homes. Perhaps inspired by her own vulnerable background, Louise later led the women in expanding their charitable works to the care of abandoned children. They began by removing 12 children from a government-run facility into their own home. Within five years, the women were caring for as many as 1,200 infants.

Still not finished, the women eventually conducted soup kitchens at three sites in Paris, serving as many as 7,000 meals a day. They also worked to improve the living conditions for prisoners and opened schools to teach occupational skills to poor girls. They also established homes for the elderly, who earned a little money for personal goods through the sale of craft items.

Louise directed all of these activities through a collaborative leadership style that integrated contemplation and action and made extensive use of what we might call today “social networking.”

Louise once wrote to her sisters in community regarding the importance of integrating one’s inner sense of virtue with one’s outer life of serving others: “Oh, my dear Sisters, it is not enough to be Daughters of Charity in name, and it is not enough to be in the service of the poor sick, you must possess the true and solid virtues which you know are essential if you are to accomplish well the work in which you are so happy to be employed. Otherwise, Sisters, your work would be practically useless.”

Sr. Margaret John Kelly, D.C., in writing about Louise’s leadership, describes Louise as a proponent of “gentle power,” which she understood as power tempered by gentleness. Yet at the same time, Kelly says, Louise was a “total realist about her sisters and matched their training to their talents.”

Richard McCullen, C.M., writes that Louise “had a facility of collaborating easily with others.” Vincent himself described her as always expressing “humility, charity, meekness and patience” while at the same time exhibiting “a firmness in all her government” and “sound judgment.”

With Vincent’s help, Louise organized the women as the Daughters of Charity, a community of sisters that eventually spread worldwide. During her lifetime, Louise often wrote to the women stationed away from Paris. Sr. Lucy Archer writes of Louise’s concern for the women expressed in her letters: “Nearly every letter contains news of relatives, enquiries about this one, messages to another…these letters show what thoroughly homely relations existed between Louise and her spiritual daughters.”

Today, there are 18,000 members of the Daughters of Charity serving in 94 countries.

St. Catherine University offers a list of ideas for how other colleges and universities can participate in National Catholic Sisters Week.

If you have yet to see it, I highly recommend viewing “Band of Sisters,” a film by Mary Fishman that premiered in Chicago in 2012. It tells the story of Catholic sisters and their movement into new works of social justice after Vatican II and features many sisters from the Chicago area. In addition, you can pick up a copy of “Sewing Hope,” the extraordinary story of Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe, who received an honorary degree from DePaul’s School for New Learning last December in recognition of her work with young girls brutalized by Ugandan rebels.

It’s March—spring is coming. Get inspired by these women, then go out and spread some seeds of new life!

Patricia Bombard, BVM, is the director of DePaul University’s Vincent on Leadership: The Hay Project, which focuses on research, education and training inspired by the leadership legacy of St. Vincent de Paul. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Public Service.

When Opportunity Knocks, What Do You Do?

DWN President Joy Boggs
Joy Boggs, DWN President 2013-14

By Joy Boggs

One of my favorite quotes belongs to Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” As we begin celebrating Women’s History Month, I am thankful for the women and the men who came before us. I am thankful that they had the vision to recognize opportunity, the courage to seize opportunity with both hands and the fortitude to work with opportunity even in tough times.

I am especially proud of DWN’s founding mothers who turned a problem into an opportunity and an opportunity into a value adding experience for the women of DePaul. In the coming weeks I want you to watch this space. I asked our women colleagues from across the university to contribute their thoughts on the value of being in and participating with a women’s network. I think you will be surprised at what they have to say on the matter.

Check in with us often this March. On the 6th we kick off our Women of Culture Series—a DWN first—and I’m looking forward to the discussions. March 8 is International Women’s Day and it’s also the start of National Catholic Sisters Week. Pat M. Bombard, BVM, Director of Vincent on Leadership: The Hay Project, will be stopping by to share her thoughts on Catholic women’s leadership. I think you will find Pat’s comments a great primer for March 20, when the Network invites DePaul’s resident scholar, Sister Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., to deliver a special guest talk on St. Louise de Marillac’s life and work over tea and treats.

I also asked members of our Network and our Advisory Council to share their experiences of being part of a women’s network. There are some powerful posts coming your way, and I hope they leave you inspired to deepen your connection to DWN. Speaking of deepening your connection, spring is when we make our annual call for members. Have you ever considered formally joining DWN? Well, opportunity is knocking—what are you going to do?

Joy Boggs is President of DePaul Women’s Network for 2013-14 and is Business Manager for the Office of the General Counsel at DePaul University.