Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium helps women overcome obstacles to success

File photo Photo credit: Hunter Crenian
File photo Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

Only 34 percent of active physicians are female in the United States, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Junior Janeth Campbell, a double major in microbiology and immunology on the pre-med track, wants to be one of them, and the Whitely Women’s Leadership Symposium is one event she said encourages females students like her to be assertive and reach for those types of goals.

“When you are applying for medical school, you see that, one, they only accept like 100 people, and two, there will be like 60 to 70 men and 30 to 40 women,” Campbell said. “That can be kind of discouraging.”

Campbell decided this year to get involved with planning the leadership symposium after attending the event as a freshman.

This year’s symposium, themed “Weathering the Storm,” will place an increased emphasis on self-care. The event will feature interactive workshops and opportunities to meet female leaders from various fields. There will also be speeches from Patricia Whitely, UM’s vice president of Student Affairs, and this year’s keynote speaker Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist who works to dismantle stigma and make therapy more accessible to black women.

Campbell said, many people including herself, are often over-involved, given the vast number of clubs and other organizations available at UM. The symposium strives to help women to balance school, extracurricular activities and relationships while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“I don’t always take time for myself, and I just really want women to be able to learn how to properly take care of yourself while also being successful as an involved college student,” Campbell said.

This will be the sixth year the symposium has been named after Whitely, a UM graduate and VPSA since 1997. She said while women have come a long way during her career, there is still much more to be done. Whitely, who has described herself as “self-made” in the past, has been at UM for more than 35 years, paving the way for women on UM’s campus.

A loyal fan of all things UM, Whitely also said former UM President Donna Shalala was one of her biggest influences in learning how to become a leader.

“I think that women have to continue to work hard to be leaders,” Whitely said. “The statistics still aren’t really positive toward women. There are a multitude of opportunities for women students to be leaders. We see that with all of our student organizations, and I think the sky is the limit.”

The decision to name the event after her was made by a group of anonymous donors. A vast array of departments and student organizations help coordinate the symposium, including the School of Education and Human Development, the Department of Philosophy, Hurricane Productions, the UM Panhellenic Council, Multicultural Student Affairs, the UM Counseling Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.

Brianna Hernandez, workshops chair for the symposium, said the ability to interact with female trailblazers from so many different fields is the cornerstone of the event. Her desire to become involved in planning the symposium was twofold – she wanted to help open up a dialogue about women’s issues and also wanted to help women at UM form connections with female leaders in the community.

“Role models come in all shapes, sizes and places,” said Hernandez, a senior majoring in political science and history. “If they’ve done it, you can do it, and you can do even better.”

Throughout her time in planning for the event, as well as attending the event in the past, Hernandez said she’s learned an important message.

“Be unapologetically yourself,” Hernandez said. “Even though we all face obstacles, we are all unbreakable.”

The symposium will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 24 in the Shalala Student Center Ballrooms. Students can register here for the event.