LEAN in UC: Navigating the Post #MeToo Workplace

Photo by Kevin Dooley via CreativeCommons

On Sunday, March 3, the UC Women’s Caucus (UCWC) hosted the third annual UC Women’s Leadership Conference. UCWC, which was founded in 2016 by female student body presidents from across the UC system, aims to encourage femme-identifying individuals to take charge of their professional lives by LEANing In with Leadership, Empowerment, Advising, Networking, and Intersectionality.

The event began with an address from Claire Fieldman, the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) president. Fieldman set the tone of the conference by recommending that attendees be “intentional, inclusive, and intersectional” in their thoughts and actions.

The conference included various panels on issues women face within the workplace as well as a conversation with Amy Ziering, executive producer of The Hunting Ground, and a Keynote Address presented by the Campus Events Commission (CEC).

The audience was separated into prospective career fields such as medicine, business, and law, where experts spoke on their experiences with sexism in the workplace. After these breakout sessions, attendees had the opportunity to network with companies like HerCampus and HBO.

One of the event’s highlights was a panel on the #MeToo Movement moderated by Sophia McMurry, co-director of the Bruin Consent Coalition. Speakers included executive director of Peace Over Violence Patti Giggans, co-chair of Human Rights Watch Los Angeles Leslie Gilbert-Laurie, lead counsel at Genie Harrison Law Firm Genie Harrison, public health program analyst at the county of Los Angeles Office of Women’s Health Nicolle Perras, as well as director, diversity compliance, and Title IX coordinator at Cerritos College Dr. Valyncia C. Raphael.

Panelists were first asked about how people can ensure the protection and inclusion of a diverse range of women within the workplace. Echoing Fieldman’s opening remarks, Harrison advised, “You need to be thoughtful and intentional about fighting on behalf of discriminated individuals. You need to speak out when you see something that you know is wrong.”

“Sometimes we have to make room or get out of the way,” said Dr. Raphael.

When asked to define misogyny, Giggins responded that, although the term’s textbook definition is the “fear and hatred of women,” today’s misogyny is less blatant than traditional acts of sexism and bigotry. There are systems of misogyny in place that keep men and women at different levels of privilege; we can only transcend misogyny if we recognize and fight against these systems.

Fourth-wave feminism is paving the way for more women to enter positions of power by fighting against the idea that men lead more effectively than women. But men still dominate the political, business, and medical spheres. With society continuing to push back against women in power, it is more important than ever that women support each other in their career efforts in order to break the glass ceiling. We need to raise other women up and assure our coworkers that they are worthy.

Senior advisor to the UCLA chancellor Yolanda Gorman, who gave the event’s opening address, spoke about the resistance she faced while acting as the first African-American to chair the UCLA Board of Alumni. Gorman encouraged women in the room to be confident in their decisions even when faced with opposition.

She advised, “Remember why you chose and were chosen to lead, why you are the voice for others, and why you are in front as the advocate.”

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