This year’s Women’s Leadership Summit at the University of Utah will take place on March 5 in the Union Ballroom. “Rise Up, Lift Up” is the theme of this year’s conference, which focuses on leadership development for women and aims to facilitate a dialogue for attendees surrounding what service to their communities and self-care as leaders looks like.
The Women’s Leadership Summit will kick off Women’s Week at the U. Programming for Women’s Week includes a Wikipedia-Edit-A-Thon regarding feminism in arts, a lecture called “Beyond Tokenism: Centering Women in Histories of Our Nation” and will wrap-up with a celebration of International Women’s Day.
According to the conference’s website, “All breakout sessions will provide participants knowledge, skills, and/or experiences that will offer a foundation for them to inform their definition of leadership.”
Jessica Ashcraft, associate director of Student Leadership and Development, and Kirsten Maanum, education specialist at the Women’s Enrollment Initiative, are co-hosting the conference this year. Ashcraft has served on the conference planning committee for five years and continually receives a wave of empowerment from “being a connector and [helping to] find those avenues for us to engage in.”
Ashcraft is eager for students and the community to experience this year’s Women’s Leadership Summit. “We’re hoping that they will be able to explore what leadership means to them, and how to harness skills that can really build on whatever that looks like for their own lives,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft also hopes this year’s theme will resonate with participants and help them to assess how they can contribute to mobilizing change for themselves and others.
For Ashcraft, “The ability to lead others is one way I define leadership but also it’s how you use your voice to help others like what are you doing for your community?” she said. “What are you doing to support your own growth and development?”
The keynote speaker will be Nona E. Richardson. Richardson serves in a leadership role as the senior associate athletic director for the U. She has spent over 40 years as a coach and administrator. “We really wanted her to share her experiences, what it’s like to be a woman working in athletics, and how she’s really used her voice to lift others up,” Ashcraft said.
In a report released in 2018 by the Utah Women and Leadership Project, 6.4 percent of leadership positions in the workforce are held by women. Compared to the Project’s 2014 report, where it was 11.6 percent, numbers have dropped.
Ashcraft says the representation of women as leaders in companies and communities is needed. “Whether that’s in business, whether that’s in community avenues — whatever that looks like, I think it’s important for our voices to be there at the table to be heard,” she said. “I think it’s important that [participants] see that there are role models and mentors out there.”
Although the Women’s Leadership Summit is on March 5, Ashcraft mentioned “a few teaser events over the next few weeks” leading up to the conference. “We have a lot of exciting speakers who are coming with diverse topics that I think will be different [from] previous years.”
The Women’s Leadership Summit is free for U students and $10 for faculty, staff and community members to attend. Individuals interested in attending can visit this website for more information and to register.