March is Women’s History Month, and to mark this occasion, the annual On the Move forum examined the past, present, and future of women in leadership. The forum is a partnership between Bay Path University, Springfield Museums, and Unity First.  

Janine Fondon is the Chair of the Undergraduate Communications Department at Bay Path University and Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin is the Graduate Program Coordinator for Elementary and Early Childhood Education. Fondon and Hickson-Martin organized the forum, and they joined Zydalis Bauer to share their insights into and lessons learned regarding the role of women in leadership in America. 

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: March is Women’s History Month and Bay Path University, Springfield Museums, and Unity First recently held their annual On the Move forum this year, examining the past, present, and future of women in leadership.

I spoke with forum organizers Janine Fondon, Chair of the Undergraduate Communications department at Bay Path, and Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin, the Graduate Program Coordinator for Elementary and Early Childhood Education, to discuss the insights found and lessons learned regarding the role of women in leadership in America.

Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin, Bay Path University: One of the concerns, actually was in the top three, was the issue of the pandemic, how it has more widely impacted women versus men. And that appears to have been that women were being expected to continue their work, in their place of employment, via Zoom or remotely.

But also they were managing home life. You know, their kids may have been home, they were home schooling. They were having to take care, take care of the home outside of just the schooling. So, they were balancing many, many things. So without a doubt, the pandemic definitely impacted women.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, I know many discussions took place during the forum, as you mentioned, with the pandemic. What other things came to light as a result of these talks?

Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin: That there isn’t enough mentorship focus for women, women supporting women. We need to have a better sisterhood in our community. And as women, we need to lift each other up, as opposed to pushing each other down.

Another disparity was around salary, and that being an obstacle. That there’s a huge difference between what a male makes versus a female. And then, as I stated, the pandemic has has been more, has impacted women more, and also history. History has shown that it has been a white male driven society, with traditional beliefs and education myths about men being better at math than women. That was another theme that came out.

And also, of course, the lack of childcare for women. And also adult, aging parent care tends to fall on females more than men.

Janine Fondon, Bay Path University: The national statistics also support all that we found, and it was one quote by President Doran of Bay Path University, who said that there was an IBM study, Supported at IBM study that C-suites around the world have still have made not much progress since 2019.

And also there was another study quoted that, again, as Andrea mentioned, that Black women and women of color, often the lowest paid, the less promoted, less recognized for their work and diligence in the workplace. So, there are a lot of national statistics that justify all that we found.

Zydalis Bauer: Now the spotlight often gets shined on women on the national stage. But what are some of the contributions we are seeing locally from women?

Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin: We have some really strong representation of women in higher education in this area with our own president, Sandra Doran, president of Bay Path. I can think of Dr. Marybeth Cooper from Springfield College. We’ve got Holyoke Community College is being run by a female.

What I would like to see is more women of diverse backgrounds in those roles. But, we’ve got some great examples of women in leadership right here in our own backyard.

Janine Fondon: And also, when you think of — I’m so glad you mentioned that around education — because we had with us Tracey Gainer, who leads the African-American Female Professors organization, which is a relatively new organization.

But, it’s supposed to really function to raise the level of engagement with women professors. And if we look at that statistic, I believe it’s like less than three percent of your full time professors are women of color.

Zydalis Bauer: Nationally, we have seen an increased presence of women in leadership roles, most notably being the election of the first female Vice President. What is the impact of Kamala Harris?

Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin: I just remember that I had chills that evening when the when when we finally announced, right, that the Biden-Harris ticket had won. I just thought that, there are so many little girls out there that now have a Vice president of the United States that they can aspire to be and be just like.

It just is incredible. I mean, again, we have so much more that we need to do to to level the playing field, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

Janine Fondon: What we have to remember, with her rise to that role, I think it’s also coming with the fact that there’s a lot of work to do. So, I — as much as we are all focused on that it’s great to see her, you know I love when they say she will be the first, but she may not be the last, which is great.

And an understanding that I think she represents, is the fact that, you know, we have work to do. When our voices appear in spaces, it’s about doing the work. So, I appreciate that.

And, you know, it’s wonderful when we can see history in the making. But as we see her, we see everyone across our communities, especially those women who are out there doing what they need to do to create changes

Dr. Andrea Hickson-Martin: We acknowledge what the obstacles were, but there were action steps that all the groups came up with. What what do we need to do as women? We need to offer each other mentorship, networking, partnerships.

You know,we need to use — and I myself, as a white woman, I need to use my privilege as being a white woman to help others, not to exclude. To be an advocate, to support for systemic change to occur.

And we need to claim as women, we need to claim what is ours, and have self-belief. And not fall into the Imposter Syndrome, you know, and know that we can step into our power.