Long-standing University group advocates for women

Long-standing University group advocates for women

By Brittney Bomnin

Long-standing University group advocates for women

By Brittney Bomnin
Through workshops and events, the Women’s Commission welcomes students and faculty and staff members interested in creating positive, sustainable change for women on campus.

What started with a group of 11 women has grown into a University-wide community that advocates for women's needs and interests and provides educational opportunities about issues confronting women. Founded in 1971 under the guidance of President Stanford to address inequities on campus at that time, the University of Miami Women’s Commission welcomes students and faculty and staff members to gather, learn, and give back to the South Florida community. 

Using an email listserv to communicate directly with members, the Women’s Commission offers the ’Canes community unique, diverse opportunities that focus on meaningful small group interactions among participants. Over the years, the group has partnered with individuals and groups within and outside of the University to host events and workshops all focused on the personal growth and professional development of women. 

Through her involvement in the Women’s Commission over the past six years, Leslie Leonard, manager of business operations in the Faculty Senate, has met a number of diverse colleagues across campus. “When I was hired, I was told I needed to know everyone at the U and the best way to do that was to join the Women's Commission,” shared Leonard, current president of the Women’s Commission. Like many members of the group, she credits the organization with opening up doors that allow her to not only forge important relationships with those outside her immediate work area, but also to cultivate meaningful friendships.

United in literature.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group’s leaders managed to continue to bring the community together virtually, despite being unable to gather in person. As part of their initiatives, the Women’s Commission Book Club members meet each month to discuss a selected work of literature. Titles are chosen annually from members’ submissions, including books authored by University faculty members.

Robyn Hardeman, director of the Faculty Senate, recalls joining the book club about six years ago and eventually helping to formalize the group by scheduling regular meetings and sharing a list of book titles online. An avid reader and daughter of an author, Hardeman has helped expand the program by inviting the books’ authors—many of whom have a connection to the University—to participate in the group discussions. 

“We're in an amazing situation to be able to invite all these authors here,” Hardeman explained. “We are a UM book group. Our exposure to these authors who attend our meetings to discuss and share with the group—that’s what makes our book club unique.” 

The book club focuses on works about empowering women, including books that highlight strength and timely issues. Among her favorite titles covered by the club, Hardeman listed “The Henna Artist,” by Indian author Alka Joshi, which hopes to educate those outside of the country about its life and culture. Hardeman also really enjoyed the autobiography “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” by therapist Lori Gottlieb. “I thought it was great that, through her memoir, she could lay it all out there and explain how helpful therapy can be,” she noted.

Among the University faculty members featured, the club has read books authored by M. Evalina Galang, professor of English; Chantel Acevedo, professor of English; Robin Bachin, associate professor of history and the assistant provost for Civic and Community Engagement; and Isaac Prilleltensky, professor, Department of Educational and Psychological Studies and vice provost for institutional culture.

“The University is so diverse,” indicated Hardeman. “When you work here, you can get caught up in your area, but the Women’s Commission empowers you and helps you feel good about being here. It helps remind you that you are one of the many pieces of the University that make it run.”

Browse the schedule of books and meetings, which are held on Fridays at noon via Zoom. To join the book club, sign up for the electronic mailing list or send an email to womenscommission@miami.edu. Visit miami.edu/erg to get information about Employee Resource Groups at the University of Miami.

Looking for a professional development opportunity?

The University community is invited to attend a women’s leadership empowerment workshop on Saturday, April 24, at 9 a.m. Presented by the Women’s Commission and the Department of Management at the Miami Herbert Business School, “For the U by the U” is a half-day symposium designed to help you discover your leadership potential. Guest speakers—all who represent different areas at the University—will share their knowledge and experience on a number of topics, which include coaching, gratitude, building confidence, and time management. Register now.